Can I transplant a 7 ft maple?

This cute maple took up residence in my raised bed square foot garden. At first, I thought I’d leave it, because if I were going to plant a tree, that’s exactly where I’d put it. But now that it’s gotten to be 7 feet tall, I’m having second thoughts–if I leave it, I’ll have to move my vegetable gardens, and I’m fast running out of room.
I can cut it down, but it’s a nice tree. Can it be transplanted by hand? It’s maybe 1.5 - 2 inches around at the base, and although it’s tall, it’s rather narrow–I can easily put my arms around the entire leafy part (if I am willing to have the neighbors see me hug a tree). It’s growing right inside the edge of the raised bed, so at least part of the roots would be easy to remove. I don’t know how big the root ball would be, though.
Any experience or advice? Thanks.

you won’t get it out live or dead without dismantling your raised bed. roots can extend nearly to the same distance as branches, to get enough roots for it to survive would be a big heavy ball of dirt. trees suck the moisture out of the ground you want the full sized tree root area to be well away from garden area (unless you want to water garden much more).

maybe consider moving the raised bed.

if you have to kill the tree all is not bad, you can plant more maples because they grow fast.

It would be tough. Likely expensive to have somebody come with a tree spade. Wonder around someplace that sells trees and look at the root ball on them. Even try hefting some. I think it is going to need about a 2’ root ball and that will be heavy. The ball will also need some support. Wrapping it in burlap isn’t that hard, but buying one piece of burlap could be hard. Anything you bind it with including twine needs to be natural fiber or cut.

Years ago I moved a sycamore tree bigger than that. It didn’t go well. It just sat there for years with me watering it and fertilizing it. Eventually it took off and is a very nice tree now, 30-40 feet high.

There is bare root too. Loosen the dirt around it with a fork and gently work it out of the ground. Then carefully spread out the roots as you plant it. The next tree I steal from the state land I will try that. Last time I tried to dig out a 3’ buckeye. I dug around it, cutting off its only major root about a foot long. It is surviving with plenty of water for now, but has shown little growth. A lot of trees that grow naturally tend to have a few long roots. They are not centered on the trunk. Using a fork to locate where they go might work.

I have had my best luck with seedlings. The smaller the tree, the easier to get most of the roots. I tried to dig some small sassafras trees in june. The deer tricked me. It wasn’t this year’s seedling but one with deeper roots after being eaten off a couple of winters.

Hmmm. Maybe I’ll just moider it. I should’ve cut it down when it was small, but it was so cute and harmless looking and made so many earnest promises. But now that it’s an adolescent it’s running wild and completely thinks it’s in charge here.
I don’t have any good places to move my garden as the front yard is small and the rest of it is taken up with perennial beds. But there are millions of maple seedlings every year in the neighborhood, so I have plenty of others I can plant if I feel too guilty.

Seven feet? Sure. Look at any garden store and you’ll see plenty of trees that size or bigger. The root ball will likely be quite heavy so you may need help moving it.

Thief! :smiley:

I think it’s worth a shot. But, as others have said, the root ball will have to be a decent size, and doing that with a shovel by yourself with the intent to move the tree and transplant will be tough. Not impossible, though, especially if you don’t completely mangle the root structure.

I have to disagree with the “theory” that maple trees grow fast, however. It would seem to be the case, and everyone I know that has maple trees tells a similar story, but my own personal experience with maple trees is that they don’t grow at all. I have a sugar maple I bought 7 years ago planted in the best spot in my yard. It was my first tree, and was going to be a great shade tree.


It hasn’t grown 6 inches since it’s been in the ground. 7 years. Neighbors mock it. Children laugh. I have done all that I can think of and have taken every piece of advice I can get. I’ve had arborists out here to look at it. Nothing. A dwarf sugar maple. Which wouldn’t be so bad if it looked nice.

I’m taking it out this summer. I’m not going to try to save it. I’m going to yank it out with a truck. :smiley:

If this maple wouldn’t grow, I’d leave it where it is. But year before last, it was a tiny seedling. Last summer, it was maybe waist-high…and this summer, it’s grown to way over my head. It’s still skinny, but once it starts filling out, it’ll completely shade out my garden (which is only ft wide).
I’ll see what The Man thinks…he’s muscle-y and is always looking for something to dig up or cut down or mow.

