OK, you are going to need a few things. Here's what I use:
•D-handle square point spade (all steel for weight; wood handle if you don't like lifting)
•Shovel (standard garden shovel will do, but there are some nice flat bladed ones)
•Twine, rope, or equivalent tying material
•Burlap or equivalent wrapping
•Pinning nails or equivalent fastener
•Ball cart or equivalent transportation
•Strong back or equivalency of youthful assistants
I expect that some questions will arise. I'm going to provide text along the way, but I'm happy to edit in clarification to improve usefulness.
Ready? The primer begins shortly with a series of pictures.
So you want to transplant that shrub?
OK, you are going to need a few things. Here's what I use:
Hey, this sounds interesting. I am ready to learn, even though I have myself transplanted dozens (hundreds?) of shrubs with high rate of success (maybe 95%). I have done most with a spade and a ball cart and a strong back and not much else (maybe a tarp, maybe some burlap, maybe nothing). I tend to be a corner cutter, I will admit that right up front. So maybe I will be a naysayer here and there, though for the likes of the Professor VV above I will probably hold my tongue. I will never forget the 10' Hamamelis 'Jelena' that I moved myself, neither will my back.... I am ready.......
I think he is traveling around helping people move shrubs and trees.
Yes, interruptions. That's the problem with starting a thread before dinner. A lightly breaded but very thick pork chop, creamy cauliflower florets, and some sauteed potatoes were calling my name (echoed by LW). Nicely paired with a frizzante Vinho Verde from Portugal, we settled into a comfortable evening with The Saint in London -- good old George Sanders comes through again.
Back to the task. I'm glad some of you have "weighed" in already. To wit: you don't have to have everything listed above, but you'll not really know if you don't start out with a tried-and-true recipe and then learn to ad-lib.
I've said this time and again to everyone who has ever worked for or with me. Gain the training on how to do something the best and most thorough way possible, with all the bells and whistles, so that you understand the entire process. Then when time or resources or conditions or money or staff or muscles, etc. are in deficit, you can determine what you can judiciously leave out and still wind up with a satisfactory product. You can also then adequately assess what you observe others doing (or read about) and then take that which is of value and apply to your efforts.
David alludes to this above. Knowing his own ground conditions, plant requirements, and personal limitations, he makes choices in performing his transplantations. Others will have entirely different circumstances. I hope to illustrate the point of departure that almost anyone can use successfully, and then provide one's own twists and spices as confidence and skill develops.
Oh, VV you say that so well. I like your description FAR better than mine of "cutting corners". Sounds so genuinely non-judgemental the way you put it. After all, the proof is in the results. Soil type does indeed matter. Having previously gardened mostly in heavy clay, I lost few balls without having to be extremely careful. Now I am on sand and that will probably be a totally different matter. So I am paying attention. And boy that dinner sounds good...
You could also provide the best TIME to do all this. I know it varies in different locations but there has to be a never and always time.
Judgmental tones are reserved for during the heat of battle.
There are better and best times for transplanting, but the variation over species, seasons, geographic location, and ground conditions are so vast that I will not try to state unequivocally that this is what you must do. I will speak generally to eastern U.S. temperate growing conditions.
I believe most gardeners will have the greatest transplanting success when digging a shrub while it is dormant. This can begin after leaf drop in the fall (for deciduous species) or thereabouts for the leaf-holding species, and this can continue through the dormant season (as long as you have workable ground conditions) up to onset of spring growth.
Having reasonable moisture in the soil (and thus in the plant) is important. Cutting and leaving behind roots means that the plant in its new site will have less ability to take up new moisture, and needs to expend considerable resources regrowing these roots to return to the original pre-transplant conditions. So -- if it is extremely dry, water thoroughly prior to digging and keep watered post-planting.
Digging while extremely stressed (dry or otherwise), or while the plant is in active new growth extension are probably the worst times to transplant.
What about some cutting back to compensate for the loss of roots? When they leaf out again, won't the transpiration will be too much for the smaller root mass?
So, into the fray. Posting photos for me is a labor of love; you will just have to tolerate how slow and deliberate this is from a dialup system. In reviewing, I find I don't have a shot of everything that I want to describe, but enough to get the point across. Anyone who wants to participate in the next digging extravaganza can come prepared to photodocument the process.
First picture shows a young viburnum, tied up to avoid breaking branches and facilitate digging around it. A scrupulous plantsman will tie up those plants nearby as well. Note that I did not.
