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Aug 202012
 

 

Landscaped yardOnce plans are made, it is time to install the new landscape. In some cases, it may be possible to contract installation with a local landscape nursery. This is the simplest and quickest method for completing the plan. It is also the most expensive. Consequently, completion of a landscape may be a long-term project, requiring several months or years. When a project is done piecemeal, it means that each step of the process should result in something attractive and functional. Careful consideration should be given to the implications of each step in the process.

The following order of completion will, as a rule, help you avoid frustration in completing a landscape project around your home. Follow these steps when installing a new landscape or renovating an older one. The sequence can be adjusted according to personal need, abilities, and finances.

  1. Install primary hardscapes: ­ These include sidewalks, driveways, walls, terraces, decks, patios, and ponds. Hardscape features will define your use areas and will prevent future damage to your landscape if done in the beginning.
  2. Install Planting Beds: Amend soils, if necessary, and install weed barriers, if desired.
  3. Plant or Move Trees and Shrubs: Plant and transplant shrubs early in the spring or late fall when plants are dormant and the soil is workable. Do not transplant large trees and shrubs when they are actively growing.
  4. Install the Irrigation System: ­ Make sure it is properly designed with proper head spacing, coverage, and zoning.
  5. Plant Lawn or Ground Covers: Add soil amendments if you have poor soils-especially soils low in organic matter-or plant some type of an annual cover crop to improve the soil before planting. With a long-term plan, this step may need to be moved up in the scheme.
 August 20, 2012
Aug 172012
 
Purchasing Plants

ornamental grassesBuying established plants is the most common, and probably the best, method of obtaining ornamental grasses. When choosing transplants, it is best to buy from a nursery or garden store staffed with personnel knowledgeable about local growing conditions. This will assure availability of adapted species and varieties. Seek plants with good dark green color, healthy root systems, and no sign of disease or pest problems. Try to find plants that have been hardened off, in order to ease the transition to your yard.

Most ornamental grasses can be transplanted anytime in the spring after soil is dry enough to work. It is best to transplant on a cool, cloudy day with little wind. This will allow acclimation under conditions of limited water loss. After removing a plant from its container, tease roots away from the surface of the root ball. Don’t plant the seedlings too deep. Bury the root ball in a hole sufficiently deep only to bring the soil slightly above the pot soil level. Space the plants according to the instructions on the seed packet or nursery pot label. For the first 7-10 days, water the plants frequently and lightly. For the first few days, the root ball contains all of the roots and is the only source of water. The root ball will need to be wetted as often as it would in the pot until the roots can become established in the surrounding soil.

Dividing Plants

New ornamental grass plants can be obtained by dividing the crown on existing plants. This can be done by digging up the plant, dividing into pieces, then replanting each one, or by using a sharp spade to cut a portion from a plant left in place, then replanting the removed segment. This latter method minimizes disturbance of the original plant.

 August 17, 2012
Aug 172012
 

Four options exist for starting perennial plants. They are:

  1. direct seeding,
  2. indoor production of transplants from seed,
  3. purchasing and transplanting, and
  4. obtaining starts from existing plants.
Direct Seeding

Though the majority of perennials are vegetatively propagated to preserve trueness-to-type, some perennial plants may be grown from seed. Planting seed is the simplest and cheapest propagation method. The advantages of direct seeding are offset by the tendency for plants to be slow and erratic with respect to emergence and early growth. These are usually a problem only in the first year, during which they may delay flowering and shorten the color display of the bloom period.

Plant seed in shallow trenches and cover lightly. Plant extra seed and thin after emergence, if necessary. Refer to the seed package to determine seeding rate. Maintain good moisture at the soil surface by misting lightly until the plants emerge. Once plants are established, deeper irrigation should be applied only after the top 1-2 in. of the soil surface dries out.

