How to - Techniques

Three transplanting techniques

Karen York
Photography by
Emilie Simpson (illustrations)

Moving plants is one of the rites of spring; play horticultural musical chairs without skipping a beat

transplanting-shrubstrees.jpgTechnique #3: Transplanting shrubs and trees
Treat small shrubs like perennials (see Technique #2). Larger shrubs and small trees are a two-person proposition. Before tackling a big shrub, try tying up the lower branches (or even pruning off the bottom tier) to get clear access to the root zone. With a sharp transplant spade, slice around the plant, angling the spade toward the bottom to cut the roots, and gradually lever the root ball up. Once it’s free on one side, slide a plastic tarp under it, then continue on the other side, tilting the plant so it’s on the tarp. The root ball will be surprisingly heavy so use the tarp to ease it out of the hole. Manoeuvre it to its new location on the tarp or with a dolly. With trees in big containers, such as half barrels, I have found it easiest to tip the barrel on its side, slide one transplant spade in that bottom side, cradling the root ball, and another spade on the top side. One person pulls on the bottom spade and the other person carefully pulls on the tree, loosening the root ball at intervals with the top spade. With help from gravity, the tree should slide out. It can then be tilted upright onto a plastic tarp or piece of burlap and dragged to its new home.

Proceed with planting as outlined in the Intermediate section (see Technique #2), making sure there are no air pockets under the root ball.

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