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propagating perennials: Transplanting
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Wednesday, February 27, 2008


Moving trees and shrubs into a garden bed or standing alone can be a time consuming process when it is done right. The one thing everyone should be careful of is the size of the root ball. Generally the digging should start at least from the bottom of drip line of the branches around the circumference of the plant. Start digging clockwise around the plant putting the soil aside and when you believe you have reached the bottom of the roots attempt to undercut the bottom of the root ball. I use a “sharp shooter” a short handled shovel with a concaved blade that sprinkler people use because it has a narrow blade. Getting on your knees close to the soil is the only way to be successful, not standing up. The plant can be rocked to get to the very bottom but no too hard as to crap out the ball or when the soil breaks away from the roots. Even if that does happen not all is lost. Be careful to prune the roots whether the ball craps out or not. Also before attempting to move the plant the top growth should be cut back, on deciduous plants, as well to prevent moisture loss from transplanting. The best time to transplant is when the plant is dormant, including evergreens, when the ground is not frozen, which is usually in the winter or in spring before new growth occurs. Plants can be moved anytime of the year, but the one thing that is a necessity is making sure the plant gets watered and that there are no air pockets in the soil when backfilled. Use the end of your shovel, not your feet, to tamp down the backfilled soil after watering. It looks messy but a plant can dry out if there are air pockets. If windy make sure you water because the wind can result in evaporation, just like with humans, but chapstick will not work on plants. It is not necessary to stake trees after transplanting even in a garden bed, but if it is in a windy location stake the tree. There are pluses and minuses to either staking or not. When I did design/build I never staked trees, I just made certain the tops were pruned back and made certain the evergreens got water on the leaves. If the ball should crap out when transplanting make certain you sit the plant in water before re-planting and prune, prune, prune, and keep your fingers crossed.

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