Transplanting Small Trees

News Article

Occasionally the need arises to move trees within the home landscape. Early spring (before growth begins) and fall (after leaf drop) are the best times to transplant deciduous trees. Evergreens are most successfully transplanted in early spring and late summer (late August to mid-September).

To minimize damage and improve their chance of survival, dig and move trees with balls of soil adhering to portions of their root systems. The soil should be moist when the plant is dug. If the soil is dry, thoroughly water the area 3 to 4 days before digging. When digging trees, the radius of the root ball should be approximately 8 to 12 inches for each inch of trunk diameter at chest height. For example, a tree with a 1-inch-diameter trunk should have a soil ball that is 16 to 24 inches in diameter. Using a spade, dig a trench around the tree to a depth of 1½ to 2 feet. Then cut beneath the roots, rounding the bottom of the soil ball. Tip the soil ball to one side, place a piece of burlap in the trench on the opposite side, then carefully tip or roll the soil ball over onto the burlap. Tightly wrap the burlap around the soil ball and secure the burlap with twine. Move the tree by lifting and carrying the root ball rather than grasping the trunk.

If possible, replant the tree immediately. Dig a hole that is 2 to 3 times the width of the tree's root ball. The depth of the hole should be approximately 1 to 2 inches less than the height of the soil ball. Carefully lower the tree into the hole, position it correctly, and begin to place soil back into the hole. Firm the soil around the tree's root ball with your hands. When the hole is about two-thirds full, cut and remove the twine around the soil ball. Also, cut away the exposed portion of burlap. Then complete the backfilling of the hole and water thoroughly.

Do not allow the soil ball to break during the digging, moving, and replanting process.

Home gardeners should limit themselves to transplanting trees with a trunk diameter of 2 inches or less. Trees with a trunk diameter greater than 2 inches should be moved by an experienced landscape contractor or nursery professional.

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