Common reasons for moving and transplanting trees form one site to another are….
- To prevent the loss of a tree due to construction
- To create space for a new addition
- To alter the design of a landscape
- To create a mature landscape quickly
- To move a tree to a site better suited to its needs
- When a tree has outgrown its present location
Usually deciduous trees transplant well if moved in the spring before they leaf out or in the fall after the leaves begin to change in color.
Evergreen trees should not be moved during the flush of the growth in spring or in the fall since it will be too late for the roots to get established before winter. But you should also take note that there are some exceptions to these rules.
There are also differences between moving trees that have been raised in the wild and in a nursery. Trees grown in nurseries are easier to move because they have been subjected to maintenance practices such as root pruning. Trees grown in the wild are often difficult to transplant because they have grown in an environment that protected them from the wind making them have large shallow root systems and weak trunks.
Another important issue in the success of the transplant is the type of soil. The soil structure influences the trees root extensions and penetration. Clay soil will contribute to a tree with a smaller rootball while trees grown in sandy soil will have a more complex root system. Other soil factors include the level of soil compaction and the moisture.
It is important to consider where a tree is to be planted, proper placement of trees is vital to the design and sustainability of the landscape. The species of tree for a site depends on space requirements, existing plants, structures, and the function the tree will perform according to the landscape.
Common uses of trees in landscape are….
- To soften the architectural lines of a building
- To crate shade and reduce summer cooling costs
- To crate a backdrop for a landscape
- To provide a screening or a ceiling over an outdoor space.
When transplanting a tree it is importing to try an replicate the original conditions as much as possible to increase the success of the transplant. Soil type, planting depth, staking, watering and mulching are important roles in the success of the transplant.
If possible the soil type should match. For large projects a soil analysis is recommended to compare the structure of the soil as well as the porosity and amendments required.
Before digging the rootball should be watered thoroughly to reduce soil loss and keep the ball intact during transportation. For proper tree hydration, the tree should be watered 1- 2 days prior to the moving of the tree. When positioning the tree in the new hole, it should be placed 2 – 3” higher that the usual grade to allow for settling.
Staking is required as extra support for the tree since the roots of the newly transplanted tree will not establish themselves securely in the ground for several weeks after the tree has been planted. However, it is important to remove the staking as soon as the tree is well rooted since a trunk’s strength can be weakened by a long term staking.
Since newly planted trees don’t have an extensive root system it is important to water transplants on a regular basis, especially during dry periods to reduce water stress. If the tree has prolonged water stress it will cause it to become susceptible to diseases and insect damage. Over watering and the poor drainage of soil can also create an anaerobic environment around the root zone that is favorable to rot fungi and bacteria or may cause roots to suffocate.
It is important to water the soil ball and the surrounding soils to a depth of 12” of a newly transplanted tree. Water should be applied slowly to the entire area, allowing adequate penetration. Watering is required weekly for the first month and twice a month for the rest of the first growing season. It should continue as needed for
2 – 3 seasons after transplanting. It is important that evergreens be watered on a regular basis until the soil freezes in order to prevent winter browning and needle desiccation.
Newly planted trees and shrubs can benefit significantly from mulching. Some of the benefits are….
- More uniform soil temperature
- Reduced soil erosion
- Reduced weed competition
- Improved Moisture retention
- Reduced damage to tree trunks and roots from mowers, weed whips and other equipment
- Provides a pleasant view to shaded areas underneath trees where grass grows
After a tree is transplanted, 4 – 6” layer wood mulch should be applied; it should be pulled away from the trunk to reduce damage form trapping moisture. The mulch area should reach out 10 – 12” past the original rootball. Avoid mulching up to the tree trunk since it will trap moisture and can lead to insects and disease issues.