Some maples grow faster than others, and some are more desirable than others. If you look around within breezing distance of your garden and see some maples, that’s the type that is likely growing in your raised bed. Sugar maples are really desirable for their fall color and sugaring potential but pretty slow growers as far as maples go. Silver maples, on the other hand, reproduce and grow like kudzu and are relatively undesirable since they put out massive root networks that really enjoy infiltrating sewer lines and spaces humans like to garden, they drop a lot of debris whenever there’s even a moderate wind, and the leaves just sort of wilt and fall off in autumn with no particular color change.

They’re all excellent shade trees, though, so a vegetable garden is probably not a suitable home for a maple.

I worked at a nursery for seven years. Deciduous trees were never dug this time of year. They were dug in the early spring before any new growth happened or in the fall after the leaves fell. Transplanting a tree that size now will likely kill it.

The more I think about it, the more I like the idea of trying it bare root. Tough job yes. It would go better in sandy soil. Also putting off until fall would materially improve its chances. If it doesn’t make it, you aren’t out much but a few hours work and maybe derision by your neighbors and SD members.

Maples have very tenacious root systems. Every year, I have to go around and pull up all the seedlings. If I don’t, they just grab hold of the soil and have to be dug out. And don’t think you can kill it just by cutting it down. If you don’t get the roots, it’ll grow back . . . stronger every year.

Yeah, I spend a lot of time destroying tree seedlings. Since it won’t be easy to get rid of, more argument for only a little more work to move bare root.

How far are you looking to move it and how much weight can you lift/drag?

Personally, that being pretty strong and handy, around November after it’s dropped its leaves I’d dig a circle about 3 feet in diameter (out 1.5 to 2 feet from the trunk) tapering in at the bottom. Have your new hole ready, slightly wider but no deeper than the original. Place a sturdy bit of cardboard on the ground next to the tree. Lean the tree over and use your shovel to lever it onto the cardboard. Slide the tree to the new location, the cardboard allowing it to glide without tearing up the rootball. Roll it into the new hole, the surface level being the same as before or even an inch or two above. Work some dirt underneath if it appears too low, you don’t want it to drown whenever it’s watered, and fill the sides in by tamping the dirt down gently to remove air pockets and to hold it in place firmly vertical. Water well and by all means use a Root Stimulator. Stake if necessary but without leaves that probably wont be required.

Yep. If I don’t quickly clean my gutters each year I have a long row of maples growing there. Every flower pot has a few that need to be pulled, every inch of my garden, under the deck, along the fence, in the cracks of my driveway, maples will grow anywhere. I’m afraid to take a nap outside in the spring, a maple may try to sprout out of my ear.

Is it a Norway maple? I would recommend killing it, killing it with fire! We planted three cute little saplings dug up from the countryside in our back yard and today there are three monsters towering over the house and dropping a tractor trailer load of leaves every fall. Oh, they look nice, but one of these days they’re going to come down on the house or the wooden fence, or god forbid, the neighbor’s house.

It’s either a sugar maple or a hard maple–I have a hard maple in the back and there are sugar maples around. Haven’t seen any little helicopter droppings yet, but it’s still young, and I don’t know if that matters or not.
I may try the bare root idea–either it’ll kill it or at least I’ll get most of the roots. Win/win!

Working for a landscape company, my gut reaction is that if you try transplanting it by hand you’ll probably kill it. Trees we get in the 2-2.5" size have a ~24" diameter root ball which will weigh about 300lbs. You can try a shovel operation but I’m skeptical. Then again, if you don’t like it where it’s at, you’ve nothing to lose but time.

Agreed with California Jobcase though that you’ll essentially guarantee its death by digging it out now, even if you do it “right”.

Okay…if I can’t dig it out (I’m willing to try. Maybe.) then I want to kill it so it doesn’t come back. Does that mean I have to remove that root system anyway?

Applying a herbicide to the cut off trunk will discourage sprouting.