In contracting it often comes down to man-hour (labor) and the equipment type & operator-time. However with transplanting it’s not always clear-cut; there are many variables and circumstances to consider.
To estimate this type of work accurately you must be clear on what this particular transplant job requires from start to finish.
First off, consider the size factor. This is one of those times where size does matter. Given the standard root ball sizes as recommended by the American Standard for Nursery Stock (see below), you’ll know right away how big a root ball you will need to create.
Weight is another serious consideration. Once the plant is balled and burlapped you’ll have to move it to its new location. Generally speaking a root ball measuring 15″ wide and 15″ high should weigh around 200 lbs. Amazing, isn’t it?
And you can’t be “wrestling” with the plant either. It’s critical you handle it carefully so as not to disturb the solid connection between root ball and upper plant.
The size and weight information you calculate will tell you right away what kind of equipment (and manpower) you’ll need to handle the plant. Basically it comes down to either a plant small enough to manage by hand (typically using a ball-cart or hand-truck) or big enough to require equipment with hydraulics to lift and maneuver the plant.
Be conscious of the work area size. Maybe the space is so small that simply maneuvering around is difficult. Maybe the plant you intend to move is so close to a building or other structure that digging and shaping the root ball presents challenges.
Look for overhead obstacles like wires and low branches from other trees. How about fences and gates? Do you have to remove them for access and then re-set them afterwards?
As with anytime you dig, think about underground utilities, drains, seepage pits, septic systems, etc. Calling for a utility “mark-out” is always a good idea.
In the next post I’ll talk about the process for hand-digging a plant for transplant. The more care taken in the process the better your chances of success.
As you can see there is a lot to consider when transplanting. If you justify the cost and see the value in moving a plant, then give it your best shot. Be aware of all the logistical aspects of the job from start to finish.
It has been my experience over the years that those who do transplanting well with good success rates are among the more experienced landscape companies. What do you think?