Transplanting perennial seedlings into a well-prepared bed

Transplanting perennial seedlings into a well-prepared bed

Indoor Seeding and Transplanting

Growing your own transplants has the best features of both direct seeding and purchase of transplants. However, it has the same limitations of availability as direct seeding. The key to success is providing appropriate conditions for germination and early growth of the new seedlings. Soil, temperature, light, and moisture are the most important elements. The soil medium must be free of disease organisms that may cause death of germinating plants. The best soil medium is a commercial potting soil. Containers may range from recycled plastic pots, paper cups, or commercial seed plug trays. Wash and disinfect all containers before using. Temperatures should be warm enough to allow germination (e.g. 60-75 F during the day and slightly cooler at night).

Unless a greenhouse is available, artificial lighting will be required. Even a south facing window does not supply young plants with enough light to keep them from getting ‘leggy’ and weak. Some seedlings may need as much as 18 hours of light each day to remain healthy. Fancy equipment and expensive “grow lights” are not necessary. A standard fluorescent shop light, easily found at home improvement and hardware stores, fitted with one “warm,” and one “cool” tube works very well. Suspend the light fixture 12-18 inches from the plants and raise as growth occurs. It is also important to keep water availability balanced between too wet and too dry. This requires frequent, light irrigations.

Before transplanting, seedlings should be hardened off. This refers to the procedure of adapting the plants to outdoor conditions to reduce transplant shock. This can be done by placing the plants outdoors in full sun for increasing amounts of time each day for the last week or ten days before planting. Hardening the plants will improve survival and increase the early growth rate. The process of transplanting self-produced plants is identical to that described below for purchased plants.

Purchasing Plants

Buying established plants is the most common method of obtaining perennial plants. It is also the most expensive, but transplants will result in quicker establishment and a longer flowering period during the first year.

When choosing transplants, it is best to buy from a nursery or garden store with personnel knowledgeable about local growing conditions. This will assure availability of adapted species and varieties. Do not look for the largest plants, or necessarily, those that are in bloom. You want the perennial to spend it’s bloom period in your garden, not in the nursery! Seek plants with good dark green color, healthy root systems, and no sign of disease or pest problems. Try to find plants that have been hardened off, in order to aid the transition to the yard.

For most perennial plants, timing of transplanting should correspond with a date one week later than the last frost in your region. Even though some perennial seedlings will withstand relatively hard frosts, there is little advantage to early planting given the longevity of these plants. To estimate the last frost date in your area, look at the Idaho chart compiled by Ed Hume Seeds.

It is best to transplant on a cool, cloudy day with little wind. This will allow acclimation under conditions of limited water loss. After removing a plant from its container, tease roots away from the surface of the root ball. Don’t plant the seedlings too deep. Bury the root ball in a hole sufficiently deep only to bring the soil slightly above the pot soil level. Space the plants according to the instruction on the seed packet or nursery pot label. For the first 7-10 days, water the plants frequently and lightly. For the first few days, the root ball holds all of the roots and is the only source of water. The root ball will need to be wetted as often as it would in the pot until the roots can become established in the surrounding soil.

Frequent, light watering is needed after transplanting. Courtesy of FreeFoto.com

Frequent, light watering is needed after transplanting. Courtesy of FreeFoto.com

Obtaining Starts

Depending on the species, vegetative propagation of perennials is probably the most common method commercial growers use for starting new plants. Homeowners can take advantage of propagation techniques to obtain starts of flowers already in place in their own yard and other places. This requires permission from the owner and a little extra work, but may require no purchase.

A few precautions are needed before trying to propagate a perennial plant. First, it is important to inspect the source plant to make sure it is healthy and free of visible disease. Then it is important to obtain adequate knowledge of the best methods and procedures for propagation of the species of interest, including the proper time of year. Here is a description of the most commonly used propagation methods:

Division – Many perennial plants develop a large multiple crown as they age. These can be cut into two or more pieces to create new plants. This can be done by digging up the plant, dividing into pieces, then replanting each one, or by using a sharp spade to cut a portion from a plant left in place, then replanting the removed segment. This latter method minimizes disturbance of the original plant. Perennials commonly divided include Shasta daisies, phlox, daylilies, iris and chrysanthemums.

