Tree Transplanting

Transplanting trees could save the environment and a much needed process for the current world. We found an interesting article about it in the book called “TREE AND SHRUB  GARDENING  FOR NORTHERN CALIFORNIA” by “Bob Tanem” and “Don Williamson”, Here is an excerpt of the article.

PLANTING BARE-ROOT STOCK

     Remove the plastic and sawdust from the roots.  Fan out the roots and center the plant over the central mound in the hole.  The central mound for bare-root stock should be cone-shaped and larger than the mound for other types of plant stock.  Use the cone to help spread out and support the roots.  The hole for bare-root stock should be a little deeper than the fully extended roots and wide enough to work comfortably in.  Amend the backfill soil as mentioned above.

BACKFILL

     When the plant is standing in the hole straight up, now is the time to replace the soil.  Backfill should reach the same depth the plant was grown at previously, or just above the root-ball.  If planting into a heavier soil, raise the plant about 1” to improve surface drainage, allowing water to move away from the crown and roots.  Keep graft unions above-ground if your plant is grafted stock.  If you have amended the backfill soil, ensure it is well mixed before putting it into the hole.

     When backfilling, it is important to have good root-to-soil contact for initial stability and good establishment.  Large air pockets remaining after backfilling could cause unwanted settling.  The old method was to tamp or step down the backfilled soil, but the risk of soil compaction and root damage has caused this practice to fall out of favor.  Use water to settle the soil gently around the roots and in the hole, taking care not to drown the plant.  It is a good idea to backfill in small amounts rather than all at once.  Add some soil, then water it down, repeating until the hole is full.  Stockpile any remaining soil after backfilling and use it to top up the soil level around the plant after the backfill settles.  Do not put any stockpiled soil directly over the rootball.  Ensure good surface drainage away from the new transplant.  Do not allow the plant to sit in a puddle.

     It is a good idea to mulch around all new plantings with either cedar bark or shredded redwood bark.  These products will stay put, unlike pebble bark or peat moss.  They also contain a natural fungicide so that there is no danger to the base of the plant.

STAKING

     Staking provides support to a plant while the roots establish.  It is not recommended, however, unless absolutely necessary, because unstaked trees develop more roots and stronger trunks.  Generally, newly planted trees will be able to stand on their own without staking.  Some weak-stemmed trees will require staking, but the stakes should be removed as soon as the tree can stand on its own.  The exceptions to this rule are when training standards and woody vines.  In windy locations, trees over 5’ tall may need some support until the roots establish, to prevent them from blowing over.

     There are two common methods for staking newly planted trees.  For both methods you can use either wood or metal stakes.

     The two-stake method is used for small trees, about 5-6’ tall.  Drive stakes into the undisturbed soil just outside the planting hole on opposite sides of the tree, 180° apart.  Driving stakes in right beside the newly planted tree can damage the roots and will not provide adequate support.  Tie string, rope, cable or wire to the stakes.  The end that goes around the trunk of the tree should be wide, belt-like strapping that will not injure the trunk.  Your local nursery should have ties designed for this purpose.  Attach at a height of about 3-4’ above the ground.

     The three-stake method is used for larger trees and trees in are as subject to strong or shifting winds.  The technique is similar to the two-stake method, but with three stakes evenly spaced around the tree.

     Here are a few points to keep in mind, regardless of the staking method used:

  • Don’t wrap rope, wire or cable directly around a tree trunk-always use non-damaging materials.
  • Readjust the strapping every two to three months to prevent any rubbing or girdling injury.
  • Never tie trees so firmly that they can’t move.  Young trees need to be able to move in the wind so that the trunk strengthens and so that roots develop more thickly in appropriate places to compensate for the prevailing wind.
  • Don’t leave the stakes in place too long.  One year is sufficient for almost all trees.  The stake should be there only long enough to allow the roots some time to fill in.  The tree will actually be weaker if the stake is left for too long, and over time the ties can damage the trunk and weaken or kill the tree.
  • With deciduous trees, the best time to remove the stakes is in winter when the tree has gone dormant.

TREEWELLS

     A treewell is created by building up a low mound of soil in a ring around the outer edge of the filled-in planting hole.  When you water your tree, this ring will keep the water from running away before it soaks down to the roots.  Although a treewell is not necessary, it can make it easier to keep your new plant well watered until it becomes established.  The treewell will be most useful during dry periods and should be during rainy periods to prevent the roots from becoming waterlogged.  Remove after one to two years.

TRANSPLANTING

     If you plan your garden carefully, you should rarely need to move trees or shrubs.  Some woody plants (indicated as such under their individual descriptions) recent being moved once established, and for these species transplanting should be avoided wherever possible.  For all species, the younger the tree or shrub, the more likely it is to re-establish successfully when moved to a new location.

     Woody plants inevitably lose most of their root mass when they are transplanted from one location to another.  The size of the tree or shrub will determine the minimum size of the rootball that must be dug out in order for the plant to survive.  A general guideline is that for every 1” of main stem width, measured 6-12” above the ground, you need to excavate a rootball a minimum of 12” wide, and preferably larger.  Trees with a trunk diameter of 2” or greater should be moved by professionals with heavy equipment.  The moving of established natives, such as strawberry tree, should never be attempted by non-professional tree movers.  Smaller plants should only be moved if absolutely necessary and only in winter months.

     Some older sources recommend pruning the roots of a tree or shrub a year or so before transplanting.  We strongly discourage this practice.  It adds an additional, unnecessary stress before the major trauma of transplanting, making the plant more vulnerable to pests and diseases and reducing the likelihood that it will re-establish successfully.  The only time roots need to be pruned is just before you plant them into your garden, and only if the roots are broken, shredded or damaged in some way.