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Planting trees with tree spade

Posted by ltruett Zone, 9 Houston (My Page) on
Tue, Dec 22, 09 at 9:47

A tree company is currently planting trees in the neighborhood and I wanted to see if anyone had any comments about their methods. I have no experience planting large trees dug with a tree spade but it just doesn't look right to me. They will eventually come through and dump a bunch of dirt on top to even it out.

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Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Planting trees with tree spade

if the soil is hard clay .... it would NOT be uncommon to plant it a bit high ... with proper follow up ...

it would NOT.. IMHO.. be proper to leave them as is ...

ken

PS: as to why they put that tree.. in what seems the middle of no where ... is beyond me...


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RE: Planting trees with tree spade

That's how it's done, planting proud. But they should be coming back with a little fill dirt and water, even tho it is dormant season.

Dan


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RE: Planting trees with tree spade

  • Posted by bboy USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA (My Page) on
    Tue, Dec 22, 09 at 13:29

Planting in a spade-dug hole without loosening the soil around the hole puts the cut root ends against the compressed, slickened sides of the hole. New roots coming out of cut root ends need loosened, aerated soil to grow readily. If they were using a backhoe to dig the planting holes, as they should be the trees would also not end up sitting up up on a perch.

Nothing proud about it.


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RE: Planting trees with tree spade

  • Posted by brandon7 6b (like 7b now) TN (My Page) on
    Tue, Dec 22, 09 at 15:05

I agree. The job was done the "cheap/easy" way rather than the best way. It's normal for the rootballs planted this way to be left a little high (to compensate for settlement), but some of the pictures above appear to have rootballs left significantly high.


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RE: Planting trees with tree spade

I didn't mean to imply it was a great planting job but depending upon what the bid was (or if it was gratis), that might be what you get for your money. If it was my tree the hole wouldn't look like that, but you have to remember you get what you pay for. If you paid a ton of money (say, via HOA fees) then that could be done better. If they were going to be cut and the company wanted to plant them nominally, what the heck.

Dan (maybe with the planner hat on instead of the UFer hat on).


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RE: Planting trees with tree spade

  • Posted by ltruett Zone, 9 Houston (My Page) on
    Wed, Dec 23, 09 at 8:50

The trees are being planted in a new section of the neighborhood near a lake/greenbelt (or fancy retention pond). They probably planted a couple of dozen trees yesterday. It is part of a master planned with about 4,500 homes with HOA fees so I am sure they are getting paid fairly decent money to plant these trees. I just feel that the whole job could be done better. Here are some pictures of after they mulched it and some other trees with dirt added but no mulch yet.

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RE: Planting trees with tree spade

  • Posted by whaas 5a Milwaukee (My Page) on
    Wed, Dec 23, 09 at 9:36

Considering what they are working with it looks like its being done properly and professionally.

I can tell they are using a different soil medium for the backfill, others can comment on that.


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RE: Planting trees with tree spade

  • Posted by bboy USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA (My Page) on
    Wed, Dec 23, 09 at 12:18

No they aren't. Plopping spade-dug trees into spade-dug holes is a fundamental blunder that is not made up for by hiding the resulting mismatch with soil imported to the site.

Adding soil on top also does not correct the problem of cut root ends being placed against compressed spade-dug planting hole walls. Gyp jobs are prevalent in commercial landscaping, frequency does not make something good practice. In my area it is usual to see large, expensive specimen shade trees sitting out of the ground drying out and wilting while waiting to be installed in malls etc., to see thin layers of dark topsoil spread over compacted subsoil in planting beds and so on.

A contractor hired to move valued trees like long-established Stewartia pseudocamellia out of the way of a building expansion at a university here also attempted to insert these into spade-dug holes, with if anything an even worse result. Did not see if these got soil added afterward, suspect job was long over last time I saw the poor trees on their perches.


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RE: Planting trees with tree spade

Your state likely requires the HOA budget be placed on-line. I would look and see what the line item-breakdown is for this job and if a copy of the award or contract is on-line as well. I'm on the Board of a Special District and all of our stuff is on-line for our community to read and comment on.

You might be getting what you paid for, which does not condone what bboy is ranting about, above; I will say that I run scores if not hundreds of volunteers in tree planting events every year, and shining the side of a hole with a manual shovel is just as prevalent as shining the side of a hole with a mechanical spade, and hand-digging does not eliminate the issue.