Stem Cuttings – Some perennials easily grow roots on stems cut from growing plants, allowing the production of new plants. This method is commonly used by nurseries in lieu of planting seed. Stem cutting is usually done indoors and involves removing a stem tip or middle piece of a healthy, green shoot and poking it into sterile, moist growing medium. The new cutting should be kept out of direct sun and covered with clear plastic (plastic cups work well if only a few cuttings are being rooted) to prevent moisture loss. It usually takes 2-3 weeks for cuttings to develop new roots and several more weeks to be ready to transplant. Many soft-stemmed perennials can be successfully stem cut.

Root Cuttings – Perennials with thick, fleshy roots can be propagated by removing a portion of root and replanting in a new location. It is done by simply digging up a portion of root, cutting it into segments, and replanting each piece. Usually, the larger the root cutting the faster a new plant grows and blooms. Root cuttings, as a rule, should be taken when plants are dormant. Perennials that usually respond well to root cutting include peony, baby’s breath, and bleeding heart.

Layering – Some perennials that vine or have long, flexible stems can be layered, This involves bending a stem to lay along the ground, then covering a middle portion with moist soil (use a pot if the plant will be moved a long distance), leaving the tip uncovered. The covered part of the stem will grow roots, after which the stem can be severed from the original, thus creating a new plant. The rooting process may be helped by scratching or gouging the stem on or below the portion that will be covered. Perennial vines can usually be successfully layered.

In his web site, Dr. Leonard Perry, University of Vermont, provides information on the best method for propagating individual perennial species.

 August 17, 2012
Aug 162012
 

Three options exist for starting annual plants. They are:

  1. direct seeding,
  2. indoor seeding and transplanting, and
  3. purchasing and transplanting bedding plants.
Direct Seeding

The simplest and cheapest propagation method is to plant seed directly into the garden site. A wider array of species and varieties are available as seed, providing the gardener with greater choice. The advantages of direct seeding are offset by the tendency for plants to be slow and erratic with respect to emergence and early growth. This may delay flowering and shorten the color display during the blooming period. This is especially true in the short growing season areas of Idaho’s mountainous regions.

Refer to the seed package for recommended date of planting. Plant seed where you would like the flowers to grow in the garden. Place seed in shallow trenches and cover lightly. Plant extra seed and thin after emergence, if necessary. Refer to the seed package again to determine seeding rate and depth. Maintain good moisture at the soil surface by misting lightly until the plants emerge. Once established, deeper irrigation should be applied after the top 1-2 in. of soil dries out.

Indoor Seeding

Growing your own transplants has the best features of both direct seeding and purchase of transplants. It gives the cost advantage and plant choice of direct seeding while making it possible to get a head start on the growing season.

The key to success is providing appropriate conditions for germination and early growth of the new seedlings. Soil, temperature, light, and moisture are the most important elements. The soil medium must be free of disease organisms that may cause death of germinating plants. The best soil medium is a commercial potting soil. Containers may range from recycled plastic pots, paper cups, or commercial seed plug trays. Wash and disinfect all containers before using. Temperatures should be warm enough to allow germination (e.g. 60-75º F during the day and slightly cooler at night).

Unless a greenhouse is available, artificial lighting will be required. Even a south facing window does not supply young plants with enough light to keep them from getting ‘leggy’ and weak. Some seedlings may need as much as 18 hours of light to be healthy. Fancy equipment and expensive “grow lights” are not necessary. A standard fluorescent shop light, easily found at home improvement and hardware stores, fitted with one “warm,” and one “cool” tube works very well. Suspend the light fixture 12-18 inches from the plants and raise as growth occurs. It is also important to keep soil moisture balanced between too wet and too dry. This required frequent, light irrigations.

