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Dwarf Alberta Spruce
Root System

Q:I have eight foot tall Dwarf Alberta Spruce about 10 in a row. I have them in an elevated six inch deep bed with railroad ties which protect them from lawn movers.

They are starting to extend into the neighbors air space. I have been thinking about moving them by two feet to the south on to my property.

When I got them they were in a two foot ball and planted 5 years ago. They were five foot tall 5 years ago.

Two questions:
Is there a way to trim them away from the neighbors property line?
What type of growing root system do they have?

Sincerely, Larry
Munroe Falls, Ohio

A: You can prune them, but very sparingly. Since dwarf Alberta spruces grow so slowly (2-4" per year), they don't fill in very quickly, if at all, after a heavy pruning.

You might check with your neighbors to see if the intrusion bothers them. Maybe they don't mind, and you won't have to do much beyond a little pruning once in a while to slow down their growth on that side.

If you really do need to move them, move them at least the 2 feet you mention. This will allow for future growth even more.

To move them, you could either use a small mechanical tree spade, or hand dig them and encase the root ball with burlap.

If they are likely to be to heavy to lift, you might first dig each new hole to the south, dig a trench the same width between the new hole and where each spruce is now, ball and burlap the spruces, then just "slide" them through the trench to their new home. This would eliminate having to lift them, and would also break fewer roots.

As to their root system, it depends on the type of soil they're in.

A loose soil is conducive to deeper rooting than a compacted soil, so you'll have to determine how deep the roots may be based on this. Typically, roots grow outward more than downward, sort of like a pancake, so the root systems of your spruces are probably no more than 12-18" deep.

Before moving them, water thoroughly 7 days, 4 days and 2 days before the move. This will help get them moist inside and out.

Also, slightly wet soil holds together better than soil that is bone dry, so this can help protect the roots from breakage by holding the root ball together.

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Tom Mugridge

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