The eastern red cedar tree (Juniperus virginiana) grows wild throughout the eastern United States. It is used for lumber as well as for screens, windbreaks and landscaping. The eastern red cedar is an evergreen that creates dense shade that prevents other plants from growing around it. Because it is so prolific, it is considered and invasive tree that dominates improperly managed forests and pastures. However, it can be dug up from these areas and raised as a landscaping specimen if desired. Be sure you have permission to enter anyone's property or public right-of-way to dig up a tree of any kind.
Find a location where you have received permission to dig a wild cedar tree to transplant. Look for an area that has different sizes of eastern red cedar trees to choose from. The best time to dig an eastern red cedar tree from the wild is in the late fall or very early spring.
Find an eastern red cedar tree that is no more than 18 inches tall and is well formed. For example, it should have a straight trunk and the branches should be evenly spaced. Look carefully for any signs of disease, such as browning around the edges of the leaves, or any insects present. You want to choose a healthy specimen. Use a permanent marker to mark the north side of the tree you are removing. This is so it has the same orientation in the new location to prevent winter burn or sun scald.
Dig straight down 8 to 10 inches with the shovel in a circle 12 inches out from the trunk of the tree. Move the blade back and forth in the soil to loosen the soil around the roots of the tree. Then, push the shovel blade downward at an angle under the center of the root base. If you feel resistance, like you are hitting a root, adjust the angle of the shovel to avoid damaging the eastern red cedar's roots. Push down on the handle of the shovel so you can use it as a leverage to loosen the root ball from the soil.
Grab the root ball with both hands while keeping as much dirt intact as possible and place in the 5-gallon bucket. Add more soil, if needed, to cover any bare roots. It is OK if the roots are wound around each other in the bucket as long as they are covered with soil so they cannot dry out. Transport the bucket with the tree inside to the new location. Add some water to dampen the soil and roots of the tree in the bucket while it awaits transplanting.
Dig a hole big enough so the roots of the eastern red cedar tree you are transplanting can be easily accommodated. The hole should be deep enough so the tree is planted at the same depth as the previous location. Be sure it is planted with the correct north-south orientation using the mark you made with the permanent marker as a guide. Fill the hole with the same soil as was removed from the hole without any amendments, because the eastern red cedar is a native and highly adaptable tree. Add water to the soil while you are filling the hole to help the tree avoid transplant shock and prevent any air pockets from forming around the roots.