Another important process in producing healthy transplants is called hardening off. This refers to the procedure of adapting the plants to outdoor conditions to reduce transplant shock. This can be done by placing the plants outdoors in full sun for increasing amounts of time each day for a week or ten days prior to planting. Hardening the plants will improve survival and increase the early growth rate. Those fortunate enough to have a cold frame or unheated greenhouse can use these structures for this purpose as well as starting seeds.

Purchasing Bedding Plants

Buying partially-grown plants is the easiest and quickest way to establish annual flowers. It is also the most expensive and provides the least in the way of plant choice. But, transplants will result in quicker blooms and longer flowering periods.

When choosing transplants, it is best to buy from a nursery or garden store having personnel knowledgeable about local growing conditions. This will assure availability of adapted species and varieties. Do not look for the largest plants or necessarily, those in bloom. Seek plants with good dark green color, healthy root systems, and no sign of disease or pest problems. Try to find plants that have been hardened off, in order to aid the transition to the yard.

Another important consideration for growing transplants is the timing initial planting. To properly make this decision for a particular flower, it is essential to know the amount of time needed to produce a transplant and the approximate date of intended transplanting outside.

Transplanting

Whether transplants are purchased or self-grown, the process for placing them outside is the same. The first decision is deciding when to place the plants outdoors. Transplanting date is based on the date of last frost in a given area. Tender annuals should not be planted to the garden until 1 to 2 weeks after the average last frost date. It is, after all, an average and frost will commonly occur after the printed date.

To estimate the last frost date in your area, look at the Idaho chart compiled by Ed Hume Seeds.

Tonie Fitzgerald, from the Spokane, Washington County Extension office compiled a table listing appropriate dates for planting and/or transplanting common annual flowers. The dates should be reasonably accurate for much of northern and south-central Idaho. Dates for the Treasure Valley of southwestern Idaho will be 2-3 weeks earlier, southeastern Idaho a few days later, and the high country up to 2 weeks later.

frost damage

Frost can damage seedlings or transplants

It is best to transplant on a cool, cloudy day with little wind. This will allow acclimation under conditions of limited water loss. After removing a plant from its container, tease roots away from the surface of the root ball. Don’t plant the seedlings too deep. Bury the root ball in a hole sufficiently deep only to bring the soil slightly above the pot soil level. Space the plants according to the instruction on the seed packet or nursery pot label. For the first 7-10 days, water the plants frequently and lightly. Remember that early on the pot soil holds all of the roots and is the only source of water. The root ball will need to be wetted as often as it would in the pot until the roots can grow into the surrounding soil.

 August 16, 2012
Aug 102012
 
Choosing Vegetable Seed

Choose seed from a reputable seed company. Carefully select varieties that are adapted to local conditions. Proper variety selection can mean the difference between success and failure in the garden. If you are unfamiliar with varieties that grow well in your locale, ask other successful gardeners, local nurserymen, or a county educator.

For more information about vegetable varieties suitable for growing in Idaho, see the UI publication: Choosing and Growing Adapted Vegetable Varieties
For more additional pertinent information, see the Utah State University publication: Home Vegetable Garden Variety Recommendations for Utah

Planting Vegetable Seeds Outdoors

In order to germinate properly, seed must be planted at the right depth and remain moist. As a general rule, vegetable seeds should be covered about three times their lateral diameter (their width, not their length). However, there are exceptions and directions are usually given on the seed envelope. Shallow-planted seed may be covered with clear plastic film (such as plastic food wrap) or wet burlap to raise the soil temperatures and hold the moisture. The covering material should be removed immediately after emergence to prevent burning or abnormal growth of the new plants.

Deciding when to plant seeds can be confusing because optimal planting times vary from crop to crop. The first step in deciding when to plant is to determine the average last frost date for your area. This date can be found in many publications, web sites, or from your local Extension Office. Ed Hume Seeds company maintains a web site with average last frost dates for many locations in Idaho.

Next step is to schedule planting based on the frost-hardiness of each crop. See the accompanying chart for suggestions on planting times of common vegetables.

