How To Transplant a Tree

Do you have a tree growing in an inconvenient location? Perhaps it's too close to your house, or maybe it's giving unwanted shade in your garden. It's possible to transplant a tree, provided that it's not too big and established. Here are the steps involved:

Step 1

Decide where to transplant it. You should choose a location where the tree will be able to thrive. Learn more about the tree and what kind of environment it needs. Some trees need more sun, some need more shade, some need lots of water, etc. Also, make sure it will have enough room to grow.

Step 2

Decide when to transplant it. It's best to do this either in the late fall or winter, before or after the frost has hardened the ground. Avoid disturbing the tree when it's putting out new leaves.

Step 3

Dig a hole. You'll need to estimate how big this hole should be. It should be two to three times as large as the tree's root ball. If you're in doubt, you can do some exploratory digging around the tree itself to see how large the root system is. Don't dig the hole too deep: The root system needs to be at the same level in the new hole as it is in the ground right now. Planting your tree too deep will encourage rot.

Step 4

Mark the tree. This will help you remember which direction it was facing. Your tree will stay healthier if the same side continues facing the sun.

Step 5

Dig up the tree. Don't start near the base of the tree. Instead, start perhaps 12 inches out if you're dealing with a very young tree. The bigger the tree, the further out you should begin. Use a sharp shovel so that you can sever roots cleanly. Do your best to keep the root ball intact. Expose as few of the roots as possible. This will be easiest if the soil is firm, yet moist. If the ground is very dry, water it beforehand.

Don't force the roots up from the ground if they're stuck! Instead, either carefully dig them up, or cut them cleanly.

Step 6

Transport the tree. Lay out a tarp or a large piece of burlap and place the tree on it. You can then drag the tree to its new location.

Step 7

Place the tree in the hole. Be sure it's planted no deeper than it originally was. Make sure the tree is straight, then carefully fill up the hole with the excavated dirt. Gently tamp the soil down and water it as you go to prevent air pockets. Don't water so excessively that you wash the soil from the roots.

Step 8

Create a dam around the tree. You can mound up the dirt to form a wide circle around the tree. This basin will help trap water, ensuring that the roots get all the moisture they need.

Step 9

Stake the tree. A young transplanted sapling will be vulnerable to strong winds. Staking it will help it withstand strong winds and storms.

Step 10

Add mulch. Provide a mulch layer that's about two to three inches deep. This will help keep the ground moist. However, leave a few inches of "breathing room" around the trunk. And whatever you do, don't add fertilizer! Fertilizer encourages new growth, and the roots will be far too stressed to do anything more than recover from the transplanting.

Water the tree. Keeping the roots nice and moist will help the tree survive. Watering becomes especially important in the summer. For the first couple of years, water the tree deeply once a week.


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