Assistance in planning and preparing for the transplanting of trees and shrubs

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I admit that I was happy to wake up on a cooler day.
The hot, summery weather last week was beautiful but hard on the plants in the garden which weren’t getting enough water. On a trip to town, I saw many established young trees and shrubs with droopy leaves.
The Paniculata hydrangeas which are in full bloom at the moment seemed to be the most affected. So much energy is expended by the plant to support these magnificent flowers that a lot of moisture is needed. Just a reminder that watering should continue during dry spells until the ground freezes.
This week, I offer you some information on transplantation.
There are two appropriate time frames for transplanting small trees and shrubs: Plants are dormant in mid-fall or early spring before new growth begins. If you choose fall, changing leaves are a sign that the plants are closing in for winter and transplanting can begin.
When moving a more established tree or shrub, start by pruning the roots to increase your chances of success. Draw a circle in the ground as wide as you can dig.
Divide the circle into four even quadrants. Take a pointed spade and slice through the roots on two of the four quadrants that face each other. Note where you cut the roots. The following spring, trim and trim the roots in the last two areas. Next fall you will be ready to move the plant.
This method of root pruning forces the plant to grow new fibrous roots in the area you intend to dig. These roots will feed the plant until the time of transplanting. Additionally, the new roots will make it easier to move the plant around as a firm root ball will be established. By doing half the roots at a time, there is less shock to the tree or shrub.
Whether now or later, once you’re ready to transplant, make sure the soil is moist before you start digging. Hydrated roots will move better than dry roots. Have the new planting hole prepared in advance, making sure it is the same depth as the root ball you are digging. Where possible, dig the root ball as wide as the foliage extends.
Have compost and transplant food on hand to mix with the existing soil at the new site. Plan to use 2/3 native soil amended with 1/3 compost or planting mix.
Plants grown in clay-based soil will hold up well when dug up. If you are moving a plant from a site with loose, sandy soil, have some burlap handy. Dig around the plant with a pointed spade, cutting the roots cleanly. Slide the burlap under the root ball on one side. Have an assistant carefully lean the plant in the opposite direction so you can push the burlap just under the root ball. Then tilt the plant towards you so your helper can pull the burlap to the other side. Tie the burlap tightly around the entire root ball so you can move it around without the soil collapsing and the roots tearing.
Scrape some bone meal from the bottom of the planting hole. The phosphorous component helps stimulate the growth of new roots. Then place your tree or shrub in the ground at the same level it was growing before. Backfill 1/3 of the height of the clod with well-mixed and firm prepared soil.
Loosen the burlap around the trunk and roll it down, making sure it is tucked neatly below the soil line. It is not necessary to completely remove the burlap as it will disintegrate over time. At this point, water thoroughly with a water-soluble transplanting fertilizer.
One option to help your plant establish strong new roots quickly is to mix a transplant solution full of mycorrhizal fungi into your watering can. These beneficial fungi bind to the roots, spreading into the soil, helping plants to take up food and water more efficiently.
If the top of the tree you moved is well established, you may need to stake it for two seasons. Pitch on each side of the trunk according to the strongest winds in your area. Tie the trunk to the stake with a tree strap. Alternatively, you can use a wire or rope through a piece of garden hose. For smaller trees, you can use a length of pantyhose. It is strong but flexible.
If you have an unfortunate accident and damage the bark of the tree while moving it, apply a tree dressing to seal the damaged area.

Columnist Susan Richards is manager of the New North Greenhouses garden centre,
719 Airport Road.

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