Planting times

Once planted, it is imperative that good soil moisture is maintained until the plants begin to emerge. In some years, spring rain and cool weather may make irrigation unnecessary. However, in most years, frequent (up to 2 times a day for the crops seeded shallow and every two or three days for the crops seeded deep), light watering may be required to get the seed off to a good start.

Producing and Establishing Transplants

Transplanting is the process of placing partially grown plants, rather than seed, into the garden. Many vegetable crops benefit from being transplanted rather than direct-seeded into the soil. Transplanting makes weed control simpler, enhances the growth and quality of crops that prefer cool, spring weather (such as broccoli and cauliflower), shortens the time to harvest of many fruit-bearing crops (such as peppers and tomatoes), and allows us to grow many crops that are marginally adapted to short-season climates (such as melons).

Vegetables vary in their response to transplanting. Some are very difficult, others transplant well only if proper precautions are followed, others transplant very easily. See the accompanying table for a listing of vegetables that can be successfully transplanted.


Relative ease of transplanting for common vegetables
Appropriate for transplanting and easy to handle Appropriate for transplanting but require extra care for success Inappropriate for transplanting or do not easily survive the process
Broccoli Celery Bean
Brussel sprouts Cantaloupe* Beet**
Cabbage Corn Carrot**
Cauliflower Cucumber* Pea
Chinese cabbage Pumpkin* Radish**
Eggplant Squash* Rutabaga**
Collard Swiss chard Spinach
Leek Watermelon* Turnip**

Lettuce
Onion
Tomato
Parsley
Pepper

*The vine crops (cucumber, melons, squash, pumpkin) should be transplanted when seedlings are very young (one or two true leaves) and very vigorous. They should be covered and protected from wind and sunburn for about two weeks after transplanting.
**The root crops (beet, carrot, radish, rutabaga, turnip) are easy to transplant but the roots will branch or have other quality problems as a result of root disturbance.


Transplants can be either purchased or grown at home from seed. Growing your own transplants provides some unique advantages such as increasing the availability of unusual varieties, reducing overall cost, and controlling growth so the plants are the right size when you are ready to plant. In spite of the advantages, growing transplants without good greenhouse facilities can be a challenge.

The most important factors for producing healthy transplants are light, soil mix, irrigation, proper size and growth stage, and hardening. During production, more homegrown seedlings are lost to inadequate light than to any other factor. Vegetable seedlings grown under low light conditions are likely to be spindly and weak. They frequently damp-off (a disease that causes young seedlings to tip over and die). If they survive the early growth phase, these plants are often too tender to survive the move outside into the garden. For these reasons, transplants should be grown under conditions that include or mimic full daylight for at least 10 hours each day.

closeup of leafy green plants and soilIf you do not have a sunny room or back porch with a southern exposure, you will need supplemental lights. Grow-lights are available that supply a good spectrum of light to the plants. The lights should be mounted right over and nearly touching the plants.

It is best to use a soilless planting media containing peat to start seedlings. Soilless mixes are usually free of disease organisms that can cause damping-off. They also hold a large amount of water and maintain the integrity of the rootball when it comes time to transplant. Potting soil can be purchased premixed or you can mix your own soilless media if you prefer; 50 percent vermiculite or perlite and 50 percent fine sphagnum peat (plus a little fertilizer) is excellent for starting seeds.

Timing seed planting to begin transplant production can be a little tricky. Two pieces of information are needed to plan a planting schedule for vegetable transplants. One is the number of days needed to produce an appropriate-sized transplant (see the accompanying table). The other is the date the transplants will be taken to the garden. This can be calculated by knowing the last average frost date for you locale. The cole crops (cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, brussel sprouts, etc.) and onions can be transplanted 2 to 3 weeks before the last average frost. Most of the salad crops (lettuce, Swiss chard, spinach, etc.) should be transplanted a week or so prior to the last average frost. The tender crops (tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, squash, melons, etc.) should not be transplanted until about one or two weeks after the last average frost and only then if the weather forecast is for reasonably warm and stable conditions. If appropriate protective measures (hot caps, row covers, etc.) are used, the transplant dates can sometimes be earlier by a week or two.

