There are two optimal times to transplant evergreens, either in the Spring before the trees come out of dormancy or in the Fall after they enter dormancy. Of these two times, Spring in usually the preferred choice because of the Spring rains that are soon to follow, which of course will provide the plant with the necessary water to supplement the shock of being moved and begin the growing cycle for that year. In the fall, the tree has concluded its growth for the year and will also not experience the shock of the move, but it must wait until the following Spring to begin the regrowth of any roots lost in the transplantation. With the benefits of moving the tree in early Spring or late Fall, there are the drawbacks of moving a tree once it moves out of dormancy and as you move farther into the warmer months of the year. If you move the tree during its growing phase, the tree has less of a chance of survival and will require a greater degree of attention in order to survive. Moving it during this time of the year will require the tree to be watered regularly unless proper rainfall is received. This is required due to the loss of some of its root system during the move and the pure shock of the move itself.
On the preparation site, where the tree is to be moved, the hole should be dug and if available peat moss can be added to the hole. The bottom of the hole should be soaked with water and then it is advisable that the area surrounding the hole should be cleared of debris to a distance of twice the size of the hole. By removing the debris from around the tree, this will increase the survival rate of the tree since there will be less plants competing for the available nutrients of the soil, including, but not limited to the water and minerals.
It should be noted, that when the tree is removed from the tree farm, as much of the root system should be removed as possible when the tree is balled and wrapped in burlap; the greater the root system that can be moved, the higher the survival rate. Essentially, it is best to move as much of the top layer of the root system as possible where the larger roots reside. Since the root system can be quite large, it is unreasonable to retrieve all of it.
When planting the tree, the tree should be placed as close to the same position in the ground as it was prior to the move. By looking at the dirt line on the tree, the old ground level can be determined and this can be used to match its new position as close to the old position as possible.
These are recommendations and guidelines that should be followed if possible.
There is a great deal of debate concerning whether or not evergreens need to receive any fertilizer or if they receive enough of their nutrients from the ground. There are opponents of both sides, and without factual evidence to support one case over the other, the issue remains up in the air. From personal experiences on this topic, Iíve seen no significant gain from applying any level of fertilizer to the trees on my farm. It has been my experience that the trees have been able to receive all of their necessary nutrients from my soil (which is sandy) and from what Mother Nature provides, except for the occasional watering of the younger trees during long dry spells.
Pruning an Evergreen
Each year the evergreenís shape should be examined and adjusted if necessary. With the addition of new growth during the growth phase, the shape of the tree will change as some branches grow longer than others. In order to keep a shapely tree, some of the larger branches should be removed with either a shear, a machete or an electric trimmer. If the electric trimmer is the only available tool, it can be used, but it does not provide as clean of a cut as the shear or machete and therefore is not the preferred tool.
The basic shape of the tree has likely already been defined by the farm where the tree would have been purchased. So in order to maintain the shape, it is just a matter of trimming up the longer branches to make a perfect triangular shape that follows the existing angle created by the tree farm owner. Depending on the size of the tree, you might have the opportunity to determine the angle of the cut and therefore the future shape of the tree. If this is the case, the most popular angle is a 2/3 cut, that is, if the tree is 6 feet tall, the tree would be 4 feet wide. While this is the most popular, the shape of the tree should fit your own personal tastes and should be cut accordingly. When you cut, keeping your hands locked at the appropriate angle through the shearing process for that tree will provide better results. If the tree is small enough it is usually easier to trim by leaning over the top of the tree and trimming downward at the appropriate angle, however, as the tree grows, this method cannot be maintained and you must move around the tree.
One of the most important branches on the tree will be the terminal branch, which is the top most branch, the vertical branch. This branch should be maintained at a length of 12 to 15 inches, removing any additional vertical branches, so that there is only one terminal branch. Choosing the most central and vertical branch makes for the most symmetrical and visually appealing tree.
Whether you cut the top branch first or last is a matter of preference, but since it is the focal point of the tree, starting with the terminal branch and working down is usually preferred.
The time of the season when you should trim the tree will depend on the type of evergreen, the Pines are done close to the end of their new growth phase, which in the Southern part of Michigan is usually in late June or early July. The Firs and Spruces should be done at the end of their growth phase after the new growth has hardened. Once again, for Southern Michigan this is usually in early to mid-August. This can vary from growing season to growing season and it can vary depending on what area of the state or country you reside in.
When using the pruning products mentioned in this section, please take all necessary precautions to protect yourself and anyone that might be in the area. All of these items can be very dangerous.
If you are interesting in reading more about trimming Evergreens, the Michigan State University Extension website has some great resources concerning the pruning of evergreens. One such article can be found at the following link: Shearing Recommendations for Christmas Tree Producers. While this document was specifically written for individuals working in the production of Christmas Trees, the information contained within the article can be equally applied to the general care of evergreens. Please reference your local extensions office for additional information on this topic as the care for evergreens vary slightly from region to region due to differences in the length of the growing season, weather and other factors.
Diseases and Pests
Like all trees, evergreens do have enemies that can attack them such as pests or bacteria that cause disease or damage to the trees. Due to the variety of enemies and diseases, it is not feasible to provide all of the possible pests that can attack a certain species of evergreens or the diseases that they can receive.
It is important to state that if an abnormality is observed, it should be investigated. In order to determine what type of pest or disease is on the tree and how to remediate the issue, a sample can usually be taken to your local extensions office and they can provide the results from their testing within a few days. For Michigan, the Michigan State University Extension website contained a great deal of information, such as the "Christmas Tree Pest Manual" that can be used to identify a pest. Once identified, their website has many recommendations of treatment solutions for the pest or disease.
You should be able to obtain a hardcopy of the "Christmas Tree Pest Manual" by visiting a local Michigan Extension Office or it may be available in other states at your local extension office, please call to verify availability. You can also order a hardcopy by following the instructions via the following link: Order a hardcopy of the "Christmas Tree Pest Manual" or you can document a pdf copy from the following link: Download a PDF copy of the "Chrismas Tree Pest Manual".
Type of Tree to Choose
Which type of tree to choose comes down to two main factors; the first being, that you should choose an evergreen that is appropriate for the conditions of your property. Some of the factors that should be considered would be soil type, moisture and sunlight level requirements. Even considering the height of the tree can be important, especially if it is planted near above-ground electrical lines because if the tree is too tall and gets close to the lines, the electric company will trim the tree, destroying its natural beauty. Choosing a tree that doesnít grow as tall or grows slower will increase its lifespan if it is placed in such a spot. The second factor in choosing the type of tree is the simpler of the two; it comes down to personal taste. If you like the look of a certain tree over the next, then that is the tree for you. Recommendations can be made, but you are the one that must make the final decision.