Rushing Towards The End Of The Tree Lifting Season 

No 3

The tree lifting season is an important period of time for us at New Wood Trees.

Trees are an integral part of the well-being of the Earth’s ecosystem. As well as being beautiful, their significance extends far beyond their aesthetic appeal. Trees are crucial to human survival, and the value they serve is immeasurable. Trees mitigate climate change by drawing carbon dioxide from the air, storing the carbon, and emitting oxygen into the atmosphere.  

Trees also slow down winds and cool the air because their leaves evaporate water and reflect sunlight upwards. Studies show that urban trees can reduce temperatures by as much as  7°C

This explains the growing demand for cultivating and increasing the number of trees in towns and cities across the UK as we strive for a greener atmosphere.  

As a result, tree lifting has become an essential component of these operations.  

This post provides an overview of the tree-lifting season and how we prepare our trees for delivery to eventually arrive in your garden looking their best! 

Tree Lifting: Winter Rootballing at New Wood Trees

What is Tree Lifting? 

Tree lifting is carefully digging out trees like the Crab apple tree (Malus), Elaeagnus.  

But since trees are living things, you must carefully time their lifting to achieve optimal outcomes and therefore is done during the winter months when trees are mostly dormant.  

Overall, the time to target a tree for lifting differs based on the duration of its dormancy or when it awakens, usually during spring. However, certain species come out sooner. Classic examples of such trees include Pyrus calleryana ‘Chanticleer’ and Acer ginnala.

The Tree Lifting Season 

The middle of November to the final week of March is the best period to plant trees across most of Europe, including the United Kingdom. This is entirely due to the tree being dormant, and minimal growth is occurring. 

This is also usually when the most rainfall can be expected, making the soil easier for our specialised machinery to dig into the ground and cut the roots to create a rootball. 

This ‘hibernation’ phase, combined with the harsher, wetter weather, also reduces the likelihood of tree roots drying out and lessens tree stress, thereby increasing their chance of surviving. 

We do not lift any trees outside the season because it can increase the loss rate. Hence, the rush toward the tree-lifting season.  

The rush toward the end of the tree-lifting season is due to one key factor: 

Time Constraints 

The primary reason for the rush towards the end of the tree-lifting season is time constraints due to weather and seasonal changes. When the temperature starts to warm, and the days get longer, the trees start to come out of their dormant period and begin producing buds and flowers. This is the first sign that our lifting season is coming to an end, and we now begin to rush to get all our customers trees out of the ground and delivered before the leaves start to appear.

With evergreen trees it is slightly different. They never truly go dormant, so we have to manage them differently to their deciduous cousins. Even in the depth of winter, the root growth significantly slows down but doesn’t stop. We leave them in the ground until just before their scheduled delivery, and then we ask that these are some of the first to be replanted again. This also means that their lifting-season can be slightly longer, if the ground is sufficiently moist. 

When the correct process is followed (i.e. with the right timing, procedures, equipment, and expertise) we can consistently achieve a substantially high survival rate for all trees planted after lifting.  

Toward the end of April, all work in the fields stops as everything is cleaned and prepared for the summer. So, if you’ve missed the rootball season this year, you’ll have to wait until the next winter for our full selection of trees. We will have some trees available from our container area so have a look at our stock to see what we can offer. 

What Processes Are Involved in Tree Lifting? 

We want your trees to have the very best chance of survival, and with trees of this size they can’t just be yank out of the ground with the hope that some roots come with it!  We take a lot of care to ensure our trees come with a healthy root system, which comes in the form of a root-ball. This is the best way to move larger trees.  

Here is an outline of the process that we follow for every tree. 

Step 1: Determining the size of the rootball 

Before we even begin digging, we must decide how large the rootball on the tree will be. We use big, heavy machines with a curved blade that cuts into the ground, around the tree to create the rootball. This blade size is changed depending on the size, species, and root-system of the tree. 

Step 2: Preparing the site 

Sometimes positioning the machine can take a bit of time to get right. We need to consider the other trees around the one we are lifting, where we’ll place the tree when it’s out, and the best side to start digging from to not hit any of the stems (made more difficult with some multi-stems!). We then lay out the ungalvanised wire and hessian next to the tree where the rootball can be laid down. A thin layer of soil is scraped away from around the stems to get rid of any grass or weeds that our customers wouldn’t want with their new tree. 

Step 3: The Dig 

Now the fun part. We position the blade on the machine around the stems and adjust the distance from the blade end depending on the depth we’d like the rootball to be. The blade is turned to be against the ground, and the vibration mechanism is engaged. This vibration motion allows the blade to move smoothly through the soil and creates a very fine sawing motion to get through the roots. The blade rotates underneath the tree until it comes out of the ground on the other side. 

Step 4: Lifting the tree 

The blade is then rotated back under the freshly cut rootball until it is directly in the middle, underneath the stems. The arm of the machine lifts the tree and rootball together out of the ground and is very carefully positioned to be laid onto the hessian and wire placed nearby. 

Step 5: Wrapping the rootball 

The hessian is lifted on all four corners and then tied tightly to their diagonal opposites. The wire net is lifted too, and the length around the top edge is pulled tightly over the top edge of the rootball. Small hooks are then used to twist parts of the wire to tighten it around the outside of the rootball, making sure there are no loose bits to create a rootball that’s as neat and tidy as possible. 

Step 6: Tying up and preparing for delivery 

Next it is getting the canopy tied up and brought back to our yard to wait to be delivered. We use a bio-degradable string to tie up the canopy very carefully. We do this to minimise the chance of the tree being damaged, and it allows us to fit more on our trailers and delivery vehicles. Some trees can’t be tied up if they’re particularly brittle or their shapes don’t allow for it, in which case we just make sure they have enough space to not hit into anything else! 

Please remember not to remove any of the wire and hessian that keep the rootball together.  They are both biodegradable and they ensure the right number of roots are attached to the bottom of the tree! 

Extra Tips for Preparing for the Lifting Season 

As you might have guessed, properly planning and scheduling lifting operations can help avoid unnecessary damage and reduce the risk of tree loss or extra costs. By spreading out the lifting operations, you can even enjoy the activities.  

In addition, monitoring weather patterns and seasonal changes is of equal importance. You can take the time to select suitable trees, use appropriate techniques, and prioritize safety measures.  

Below are two critical points for those expecting trees during the tree-lifting season.  

1) Avoid Drought Stress

First and foremost, it is critical to understand how to recognize drought stress indicators. 

Even while trees can endure brief episodes of drought, trees that experience dryness for an extended length of time may become more sensitive to pests and diseases.  

The primary stress signs in trees include leaf yellowing and withering of tender new growth. Once these signs are recognised early, preventing stunted growth or plant death is easier. 

2) Upon Arrival

Keep the trees standing up and in a protected area away from the cold and the wind. If the roots appear to be losing their moisture, give them a little spray of water to protect them from drying out completely. The best is to plant them as soon as you can. 


While trees have incredible resilience, they are not indestructible—and safe lifting requires the right expert. You won’t only obtain healthy trees when you work with the best tree nursery in the industry. You’re also doing your part to reduce the effects of global warming by planting trees. Let’s contribute to our planet’s and future generations’ lives, one tree at a time. 

Contact us should you have questions about our tree nursery, our tree lifting and delivery services, or if you want to know more about better care for your trees.