Transplanting established trees involves root pruning, digging the plant out while protecting the roots for transport and planting in the new location. The task may seem daunting, but proper planning and close attention to recommended procedures save time, reduce the amount of effort and increase the likelihood of success.
Before starting, first mark a north-facing branch and where the trunk meets the soil line so that the tree can be properly oriented in its new location. Using heavy twine, burlap strips or rope, tie the branches to keep them out of the way. Next, estimate the size of the root ball around the tree, and dig a trench just outside this circle. The American Association of Nurserymen sets the suggested circle diameter and the depth of the trench according to the type and size of the tree.
Deciduous trees less than an inch in diameter are moved bareroot, but anything larger and all evergreens should be moved with the roots balled in soil. The root ball must be large enough to contain enough of the root system to assure full recovery of the plant. Cut small excess roots with a sharp spade and larger ones with lopping shears. Wrap the ball of soil tightly with burlap, starting from one side and tilting the tree to wrap the other side.
At the new location, dig a hole 50 percent wider than the bareroot or the root ball and deep enough for the root system to be situated at the same depth as the original location. Drop the root ball with the burlap on into the hole. Backfill with subsoil, filling the top 6 inches with topsoil. Water often enough to maintain constant moisture, and apply mulch to conserve soil moisture, regulate temperature and discourage weeds.