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Posts Tagged ‘bare root tree transplanting’

Contractors, arborists, and landscape architects in Massachusetts would do well to check out the Ecological Landscaping Association’s September events list.  The ELA is offering a number of really good workshops, on topics ranging from Boston-area restoration projects to the use of fire in landscape management, as well as a two-part, two-day workshop on root issues.  

One day of the root work will focus on soils(f you’ve read any of this blog, or Taking Place In The Trees, you’ll know that I’m interested in roots.)  In the air tool workshop, entitled At The Root: Air Tools Workshop, Rolf Briggs and Matt Foti will be talking about using air to work in the root zone, to decompact soils, to transplant trees and shrubs and also about how to plant nursery-grown stock properly.  

Matt and Rolf have done a similar workshop for the Mass. Arborists Association in the past, and Matt holds an annual workshop on proper planting techniques.  Being able to see what a root system looks like is eye-opening.  Learning — not just from written specs or a generic tree-planting detail — how a tree or shrub should be planted is essential, and well worth the price of admission.  I have been to at least three of these workshops, and learn something new at each one, and so can say that this workshop is one every landscape architect who designs plantings, and every contractor who sells plantings should attend.

Michael waters in a hemlock whose root flare has been excavated with air.

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I just got a rough cut today of the video, shot last summer, of the moving of a very large (about 14″ caliper, 30′ height) London Plane Tree in Wellesley, MA. It’s taken a while to edit several hours of footage down to a half an hour, but it’s about done, and in the next few weeks I hope to have added commentary. This video is from the project run by Matt Foti’s crew, aided by Mike Furgal, and it showcases the techniques used in air-tool transplanting. I hope to be able to preview the rough cut at New England Grows, and have the final version completed by the end of February; if there’s enough interest in the landscape architecture, architecture, or arboriculture communities I’ll sell copies. Stay tuned.

The first of five 12-14' caliper London Plane trees being excavated with air tools and transplanted bare root in August 2009.

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This tree has never been bare-rooted, as far as I know (though who could say, at this point?) It lives at Elm Bank, Mass. Hort’s headquarters in Wellesley, MA, and I took these photos at last week’s air-tool workshop there.

Norway spruce at Elm Bank.

Norway spruce at Elm Bank.


  Somehow it seems that Morticia Addams should come drifting into the picture to perch on this fantastic bench, sweeping a murky gloom behind her.

Somehow it seems that Morticia Addams should come drifting into the picture to perch on this fantastic bench, sweeping a murky gloom behind her.


For those of you still clicking on this site to see air-tool transplant posts, check out Taking Place In The Trees (www.takingplaceinthetrees.net).

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Here’s a quick post to alert readers to the Massachusetts Arborists Association Special Seminar and Demonstration on air tool use. A team of four arborists — Mike Furgal, Matt Foti, Rolf Briggs, and Dave Leonard — will be showing how compressed-air tools can be used in arboricultural work (root forensics, bare-root planting, bare-root transplanting, shrub moving, etc.), and will discuss the advancements that this technology provide those working with or using woody plants in the landscape.

The seminar will be on September 10 at Elm Bank, the Massachusetts Horticultural Society’s property in Wellesley, MA — check the MAA link above for registration information. Registration is not limited to arborists, so interested landscape architects and contractors can go and see this work. I highly recommend signing up; last year’s seminar at Matt Foti’s farm, where Mike Furgal debuted the air-tool transplanting method, was really outstanding, and this year there’s bound to be even more information available and a great deal of informed and informative discussion.

One point: Bare-root transplanting, either with an air-tool or by root-washing, may never replace other methods of transplanting. But for specimen tree transplanting, where the value of an existing tree merits the effort involved, it is currently the gold standard. The number of roots retained with bare-root transplanting prevents the tremendous stress caused by other methods, and should be considered a valuable tool in the kit available to landscape architects, arborists, and contractors.

Bare-rooting allows for the moving of a tree this large in less than one day...

Bare-rooting allows for the moving of a tree this large in less than one day...


while preserving this much root mass.

while preserving this much root mass.

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Matt Foti took these photos from last week’s big transplant project, and they illustrate some useful points.

Air-tool excavation is a very messy process, and it bears mentioning again that eye, ear, head, and face protection are really necessary.  Mike Furgal is wearing a face mask here; a respirator would give him even greater lung protection.  Blowing a good sandy loam is one thing; when pebbles and small rocks show up in the soil they become missiles, so long sleeves and pants should also be worn.

