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Effectively Minimising Shock When Transplanting a Tree

When newly planted trees wilt, decay or die in a matter of weeks or months, it is usually due to imperfections in the transplanting process itself. When transplanting trees of any shape, size, age or species, extreme care has to be taken to minimise shock. Transplanting a tree incorrectly can open the door to a wide variety of long-term, often fatal health problems.

On the plus side, transplanting largely any kind of tree whatsoever doesn’t have to be a difficult process. It’s simply a case of familiarising yourself with the different types of trees you may be dealing with, in order to gain a better understanding of how to proceed.

Container-Grown Trees

For example, when a tree has been grown in a container, its roots will be fully intact as it has not been dug out from the earth. Container-grown trees are generally suitable for transplantation at any time of year, though it is advisable to avoid the hottest days of the summer. The hole in which the tree is to be planted should be of similar depth to that of the container though around twice as wide. If the roots of the tree are tightly packed when it is removed from the container, they should be gently loosened before being positioned in the hole.  When the tree has been positioned, the hole should be filled with soil until it reaches about the halfway point, at which time it should be watered, before continuing to fill the hole fully.

Balled and Burlapped Trees

Many trees purchased from nurseries come with their roots packed in a ball of soil, which is usually burlap-wrapped for protection. Unlike container-grown trees, these trees will have been dug out of the earth where they were originally planted. To minimise shock, such trees should always be re-planted as quickly as possible after purchase, ideally during the springtime. Contrary to popular belief, it is neither necessary nor safe for burlapped trees to be placed in water prior to being transplanted. That said, the soil ball should be adequately moist.  The hole should be dug four times the width of the root ball, so as to give the roots plenty of space to develop. Remove the protective material, position the tree in the hole and fill halfway, before watering and summarily filling the rest of the hole.

Bare Root Trees

More often than not sold exclusively during the winter months, it is important to transplant bare root trees while their roots remain dormant. In this instance, it is important to give the roots several hours soaking in water somewhere cool and shaded, before going ahead with the transplantation process. Also, any clearly damaged roots should be removed. The hole you dig should be adequately sized to accommodate the roots when spread out horizontally. Create a mound at the bottom-middle of the hole, which the tree can be positioned on and its roots draped over. Once again, fill the hole halfway before watering and continuing, though be careful not to pack the soil in too tightly as it may impede oxygen and nutrient absorption.


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