Transplanting young trees and shrubs that you have just purchased from a nursery appears an easy task…deceptively so! Many new plants die because they’re not planted properly. Likewise, if you’re about to give a facelift to a landscape design that has been neglected for years, then you will need to move existing plant matter, whether for relocation or for disposal. If you opt for transplanting the trees and shrubs, you must take steps to improve the likelihood of survival.
Location, location, location! First determine whether the tree or shrub likes sun or shade, and what its spacing and watering requirements are. For instance, don’t locate a plant that craves water next to one that prefers dry conditions; their needs will be incompatible.
Dig the new hole before you dig up the tree or shrub. Once you dig up the plant, the longer its roots go without a home, the lower your chances for a successful transplanting.
Measure the width and depth of the rootball. The width of the new hole should be two to three times that of the rootball. The depth should be kept the same as that of the rootball. If anything, make it a bit shallower, to avoid puddling and consequent rotting.
When you reach the bottom of the hole, resist the temptation to break up the soil beneath. You would think that this would help the tree or shrub, allowing its roots to penetrate deeper. Instead, it could cause the tree or shrub to sink, inviting rot.
Begin digging out the tree or shrub selected for transplanting. But don’t start digging right at the base of a mature tree or shrub. Rather, start digging about 3′ out from the base, all along the perimeter. Get a feel for where the main mass of roots lies. Also begin to judge what the weight will be of plant, roots, and soil clinging to roots. You may need someone to help lift it!
The idea is to keep as much of the rootball intact as possible. But the larger the plant is, the chances of getting anything close to the entire rootball will diminish — and you wouldn’t be able to carry it anyhow! Usually you will have to cut through some roots on a mature plant, either with a sharp shovel or with pruners. Make a good, clean cut.
Once you’ve removed enough soil from around the sides of the plant, you’ll eventually be able to slip your shovel under it and begin to loosen the plant’s grip on the soil below it. After it’s loose, spread a tarp on the ground nearby and gently move the tree or shrub onto the tarp.
Using the tarp as a transporting medium, drag the tree or shrub over to the new hole. Gently slide it into the hole and get it straight. Shovel the excavated soil back into the hole. Tamp this soil down firmly and water it as you go, to eliminate air pockets. The formation of air pockets would cause the tree or shrub to sink, inviting puddling and consequent rot.
Mound up the soil in a ring around the newly transplanted tree or shrub, forming a berm that will catch water like a basin. This will help you achieve your main objective from here on out — keeping the new transplant’s roots well-watered, until it becomes established.
Spread approximately 3-4″ layer of mulch around the new transplant. But keep it a few inches away from the base of the tree or shrub, to promote air circulation and so as not to invite rodents from nibbling on the trunk. Rodents become emboldened by the cover mulch provides.
Then water, water, water. The first season would be a difficult one for the tree or shrub to weather unless it gets plenty of water.
When Should you Conduct your Transplanting?
For most trees and shrubs late winter or early spring are the best times for transplanting. Fall would be the second-best time. In summer it’s not advisable (too hot). In the dead of winter, it’s almost impossible — unless you’ve done all your digging ahead of time before the ground freezes.
The time given for most transplanting projects is 2 hours. However, that will depend greatly on the circumstances. To dig a mature tree or shrub out of rocky soil, especially in cramped quarters, is back-breaking work. How long it takes you will largely depend on your health and on how much you’re willing to push yourself.
Question: Jimmie, I recently had a foundation company out to my house to check our foundation and they recommended I add soil all around my house to raise the existing levels. What type of soil would you recommend I install? Thank you for all your advice and information you provide to all of us in your columns. – Tiffany T. in Celina
Answer: Hi Tiffany! You will want to use sandy loam around your foundation to raise the existing level to proper grade. At that point you might want to consider installing sod or shrubs on top of your new soil to hold it in place and keep it from washing out. If you choose shrubs remember that sandy loam is good for your foundation but has no actual nutrient value for planting shrubs in. You would need to add organic soil conditioners to your loam before you would plant shrubs. Good Luck and until next time…Happy Gardening!! – Jimmie
Send your landscaping and gardening questions to Jimmie Gibson Jr. at http://www.absolutelybushedlandscaping.com or firstname.lastname@example.org Jimmie is a Prosper resident and the owner of Absolutely Bushed Landscaping Company, an award winning, family and veteran owned and operated business created in 1980 to provide the highest quality custom Outdoor Renovation available to homeowners in the Dallas Ft. Worth area.