Roots First

Technology designed o. o to unearth land mines can be used to transplant trees. By Deborah Howe, asla workshop was to educate attendees about the benefits to trees when transplanting using the new method and to promote this new trend in tree-transplant technology.

Existing Technology, New Use

At the workshop, Furgal explained how he came to use his air spade for transplanting. When faced several years ago with having to move a Japanese maple (Acer palmatum) from a very tight spot, he decided to see if he could use his air spade not just to investigate sub-grade rooting conditions, but to unearth the tree's root mass entirely. He figured once the root system was shed of soil, the root mass would be relatively lightweight and far less susceptible to the kind of root shearing that can take place when a soil root ball is moved. He proceeded to blow soil out of the tree pit, pick up the (much lighter) tree with his compact utility loader, and move it to a new location on the property. With the tree thriving today, Furgal now uses his air spade for transplants whenever possible. For the workshop, Furgal and Foti chose several trees to move, selecting each according to the lesson it might illustrate. Foti—an advocate for imitating nature in tree planting and cultivation—selected the seed-grown Juniperus virginiana (eastern red cedar) to show how a noncultivat-ed tree's roots grow and to test how well it might withstand the stress of air-spade transplantation.

Then, the arborists chose to spade and move matching twin cut-leafed European white birch (Bet/da pendtda 'Gracilis'). Birch, of course, is well-known for being a fall digging hazard. As is typical practice, Foti had his crew hydrate the trees a few days prior in preparation for the transplanting. In the cool of early morning, before the workshop began, Foti's crew dug the first birch with a40-inch tree spade. When they finished their work, two hours later, the tree's leaves had completely wilted and its health was in serious decline. By day's end, the tree's leaves were withering. The arborists determined that

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