Air-tool excavation is a very messy process, and it bears mentioning again that eye, ear, head, and face protection are really necessary. Mike Furgal is wearing a face mask here; a respirator would give him even greater lung protection. Blowing a good sandy loam is one thing; when pebbles and small rocks show up in the soil they become missiles, so long sleeves and pants should also be worn.


Here is what a well-tied tree looks like in transit.  Note how the roots have been carefully pigtailed, and tiebacks to the tree's trunk are done neatly and professionally, to preserve the roots during excavation and in transit.

Here is what a well-tied tree looks like in transit. Note how the roots have been carefully pigtailed, and tiebacks to the tree's trunk are done neatly and professionally, to preserve the roots during excavation and in transit.


This project took place in late July, during a week of 85-degree heat.  Leaf turgor pressure was maintained throughout by the trees themselves (aided with some in-process watering).

This project took place in late July, during a week of 85-degree heat. Leaf turgor pressure was maintained throughout by the trees themselves (aided with some in-process watering).


Keeping the pigtails neat from the start makes unbundling and spreading the roots fairly easy.  The tree is now resting in the crater dug for its new home; the crew will unbundle and spread the roots out radially, pack soil underneath them to help level the tree, and backfill, water, and mulch the transplant.  Using a forklift allows the arborists to look under the root plate and gauge its bottom profile, which helps in shaping the floor of the planting crater.

Keeping the pigtails neat from the start makes unbundling and spreading the roots fairly easy. The tree is now resting in the crater dug for its new home; the crew will unbundle and spread the roots out radially, pack soil underneath them to help level the tree, and backfill, water, and mulch the transplant. Using a forklift allows the arborists to look under the root plate and gauge its bottom profile, which helps in shaping the floor of the planting crater.

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For those of you checking out this blog for the air-tool transplanting posts, you may find it helpful to read the comments on those posts for more information…And if you’re a landscape architect or arborist and have observations, questions, comments, please feel free to submit them in the comment box as well. This technology and its applications are so new that the more good information gets exchanged, the better.

Lots of root mass.  Irrigation lines run through it; they are cut during the trenching process, and then pulled out in feet-long lengths once enough soil has been blown away from the roots.

Lots of root mass. Irrigation lines run through it; they are cut during the trenching process, and then pulled out in feet-long lengths once enough soil has been blown away from the roots.

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The project showcased in the last post continued this week, with the bare-root transplanting of five London Plane trees (Platanus x acerifolia) and a mature crabapple. Again, Matthew R. Foti Landscape and Tree Service was the prime arborist on this site in a Boston suburb — but this week the Foti crew was joined by Mike Furgal, who was the first arborist to use the air tool for bare-rooting trees in this way.

Mike has been doing this work a bit over five years, and his expertise was the basis for the bare-root workshop sponsored by the Massachusetts Arborists Association and hosted by Matt last August. Neither arborist had moved this many trees of this size — the London Planes ranged from 11 inches dbh to 13″ dbh — and in teaming up they brought all their knowledge to bear to the challenges of this particular project. (The homeowner figured she had hired the A team, given the pair’s depth of knowledge and breadth of experience.)

I took a lot of photos during the first day, and returned today to shoot more. My colleague Bruce Jones and I also shot extensive videotape of the process, which is currently in editing, and will explain the sequence of bare-root transplanting using compressed air (watch this blog for word that it’s done and available).

To avoid computer-use burnout (mine), I’m posting one batch of photos today, and will add another post with more in a few days. I promise, this first batch of images will be plenty to digest for a while….

The site before the five London Planes get moved.  The first tree to be excavated and moved is the one furthest from the camera, just to the right of the white trailer.  These trees flanked a driveway; in this photo the driveway asphalt has been taken up and the gravel base has been partially removed.  Trees are located 3-4 feet from the drive edge.

The site before the five London Planes get moved. The first tree to be excavated and moved is the one furthest from the camera, just to the right of the white trailer. These trees flanked a driveway; in this photo the driveway asphalt has been taken up and the gravel base has been partially removed. Trees are located 3-4 feet from the drive edge.


The mini excavator has dug a partial trench; the trench must be dug in sections, or it would be too difficult to reach in and haul out the blown soil.  A climber is in the tree, tying in lines to be used later during transport.

The mini excavator has dug a partial trench; the trench must be dug in sections, or it would be too difficult to reach in and haul out the blown soil. A climber is in the tree, tying in lines to be used later during transport.