I am beginning the digging procedure by "cutting in" the final size of the rootball on this young plant. The minimum size of a rootball is prescribed by common nurseryman standards, available from the ANLA. These are probably online somewhere, too. Why, here they are:
You can always dig a bigger ball, taking more roots with you. This is only limited by the quantity/density of roots and how much they hold the soil ball together. Experience will show you how far you can push this envelope. If the soil falls away, then reduce the ball size or bundle the loose roots in with the ball you finish.
"Cutting in" begins with pushing your spade or shovel into the soil around the plant in a full circle, no smaller than the size ball you wish to finish with. As you withdraw the spade, notice if the soil is pulling up. You don't want to excessively loosen the soil of the finished rootball, because it will be less stable to handle and you are probably breaking roots. This process is learned with experience. Placing your foot against the blade as you withdraw the spade can hold the soil in place as you perform the first round of cutting in.
Edited to add the hyperlink to ANLA standards.
This message was edited Dec 31, 2006 8:40 PM
Overlap in posts...I'll briefly state that I wouldn't prune anything off your transplant if you don't have extensive experience. Let the plant tell you what its needs are, and which specific parts it won't support. I'll be happy to expound further about post-transplant care at the end of this process.
On to continued cutting in, working around the plant.
After circumnavigating the plant once, it is time to start expanding the trench around the rootball so that the plant can eventually be extricated.
One can do this by digging out soil, a little at a time so that (again) the final rootball is not overly disturbed. If a deep cut has been made all the way around the ball, then one can shovel out scoops of soil outside of this circle. Placing your digging implement perpendicular to the ball aids in removal of soil and less chance of damaging the rootball. Work all the way around the ball in this fashion. Depth/width will depend on the size of the plant being dug, and the attendant depth of its roots.
Once the surrounding trench is deep/wide enough, it is time to begin undercutting the ball to complete the severance of this plant from its present home.
On small plants (as illustrated), this is relatively simple. On bigger plants (to be shown later) this is a much larger chore.
Angling the spade to penetrate under the rootball, and pushing it in from all sides will cut the descending roots. Then, while supporting the plant, use the spade to pry/lift the ball to assure that it is indeed separated from its surroundings.
When the rootball is completely separated, it can be lifted or rolled out of the hole. IF the ball is stable. If your rootball seems to be crumbling, then it is better to secure it with wrapping while it is in the hole. More on that later.
Assuming you have a stable ball, lift it from the hole and place it on your wrapping material (if you have a strong back), or roll it up out of the hole as illustrated (but onto the waiting burlap instead of next to it as amateurishly shown).
With the ball out of the hole, you can trim the ball to relatively smooth surfaces, top-bottom-sides. Use the spade carefully, watching for crumbliness and while keeping the plant stable. Sometimes I prop the plant up with a few pieces of firewood (or anything else handy) so that I can use both hands. The smoother or more even the ball surfaces, the easier it will be to secure the wrapping material around it and create a stable package.
Here, the rootball is placed onto the wrapping material. Center it so that the four corners of the material can reach over the top of the ball. It is useful to have sized the material so that you can tie opposing corners together. That will take the slack out of the material, reducing the amount of additional securing that one must do to have a stable ball.
Now is when I take the time to clean up a little. Removal of excess vegetation from the top of the ball (read: weeds) and a little more smoothing helps prepare for pinning.
With the ball sufficiently stabilized in material, it is ready for transport.
Depending on the distance that the plant has to go, this can be accomplished in a variety of manners.
•Drag/carry it bodily to its destination
•Place it on some sort of skid, and drag
•Ball cart, wheelbarrow, or furniture dolly (human-powered wheeled device)
•Machine-powered device like tractor, etc.
I have done all of the above; the mechanics are all similar. Here is how to do it with a wheeled ball cart. Tip the ball up on its side, and roll the cart up under it.
This cart can take you anywhere you can walk. If you need to go further, then placing the plant in some other form of transport will be necessary. Ramped approaches require the least effort.
Sans this type of amenity, one can still manage with a little bit of inventiveness. Using the ballcart as a lift and a shelf (and flush with the rush of exhilarating endorphins brought on by B&B) one can load plants right into the bed of a pickup.
Notice maniacal glee on face.
Awesome. Really enjoye d the demonstration. Have a couple of questions if ya don't mind.
First, what are pinning nails. What do they look like if you have a pic and where do you get them?
Second is there kinda some sort of rule of thumb for how far for each tree you start digging your circle from the tree roots. Some times I have a lost a few seedling trees becaus e I think I didn't make my ball big enough or go deep enough and lost to much of the taproot on some.
Hate when I loose even a seedling.
