Marc Greenaway, operations manager at semi-mature tree relocation specialist, Glendale Civic Trees, shares his top ten tips when preparing a tree for relocation:

  1. Before commencing any work, I’d recommend carrying out a site survey to highlight any obstructions that will impede excavation works – at the original site and at the relocation site.  You need to look out for any issues with hardstanding, drainage, site furniture and changes in gradient.  
  2. Your site survey should also look for any services, both above and below the ground.  Belowground services can render some trees almost impossible to excavate, while overhead services can block the movement of lifting equipment such as tree spades.  I would recommend using an airspade to expose the roots if services are expected below ground.
  3. The movement of large trees requires the use of heavy equipment such as cranes, lorries and excavators, so it’s imperative to check the route between the original site and the relocation site for any overhead services, other trees, signage, structures like low bridges, and any other obstructions that approach the path the tree will take.  If there are obstructions on the route you intend to take it might be necessary to look at an alternative route or method of transport.    
  4. When you are surveying the relocation site don’t forget to consider the area in terms of soil type and drainage characteristics before you excavate a new tree pit.   Trees don’t typically like being in water, making drainage in the tree pit a major consideration.  I’d recommend making use of field drains to move any excess water away from the pit to a soakaway or watercourse.  Alternatively, you could move the pit to a higher location so the base is above the watertable.
  5. It is important to have a reputable company conduct a thorough health check on the tree you want relocated.  Relocating a tree is a resource-heavy process, and it would be a costly use of time, money and effort to move a tree that isn’t guaranteed to survive.  Our experts can advise you if a tree is unsuitable for a relocation project.  
  6. Before embarking on a tree move it is also advisable to check whether the tree can legally be transplanted.  Many trees fall within designated conservation areas, and some have been specifically protected with a Tree Preservation Order (TPO).  This information can be obtained from the tree officer at your local council.     
  7. I would recommend root-pruning a tree before it is relocated.  Root-pruning encourages the development of new roots, which will better enable the tree to establish itself once it has been moved.  Root-pruning should be done in spring to allow the fibrous roots to grow over the summer period.  A good rule of thumb is to start root-pruning three years prior to relocation.  For example, root-prune one third of the final rootball diameter in the first year, another third in the second year, then the final third in year three.  If this isn’t possible I’d recommend lifting the tree with a larger rootball.  
  8. Where possible, it’s important to relocate trees during their dormant period.  This is typically between mid-October and March, although this does vary from species to species.  If it isn’t possible to relocate the tree during its dormant period, it’s best practice to avoid transplantation during a growth flush.  This is a spurt of growth that a tree undergoes typically during spring, but it can vary by tree type.  Speak to one of our experts about the dormant period and typical growth times for the species you want to move. 
  9. It’s critical to create the correct rootball size for the tree’s circumference.  A tree’s circumference, or girth, is measured at 1m above ground level.  If you use a tree relocation specialist like Civic Trees, they will be able to advise and create the best rootball size for your tree.Civic Trees operate the largest tractor-mounted tree spade in the UK, which is capable of creating rootballs up to 2.1m in diameter and can accommodate trees up to 90cm girth.  Trees over 90cm girth can be moved using our specialist Newman Frame© technology, which can create rootballs up to 4.5m in diameter.
  10. It’s essential that all newly transplanted trees are supported using a suitable guying method to secure the tree while its roots develop.  The method used can vary based on the morphology of the tree, but I would generally recommend a three or four-point anchoring system, using overhead wires to fix the tree stem at a suitable height.

Lastly, one of the most important aspects of any tree project, whether it be relocation or planting, is aftercare!  If you have followed points one to ten, and the tree has been moved successfully, the final step is to focus your attention on giving the tree plenty of support to ensure it establishes in its new habitat.  Aftercare includes a programme of regular watering, adjusting the guying system, fertilisation and pruning (depending on the needs of the tree).  

As part of any aftercare programme I would strongly advise checking the health of the tree at regular intervals in order to catch any issues quickly.  For example, leaf wilting is an obvious sign that the tree is in need of more water, whereas yellow leaves or sudden leaf drop is a sign of overwatering, both of which can be quickly remedied before it’s too late.

We offer a complete package of aftercare for transplanted trees – speak to one of our team to find out how we can help establish your transplanted specimen.  

We are currently in the peak season for tree moving, when trees are dormant. There is no better time than now to get in touch with us about your tree relocation plans.