Japanese Maple – Moving a Big One

Cicada damage

Q: I am in the process of moving my girlfriend from Dunwoody to Woodstock Ga. She wants to take her 2 Japanese Maples with her. One is about 3 feet tall, with a 6 ft canopy and a 3″ diameter trunk at the base. The other is 6 ft tall with a 9 ft canopy and about a 6 inch diameter trunk. We have to finish by Oct 1.

What size root ball do we need to take? She is planning on renting a bobcat to assist us with the labor. I know I’m not looking forward to all the digging.

A: Love causes us to do crazy things….and this is one of the CRAZIEST I’ve heard!

As you realize, this is a BIG job…and there are no guarantees…but here’s what I’d do:

1. Excavate an area 10′ in diameter, 12″ deep, in the spots where the trees will be planted at the new house. Put the soil to the side.

2. Soak the soil around and under the trees to be moved in mid-Sept and again a week later. Use at least 100 gallons of water. The soil should be mushy.

3. For each one, use a spading fork to probe and discover the roots. Use the fork plus your hands and a helper to pull the roots up from the ground starting about 6′ from the trunk in all directions. Stop pulling roots when they get too big to pull out or become too stiff. Don’t clip anything unless absolutely necessary. We want to take lots of roots to the new house.

4. Pad the lowest part of the trunk with several layers of towel. Wrap rope a few turns loosely around the padding. Put 1″ thick, 12″ long sticks between the rope and the padding, so the rope tightens against the sticks, not the padding.

5. Pull the rope up through the foliage and out the top. Move the bobcat bucket into place above the tree and tie the rope to it. GENTLY lift the bucket until the rope tightens. Make sure the rope is not bearing on the tree trunk. Use more padding if it is.

6. Gently lift the bucket a bit. Push under the center of the trunk/root mass with a long shovel ( a plumber’s spade is great), severing roots there. Observe the tight rope. As you cut roots under the tree it will slacken slightly and the bucket can be raised again.

7. Lift, cut, repeat….. until the root system of the tree comes out of the ground. It will be pretty close to bare-root.

8. Immediately wrap the root system in wet newspaper. Inspect the trunk to make sure no bark was torn. If a lot came off during the lifting process, the tree will not survive.

9. Transport to the new house and place in the previously-prepared hole. Make sure the trunk is planted at the same level it grew at the original spot. Cover the root system with soil and an inch of mulch.

10. Soak the soil – 50 gallons of water.

11. Water appropriately to keep the soil moist but never soggy until November, when all the leaves fall.

12. Keep an eye on the tree leaves next summer. Water whenever they look droopy.

13. The trees should be fine after a year’s special care.

14. If it all works out, you deserve a medal!

maple Japanese

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