Thank you for taking the time to type all that and post.
Thanks for the wonderful gift I have already printed out instructional pages and added to my paper journal. Although I am a chronic transplanter I had no idea...
"The minimum size of a root-ball is prescribed by common nurseryman standards, available from the ANLA"
I will certainly prescribe to those in the future. I would like to ad that living in a Sandplain makes transplanting a bit different than described. Often after cutting around the shrub and I begin to wedge the root ball at and angle my soil is so sandy it falls away from to roots. Now this can be good and bad good that my back is still intact, bad that in some cases I wind up with just shrub and roots with no soil. In my most recent memory I have only lost one eight foot Chamaecyparis when this has occurred. I wonder if you would recommend in the hole burlap wrapping or would that be a waste of time? kt
This site, (http://www.ag.ndsu.edu/pubs/plantsci/trees/f1147w.htm#Digging), says:
"Most shrub species require a root ball diameter of about two-thirds of the branch spread."
Yikes - that can be pretty large. Hope my wife is available!
And I'm not done yet! I only posted pictures of picayune plants.
Pinning nails are illustrated below. Source them through any hort/nursery supply outfit that would sell burlap, twine, etc.
I figured out of all the eyes on this thread that someone would've googled for ANLA nursery rootball standards by now. Here 'tis, and I'll edit it in above:
Bad thing about sandy soils is just what you described. The good thing...is just what you described. The main problem is plants that don't like bare-rooting won't make it. The main benefit is the ability to take almost endless amounts of roots with the plant being moved, as long as you want to and plan for it.
To ball/burlap successfully in sandy soil is going to be difficult without mechanized equipment. To do this on a homeowner basis will require additional information probably outside the scope of this thread. Could start another...
Would like to add that if you know a year in advance that you'll be transplanting a shrub (hey, it can happen!), then root pruning will aid everything considerably. You root prune by basically do what VV describes as "cutting in," which is illustrated in the photo posted at 11:46. You do that this year, and then next you year when you go to move the plant, you "cut in" 4-6" beyond where you "cut in" the previous year.
What happens when you do this is that you sever all the major lateral roots, which causes them to launch many more fibrous roots. These fibrous roots will help hold your root ball together when it is extracted in year two, and the many new roots will minimize transplant shock and greatly assist the shrub in making a quick acclimation to its new home.
The question that is always in the back of my mind is this: By doing this, aren't you now causing two lesser traumas to the plant in two consecutive years as opposed to one major trauma in one year? So, because of this, I do what I always do. Compromise. I root prune in year one by only actually "cutting in" every other shovel thrust. In other words, I cut a full circle around the shrub, but skip half the cuts.
That's a big chunk of Kentucky real-estate! Move enough of those and your property taxes should come down.
I wanted to see that big boy coming out of the hole!! How do we know that there were not five or six football players out of camera shot who lifted it out like a terrified quarterback? How much do you estimate it weighed?
I can assure you all that there weren't football players, jilted girlfriends, or Mongol hordes available. This was all courtesy of VV.
It doesn't take many of these to learn to use mechanical advantage, though. The rest of the 15 I dug of this size recently, I burlapped where they were dug. Tipped up and on the cart, I towed the cart out of the site with the lawn tractor. Works OK when there's no extra hands around.
Here's the devil on the cart. Note the angle of repose.
That ball measures about 28" wide and 14" deep. It probably goes about 400 pounds moist, more if soaking wet. This isn't something that anyone in their right mind "lifts" even if they could. I dug out the hole to form a ramp up one side (through the area where previous plants had already been dug) to make the rolling easier. It helps to have some personal size for overcoming inertia, too.
If this had been the first plant dug, then the process is:
•dig to depth and break over
•if not stable, burlap in the hole
•once stabilized (burlap or no), start backfilling the hole while tipped
•tip back over onto backfill; repeat process
Do this (like a see-saw) until the ball is up to surrounding grade, or close enough to roll the ball out of the hole and/or to where you can get it on the cart.
Here's the beast perched on the cart with spade for scale.
Thanks for your effort, VV. It's appreciated - especially given your dial-up purgatory. Happy New Year to all!
I should've added above: hard to illustrate "...that big boy coming out of the hole..." when you're working solo.
And, if you look closely at the image you'll see where the pinning nails are and how they hold things together. If I'd had the quarter there (didn't need it to call), one could've bounced it on that surface.
Here's a final installment of the process. The 6-7' 'Erie' viburnum is perched on the ballcart (trusty firewood helping out), ready to be rolled to destination.