Maybe I have been too into budgets and contracts and code and my old business lately, but in these economic times you are going to take the cheapest job if your revenues are down, unless there is someone advising the Board to have language in the contract to plant to x, y, or z standard. This brings up the larger point that a lot of work will be suboptimal in this climate, and we will have to be extra vigilant in the future.

Dan


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RE: Planting trees with tree spade

About 30 yrs ago I worked for a college landscaping dept. that transplanted this way in east Texas. We had about 60% survival rate as I remember. Believe the method would work better if they dug up smaller trees, but no one seems to want to do that.


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RE: Planting trees with tree spade

Would large tree auger work on heavy clay soil when wet? I would think wide auger with teeth to prevent smooth side works best. Just use a spade to make a hole then use wide auger to loosen up the surrounding soil before planting. Seems simple enough. I guess you get what you pay for. Paying for fewer trees to pay extra for proper planting that would yield trees performing much better in the long run than ending up with a bunch of dead trees or ugly poor performing trees then end up paying more to replace them. I guess someone has not thought things through completely.


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RE: Planting trees with tree spade

I agree with bboy somewhat, that the tree spade work - typically - is not ideal.

It's more expensive in many cases to hand dig, ball the roots, and move by crane to a prepped hole, but that would be better.

As far as just using the spade, the balls and the holes are not prepped as well as could be. For example, the roots and top circle could be cut by hand, to prevent the bludgeoning type anvil crushing of the spade dropping into the soil. Even if it was just the top 8" cut with sharper tools.

The hole could be prepped better to get rid of compacted hole surface. And if it were me, I'd be digging away the top foot after it's dropped in - bit by bit, and finishing the backfilling by hand to get rid of more air pockets and improve rootball to soil contact.

M. D. Vaden of Oregon


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RE: Planting trees with tree spade

  • Posted by bboy USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA (My Page) on
    Wed, Dec 23, 09 at 20:02

The planting holes should be dug with a backhoe instead of a tree spade.

Carl E. Whitcomb wrote in 1987 (1991)

Trees dug with a tree spade should not be planted into a tree spade-dug hole. The development of new roots at the face of the root ball and into the surrounding soil require considerable aeration, thus the need for a larger planting hole with a well-aerated soil

-- Establishment and Maintenance of Landscape Plants

Here is a link that might be useful: Establishment and Maintenance of Landscape Plants II


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RE: Planting trees with tree spade

  • Posted by whaas 5a Milwaukee (My Page) on
    Wed, Dec 23, 09 at 21:24

Maybe I missed it but how do we know the hole was dug with a tree spade?

And even if they did how do we know the installer didn't break the glazing before setting the tree?


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RE: Planting trees with tree spade

  • Posted by ltruett Zone, 9 Houston (My Page) on
    Thu, Dec 24, 09 at 7:16

"Maybe I missed it but how do we know the hole was dug with a tree spade?

The holes were dug with a tree spade.

"And even if they did how do we know the installer didn't break the glazing before setting the tree?"

I am fairly certain they just dropped the trees in the hole.


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RE: Planting trees with tree spade

  • Posted by whaas 5a Milwaukee (My Page) on
    Thu, Dec 24, 09 at 9:15

Looks like they did not use the best method...but it boils down to what they where paid for and what was outlined in the contract.

Hopefully you got a jump start on checking that out before they made too much progress.


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RE: Planting trees with tree spade

Yeah, I've been in agreance with bboy/Ron from the beginning. This is nothing more than a tragedy, but only progressing. The hole should have been made wider (obvious!) as well as torn up just like any planting job a human being would do in their own garden. Extra backfill should have been made accessible and busted up ready for a few people near the hole while the tree was being dropped in so they could wiggle the tree around and back and forth while adding the extra backfill. It's a job gone wrong. Even the sides of the hole should have been scored at several points making crevices for the new roots to have a place to go after they get comfortable, growing through the loosened backfill. Major, major, problems there...

Dax


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RE: Planting trees with tree spade

Interesting! I'm always interested in how these suburban planting projects go. Anyone got statistics on survival rates?

Something like 53% of trees this size planted with the spade survive 10 years and grow an average of 1 foot per year vs. 75% of similar hand planted trees survive 10 years and average 1 foot per year.

The cost/benefit analysis is all about percentages.


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RE: Planting trees with tree spade

I'd like to be the guy selling the trees.

Dax


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