About a week before the transplants are scheduled to go to the garden, they should be “hardened-off”. This is a process of slowly adapting the plants to outside conditions and is necessary for reducing transplant shock and frequency of death. Harden off the plants over a one-week period by moving them outdoors for increasing amounts of time, starting with less than an hour and eventually leaving them outside for much of the day. Move the transplants indoors at night (unless it is forecast to be a warm night) and during inclement weather (especially if it is windy). Water use of the transplants will increase while they are outside, so irrigate accordingly.


Number of weeks required to produce transplants from seed for commonly transplanted vegetable crops
Crop Weeks to produce a transplant from seed*
Broccoli 5 to 7
Brussel sprouts 5 to 7
Cabbage 5 to 7
Cantaloupe 3 to 4
Cauliflower 5 to 7
Celery 8 to 10
Collard 5 to 7
Corn, sweet 3 to 4
Cucumber 3 to 4
Eggplant 6 to 8
Endive 4 to 8
Kohlrabi 5 to 7
Leek 4 to 6
Lettuce 3 to 5
Onion 6 to 8
Parsley 6 to 8
Pepper 6 to 8
Pumpkin 3 to 4
Squash 3 to 4
Tomato 5 to 9

*The number of weeks needed to produce a transplant is based on growth at near room temperature.


Here are a few additional tips for successfully transplanting vegetables into the garden:

Soil Preparation

Have garden soil prepared before transplanting. All additives that require time to break down, such as aged manures, sulfur, limestone, rock fertilizers, and green manures, should be incorporated during the prior fall, or at least several weeks before planting.

Weather Conditions

Transplant on an overcast day, in late afternoon, or in early evening to prevent or reduce wilting. Be sure to water the potted plants thoroughly just prior to transplanting.

Handling

Handle plants carefully. Avoid disturbing the roots or bruising the stems.

covered raised bedPlanting

Dig a hole large enough to hold the roots of the plants. Set vegetable plants only very slightly deeper than previously planted. Tomatoes are an exception. They will develop roots all along the stems, and you can plant deeply enough to leave only two or three sets of leaves exposed. Press soil lightly around the roots of transplants and thoroughly water them in. Pour a cup of liquid starter fertilizer solution around each plant, mixed at about ½ of the concentration recommended on the label.

Protection

Protect plants from wind and sun for a few days after transplanting by placing newspaper or cardboard on the south side of the plant, or by covering them with commercially available devices, milk jugs, baskets, or up-side-down flower pots (opaque plastic so the sun can get in).

Irrigation

Water the plants once or twice each day for about one week. Then schedule watering two or three times over the next week before going to a normal irrigation routine. Overwatering can cause transplants to suffer from root rots, so don’t overdo it.

 August 10, 2012
Aug 092012
 
How Do I Transplant Existing Trees?

Do you have a shrub or tree that is planted in the wrong place in your yard? Does your neighbor have a tree that they will let you have, if you move it yourself? Have you wondered how to move a tree and keep it alive? If a tree or shrub is not too big, you can transplant it yourself and save the cost of having it done professionally. Be prepared for some hard work, and take the time to learn how to do it properly. If you work carefully, you can expect a high probability of success in keeping the tree alive and growing after transplanting is complete. The following information will guide you in the transplanting procedure. Recognize that this process can be used for all woody plants, trees, shrubs, or vines. Due to size, trees are the hardest to move, so they will be used as the example

When Should I Transplant?

Transplant early in the spring, after soil frost is gone but before new growth occurs. Once the buds start to break and grow, transplant survival decreases drastically. Plants dug during, or soon after bud break, are intolerant of transplanting especially evergreen trees, but all trees will do better if moved when they are dormant.

What Basic Transplanting Method Should I Use?

Plan to use a ball-and-burlap method for moving a tree. This technique involves moving a large ball of undisturbed soil along with the roots. Keeping soil around the roots is important for survival of trees that have grown unrestricted or unpruned in a yard or landscape situation. The method for digging a root ball will be described in detail below.