Bare-rooting has begun, and one pigtail of roots is already tied to the tree's trunk.  The tree did not extend any roots into the gravel driveway base, so it only has 3-4 feet of root mass on that side.  It did extend its roots out parallel to the driveway, and radially out into the lawn.  A good depth of soil also let it sink its roots quite deep --  2-3 feet -- into the ground.  Mike Furgal is in the green jumpsuit and facemask.

Bare-rooting has begun, and one pigtail of roots is already tied to the tree's trunk. The tree did not extend any roots into the gravel driveway base, so it only has 3-4 feet of root mass on that side. It did extend its roots out parallel to the driveway, and radially out into the lawn. A good depth of soil also let it sink its roots quite deep -- 2-3 feet -- into the ground. Mike Furgal is in the green jumpsuit and facemask.


Pigtailed roots, and short roots along the driveway edge.

Pigtailed roots, and short roots along the driveway edge.


Good deep soil, good deep roots -- everywhere but at the gravel.

Good deep soil, good deep roots -- everywhere but at the gravel.

Lots of activity at the tree:  two air-tool excavators, an mini excavator digging the trench, a Bobcat taking soil away, and Matt Foti assessing progress.

Lots of activity at the tree: two air-tool excavators, an mini excavator digging the trench, a Bobcat taking soil away, and Matt Foti assessing progress.


Blowing out soil, getting closer to the move.

Blowing out soil, getting closer to the move.


Padding the trunk with layers of burlap for the move.

Padding the trunk with layers of burlap for the move.


Giant forks have been run under the tree, and the loader is getting ready to lift it.  Four taglines are visible in this shot; they won't prevent the tree from falling, but help indicate how it is balanced during the move.

Giant forks have been run under the tree, and the loader is getting ready to lift it. Four taglines are visible in this shot; they won't prevent the tree from falling, but help indicate how it is balanced during the move.


Lifting and backing, slowly and very carefully.

Lifting and backing, slowly and very carefully.


A pause for the forks to be positioned more firmly.

A pause for the forks to be positioned more firmly.


Big machine, bigger tree.  The root plate on this tree extended about 18 feet across at its maximum width.  Transporting a large, upright live tree is a slow-speed operation.

Big machine, bigger tree. The root plate on this tree extended about 18 feet across at its maximum width. Transporting a large, upright live tree is a slow-speed operation.


Compare this root plate to that of a B&B tree, or a tree-spaded one (though this tree is too large for a tree spade), and it's clear what an advance this technology promises to be in benefiting the health of trees to be transplanted.  The tree's energy reserves are largely stored in the roots; save the roots, reduce stress on the tree, and speed re-establishment after planting.

Compare this root plate to that of a B&B tree, or a tree-spaded one (though this tree is too large for a tree spade), and it's clear what an advance this technology promises to be in benefiting the health of trees to be transplanted. The tree's energy reserves are largely stored in the roots; save the roots, reduce stress on the tree, and speed re-establishment after planting.


The tree, post-planting.  The arborists assessed how deep the root mass was and how it was formed, and dug the planting hole to accommodate, roughly, its form.  Once the tree is placed in the hole, the roots are spread out radially by hand, and loam shovelled in around, under, and over them.  Watering starts during the digging process, once the tree has been levelled, so that a loam slurry anchors the root plate and tree to its new site.  A well is formed to retain moisture and more water is added.

The tree, post-planting. The arborists assessed how deep the root mass was and how it was formed, and dug the planting hole to accommodate, roughly, its form. Once the tree is placed in the hole, the roots are spread out radially by hand, and loam shovelled in around, under, and over them. Watering starts during the digging process, once the tree has been levelled, so that a loam slurry anchors the root plate and tree to its new site. A well is formed to retain moisture and more water is added.


Two to four inches of mulch is added around the tree, and kept away from the trunk.

Two to four inches of mulch is added around the tree, and kept away from the trunk.


Minor pruning to fix a lamppost-branch conflict.

Minor pruning to fix a lamppost-branch conflict.


The transplanted tree seven hours later, in its new home.

The transplanted tree seven hours later, in its new home.

Matthew R. Foti Landscape and Tree Service, Lexington, MA – lead arborist
Furgal Tree and Landscape, Northborough, MA – consulting arborist
Robert Hanss Inc. Landscape Construction — landscape contractor
Reed Hilderbrand — landscape architects (Chris Moyles, project manager)

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