Harvesting trees from our field is generally done in early spring before the trees leaf out of the year. Trees are also harvested in the fall after the first frost hits and the leaves start to change color for the year. So what exactly is involved with harvesting a field grown tree? Quite a bit.

Harvesting trees begins with a tree spade.

Harvesting trees that are field grown requires the use of a tree spade. Most tree spades mount to the front of a skid loader or back of a truck depending on the size and operation of the machine. As our nursery, we use a front-mount skid loader tree spade. Our tree spade is one of the largest skid loader mounted spades available. The tree spade we use has four individual cutting spades that form a cone when compressed in the ground. With this tree spade, we can harvest trees with root balls of 40 inches in diameter.

Using the right skid loader.

Equally important to selecting the right tree spade is selecting the right skid loader for the job. At our nursery, we use a Bobcat T770 track machine. It is important to use a track machine for several reasons. First, track machines help provide equal weight distribution while the tree is being spaded. Secondly, track machines allow you to drive over holes without falling in.

The lifting capacity of the skid loader is just as important as well. Keep in mind that you are not only lifting the weight of your spade but the weight of the root ball in the dirt as well as the tree and canopy. Large trees, with a wet root ball and a tree spade, can weigh over a ton. It is important to have a machine that can safely lift the spaded tree without tipping over.

Harvesting Trees

During the harvest.

Here is a step by step of how we harvest our trees.

  1. Line up the tree spade so that the trunk of the tree is evenly positioned between the spades.
  2. Make sure the spade is sitting level on the ground.
  3. Start inserting each spade in the ground roughly 6″ at a time in a clockwise direction until the spades are in the ground. Inserting the spades evenly a little bit at a time will produce a uniform root ball. Inserting the entire spade at the same time will not only miss cutting some roots, but it will make your machine un-level.
  4. Once the spades are inserted in the ground, lift the root straight in the air. Make sure to raise the root ball level. You may run into some tree roots holding on between the spades. Lift and observe where the roots are. Have someone cut the roots loose.
  5. Once the root ball is out of the ground, prune the remaining roots.
  6. After the roots are pruned, wrap the ball with burlap and set it in the wire basket. (You may have to hold the tree while the spades release the tree, so it doesn’t tip over).
  7. After the tree spade is clear of the tree, tie up the burlap by weaving twine through each ring on the basket. When the weaving is done correctly, you should have a twine star with the trunk of the tree in the center.

Harvesting Trees

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