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How to Transplant a Tree

If you’re anything like us here at Mr. Tree, then you not only have a green thumb, you also have a strong passion for trees. Just like our children, we love being able to watch them flourish and grow. But in order to do so, they need the proper amount of nourishment and care.

Transplanting a tree, for instance, can be an involved process. If not done correctly, you may wind up causing irreparable harm to the tree. But don’t despair. If you’re wondering how to transplant a tree, we’ll tell you everything you need to know to get the job done properly.

Preparing for the Transplant

A few months before

There are many reasons you may want to transplant a tree. Perhaps it’s outgrowing its current space or maybe you want to make room for a new swimming pool in the backyard. Regardless of your reason for wanting to transplant the tree, the same care is required and the same steps should be followed.

The first thing you’ll want to do is determine whether you can perform the job on your own. If the tree is particularly large or old or the transplant especially difficult, you’ll want to hire a certified arborist to perform the job. If you’re transplanting a young tree, on the other hand, then you may be able to perform the transplant on your own.

First, assess the tree’s overall health. If the tree is damaged or diseased, then it probably won’t make a great candidate for a transplant. You may have to consult with a certified arborist to see whether a transplant can be performed or if tree removal would be best.

If you do feel comfortable performing the transplant on your own, however, you’ll want to begin by preparing for the process. That begins the season before your transplant, so be sure to plan ahead. The season before, you’ll want to prune the tree’s roots. Be careful to pay close attention to the area being pruned. You’ll use this as a benchmark measurement when you’re ready to dig the tree up later on.

A few weeks before

You should also begin scoping out a new location for your tree. In order to find the best place, evaluate how your tree is doing in its current location. Is It receiving an adequate amount of sunlight, for instance? If your tree is thriving in its current spot, then you’ll want to relocate it to an area with similar conditions and plant it facing the same direction. Likewise, if your tree isn’t doing well where it is now, look for a more suitable place to transplant it.

A couple of factors to consider in your search are sun exposure and soil type. Determine the amount of sunlight your tree requires and how much sunlight the new area receives to ensure that it’s a compatible location for your tree. Also, perform a soil test and adjust the pH level of the soil as needed for your tree to grow properly.

A few days before

Once you’ve found the right place to transplant your tree, call 811. The Oregon Utility Notification Center will alert the utility companies to your transplant, and utility staff will mark all underground facilities, such as water and sewer lines, that are in the area you plan to dig. Be sure to call them at least two days in advance, but not more than ten days before the start of your project.

How to Transplant a Tree

Prep work

Once you have the approval to dig and you’ve done the proper prep work, you’re ready to begin the transplant process. You’ll want to water the soil the day before the transplant in order to soften the ground. Next, dig the new hole about two to three times the size of the tree’s root ball. Thoroughly moisten the hole prior to the transplant.

Dig out the farther roots

Once you’re finished digging the new hole, prepare to dig up the tree. Begin by tying up the lower branches of the tree to keep them from getting in your way while digging. Then measure out the area to be dug, about four to six inches from the trench where the roots were pruned. Start digging by working your way from the outside inward and keeping the face of your spade turned away from the tree.

Manage the root ball

How to Transplant a Tree

When you reach the tree’s root ball, begin to dig underneath it. Before cutting the root ball out, place a tarp inside the hole. Continue to dig underneath the ball and cut any of the remaining roots, while leaving the root ball and the tree intact. As a general rule of thumb, you’ll need at least 10 to 12 inches of root ball diameter for each inch of tree trunk diameter.

Move the tree

Once the root ball is loose, lay it on the tarp to be wrapped up. Remember to lift the tree from underneath rather than from its trunk. Keep in mind that the root ball and tree will weigh about 100 pounds per square foot. So make sure you have the proper tools and/or manpower to get the job done. Also, keep the roots moist during the transplant process. Be sure to take great care as you move the tree to its new location.

Place the tree

Position the tree so that it’s facing the proper direction in its new home. Plant the tree so that the root ball is level with the soil line. If your hole is too deep, adjust accordingly. Then fill in both the new and old holes. Your tree transplant is now complete, but you still have some work to do to ensure a smooth transition and post-transplant growth.

Caring for a Tree After Transplant

It’s very important that you keep the roots moist following the tree’s transplant, while taking care not to overwater the tree. If the area is without rainfall, you should perform a deep watering once every couple of weeks. Otherwise, monitor the soil around the tree and water when necessary.

Add a two- to three-inch layer of mulch around the base of the tree to promote root growth. Be sure to keep the mulch layer at least a couple of inches away from the trunk. For larger trees, staking may be required for the first year following the transplant process.

Avoid applying fertilizer to the tree for the first year. Also, keep in mind that transplanting a tree can cause it to experience some stress, and it will need time to adjust to its new location. It may not bloom, for instance, or experience new growth until it has adequately adjusted to the area. Exercise some patience after the transplant process and continue to give your tree the proper amount of TLC.

If you have questions along the way, Mr. Tree is here to help. We can provide advice or assistance as needed. As your tree grows and matures, be sure to take advantage of our maintenance services. After all, we want you to be able to enjoy your tree for many years to come.