CO-Horts Blog

Friday, December 16, 2016

Moving Large Trees at the Plant Environmental Research Center.

Posted by: Eric Hammond, Adams County Extension

Late month many of the more unique trees planted around the perennial demonstration garden at the Plant Environmental Research Center (PERC) on campus at CSU were moved via tree spade to new locations.   The gardens and the trees are being moved to make way for several practices fields which are going to be installed alongside the new stadium on campus.  In all 19 trees were moved including several very large trees which required a 120 inch wide spade.  It was pretty interesting to watch and I thought I would share some pictures and videos of the move.
120 inch tree spade which was used to move the largest of the tree salvaged from PERC.  Larger trees require larger spades in order to dig a large enough portion of their root system for successful transplant.
A slightly smaller tree spade also used in the project.

A slightly smaller spade preparing to dig a linden.
When an established tree is moved with a spade a large portion of its root system and a particularly large proportion of its fine feeder roots are left behind.  This means spaded trees need to be watered diligently for several growing season after they are transplanted.  Water should be applied relatively more frequently with relatively smaller amounts of water compared to an established tree to keep the tree's root system moist without creating a pond at the bottom of hole created by the spade.  
Severed roots can be seen along the side of the hole left by a tree spade circled in red.  A large portion of an established tree's root system is left behind when it is moved with a tree spade. 
It can take a number of years for a spaded tree to establish its root system after transplant and until they do canopy growth is often limited.  Staking recently moved trees is often advisable due to their reduced root system.
Hole left after a tree was lifted with a tree spade.
Here is a sequence of photos and videos of a large upright European hornbeam being moved (thanks to Josh Lambright for the videos):

Digging the hole for transplant.

A upright European hornbeam being dug with the 120 inch spade.

A large spruce being set in place at its new location
Close up of the "root ball" brought with the tree.  The tree root system was likely 2 to 5 times the width of its canopy before transplant.
Large upright European hornbeam after transplant.


  1. In my best Cousin Eddie voice from National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation: "That there, Eric, is a TREE SPADE!" Awesome blog and hoping for the best for these trees. Fingers crossed. The hornbeam was one of my favorite trees at PERC.

  2. This is a great blog Eric! It was amazing to see just how big those spades are. I'm so glad we were able to at least save some of the trees and plants from this garden! Keeping my fingers crossed as well. Thanks again.

  3. Great article! It is amazing what trees will put up with.

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