How do I Decide if a Tree is Moveable?

The most important consideration for assessing ability to transplant a tree is size. Small trees survive transplanting better than large trees, so the smaller the better. Also, the bigger the tree, the larger the soil ball that should be maintained around roots. A bigger root ball means more weight that must be moved. You must match necessary weight with personal physical ability and tools available for transplanting.

A 24-inch diameter root ball dug to 16 inches deep will weigh anywhere from 200 to 300 pounds, so tree size quickly restricts what is physically possible.

Due simply to the weight involved, it is probably wise to avoid moving trees whose trunks are larger than 2.5 inches in diameter. Alternately, they should simply be cut down or moved with the help of a professional using a mechanical tree spade.

How do I Determine Proper Root Ball Size?

First, figure out the proper diameter for the root ball. As a general rule, for every ONE inch of trunk diameter (measured at 4 inches above the ground), the soil root ball should be 12 inches in diameter. So, if you have a tree whose trunk is 2 inches in diameter at 4 inches above the ground, the root ball should be dug so that it is 24 inches in diameter (with the trunk in the center). Keep in mind that tree height is NOT a factor here. The root ball diameter should be based on the trunk diameter.

Root ball size 1

Diameter less than 20 in. Depth not less than 75% of diameter or 3/4 of width.

Root ball size 2

Diameter 20 to 30 in. Depth not less than 66-2/3% or 2/3 of width.

Root ball size 3

Diameter 31 to 48 in. Depth not less than 60% or 3/5 of width. Balls with a diameter of 30 in. or more should be drum laced.

Next, you will need to decide how deep to dig the root ball for the trees by using the following information:

  • If the root ball diameter < 20 inches: root ball depth should be 75% of the diameter.
  • If the root ball diameter is > 20 inches but < 30 inches: root ball depth should be 66% of the diameter.
Detailed Instructions for Transplanting a Tree
  1. Digging materialsGather tools to complete the transplanting job. A sharp shovel or spade is required. Burlap is used to hold the soil ball together, and nails can be used to “pin” the burlap in place to hold the material on the root ball. Twine can be used to provide extra support to hold the soil ball together. Hand pruners and a sharp pocket knife can be used to prune or cut branches or roots as needed.
  2. Root ball diameterCheck the trunk diameter 4 inches above the ground. Determine the proper root ball diameter and depth using the rules given above. Once you know the diameter then roughly mark a circle of the proper diameter on the ground around the tree with the trunk in the center.
  3. Dig at least one or two inches further out than the mark for the root ball. Use the BACK of the shovel toward the trunk, and push the shovel straight into the ground. Once the shovel sinks into the soil as far as you can comfortably push it, then lift it STRAIGHT OUT of the ground. DO NOT push on the shovel toward the root ball since you can break up the root ball. The idea is to keep the root ball intact without cracking it.
  4. Once you have dug all the way around the trunk by pushing a SHARP shovel into the soil, then you can use the shovel OUTSIDE of your vertical cuts to remove soil. In this way, you are starting to make a vertical cylinder of soil – the root ball – around the trunk. As you remove the soil, avoid putting pressure on the vertical cylinder of soil (here after called the root ball) so that you avoid cracking it. You want the root ball intact.
  5. After removing the excess soil outside of your cut lines, put the BACK of the shovel against the root ball again and dig deeper this time, digging all the way around the root ball and keeping the shovel straight vertically as you dig. Again, avoid putting pressure on the root ball so that you avoid cracking it. After digging deeper all the way around the root ball, remove the soil outside of your cuts so that you have room to dig deeper again.
  6. To make your digging easier, you should probably clear about 8 inches (or more) of soil away from your vertical cuts so that you have room to dig deeper. The more soil you remove to the outside of your cuts, the easier you can dig down, BUT moving that soil out requires plenty of space and your energy to dig it and move it out.
  7. Root ball depthAs you make vertical cuts for the sides of the root ball and dig deeper, you can begin to taper the root ball, perhaps angling your cuts 1 to 2 inches toward the center of the ball for every 12 inches deep that you dig. In this way, you will have a root ball that is wider at the top and tapered to its base. Since you also should have started the root ball a few inches wider than was necessary, you can make vertical cuts to make your root ball smaller while tapering its shape toward the bottom of the ball. As you make the vertical cuts on the soil cylinder/root ball, you may encounter some very thick roots. If your shovel is sharp enough, it should cut the root(s) with a few good hard strokes or pushes. If the root is either too large or your shovel too dull, AVOID continually hitting or slamming the root with the shovel, since this practice causes excess root damage and will probably help break the root ball. Instead, have a sharp pair of loppers (or other sharp pruning tool) with you to cut the root so that you can continue digging after the root is cut.
  8. Once you dig deep enough, based on the depths provided above, you should start to undercut the root ball. This procedure involves using your shovel to make/cut the bottom of the root ball. You will need to cut under the cylinder of soil from the outside, so this procedure is more readily accomplished (but not necessarily easily accomplished) if you removed the soil from a large area outside of the root ball. Undercutting the root ball must be done carefully since you can easily crack the root ball and ruin all your efforts to this point. The goal of undercutting is to cut roots that may be growing vertically (such as the taproot) or close to vertical. To undercut, use the shovel in the regular way (shovel face now toward the tree) and push the blade toward the center of the root ball going around the ball several times. Digging the root ball (soil cylinder) a little deeper than needed (according to the nursery stock standards) will enable you to remove soil – after making some horizontal cuts – at the bottom and ensure that vertical roots are cut. Trying to move the soil ball with a few roots intact under the root ball (particularly the taproot) will nearly always break open the ball.
  9. Once you have dug under the root ball and cut all the roots, you will need to protect the root system so that the soil holds together and the ball does not crack when trying to move the soil. Typically, burlap is used for holding the root ball together, but other types of material can be used as long as the material is strong enough not stretch and break when trying to tie it around the soil ball. You will need different sized squares of material to hold the soil together depending on the ball size. For example, a 24-inch diameter root ball may require a 36-inch by 36-inch square piece of burlap.
  10. Once the root ball is cut free in the bottom of the hole, take the burlap square and fold a corner of it down so that it goes to the bottom of the hole. Fold about one-quarter to one third of the burlap down. Next, the long diagonal (from corner to corner) of the burlap is tied around the root ball, using the burlap as a band to hold the soil in place. If you are unable to tie the material around the root ball, use a larger piece of material. After tying the burlap tightly around the root ball, shift the root ball (carefully) so that you can grab the folded down corner of material and pull it under the root ball. In this way, you will have the material under the root ball and can cover the bottom and sides of the ball. Once you grab the corner of the material and cover the bottom of the ball, you may need to re-tie the material around the root ball. As you complete these procedures, be careful to avoid breaking the root ball.
  11. Once the burlap or supporting material is all around the root ball, you can pull the root ball out of the hole by lifting on the soil root ball NOT the tree trunk. Once the root ball is out of the hole you can shift or re-tie the burlap or supporting material as needed. Usually nursery professionals use pinning nails to make the burlap tight on the ball. Also, for root balls larger than 30 inches in diameter, supporting material, such as twine, wire baskets, or even chicken fencing are recommend for supporting the soil ball since it can break easily.
What do I do next?
  1. The shrub or tree should be replanted to its new location as soon as possible, hopefully within one week. In the mean time, prevent the root ball from drying out and try to keep the roots cool. If the root ball must remain out of the soil for more than a week, consider burying the ball in an organic mulch to retain moisture and reduce the soil temperature.
  2. Finally, plant the tree in its new location. Dig the new planting hole for your tree or shrub to the same depth as the root ball. Do not bury it too deep. See the planting instructions under the Trees, Shrubs, and Vines section of this web site for more details.
 August 9, 2012