Sunday, February 20, 2011

Moving the Shin Oaks

The purpose of digging up the pit was to provide a place to move the Shin Oaks. It has also been suggested that moving the trees should be done while they are relatively dormant.

The first step was to dig them out. I started on Monday. One day to dig the dirt out of the way -- remember that at least part of the dirt had been dug up before, and so it was fairly easy to dig it out again. By Tuesday, I could start with the jackhammer, trying to get the rock out. The objective was to dig down, more or less to bed rock, all the way around the trees. Wednesday and Thursday was more jackhammer work.

Once I was through the rock all around the trees, the trees themselves were sitting in a big ball of dirt on a layer of rock about a foot thick. Friday, I worked at breaking the rock up underneath the trees and their dirt. I managed to get the rock out of one side, and with effort to tip the trees over into the space where the rock on that side had been.

This exposed the rock on the other side, allowing it be broken into pieces and moved out of the way. With a lot of work, and two people, we were able to then roll the trees out of the hole, and drag them across the yard to their new home, leaving nothing but a big hole where they had been.

With the trees over in the new pit, I dug a new hole big enough for the root ball. Again, since this dirt had been recently (December) dug up and put back, it was fairly easy to dig a new hole for the trees. The new hole was roughly 70 inches by 40 inches and about a foot deep.

Pushing the tree into its new home, I then poured two trash cans of really nice composted dirt around the roots. Most of the dirt on the roots (but not all) had come loose in all the movement. I went back to the old home and got a wheelbarrow full of the old dirt and added it to the compost, then put back the dirt that had been dug out of the new hole, and shaped it into a berm around the trees, to allow water and mulch.

The main problem in the new location was that the trees wanted to fall over instead of standing up straight. They had tilted significantly in their old home -- I think to avoid the cedar tree that had been near them. I pulled them as close to upright as I could get them, poured the dirt around the roots to support this new upright posture, watering it and stomping it down.

But, to be sure, I got some straps and hooked them to the fence, pulling both trees to a nearly vertical trunk. The top of the trees still slides over, but it's a pleasant arch. I think if (a) the trees will live and grow in their new home, then (b) in some time -- probably months -- the new roots will hold them in place and I will be able to remove the straps. But I should probably wait until October or November. November sounds better; hurricane season would be over, and the trees should be going dormant again.

We'll need to see if the trees like their new home. These are hardy trees not used to water or good soil, so their is a possibility that the new location will be "too good" for them and they will not survive.

An update from March 31. The trees are alive. They are putting out new leaves. It's hard to see in the picture, and it's not a lot, but at least it's something!