There are quite a few reasons why you may have to move an already established, mature fruit tree to a new place in your yard. Perhaps, the ideal spot is no longer fitting the needs of the tree. Maybe you’re moving and can’t contemplate the thought of not having your favorite fruit tree in your yard. No matter the reason, it’s possible to transfer your fruit tree by following the right procedure and using these tips.

Is Your Tree Healthy Enough for a Move?

Tree trunk with a diseased growth on it

One of the first things that you need to consider before transplanting your mature fruit tree is whether or not it’s healthy enough to be moved. Any tree that has a problem with disease or pests should be successfully treated in full before being transferred. It should be on the road to recovery before you move it. Not waiting could spell disaster for your transplant, and cause you to waste all your time, energy, and money on a move that didn’t work out because the tree was already weakened.

Even moving a tree small distances such as from one end of your property to the other can still be risky despite following the necessary precautions and giving plenty of TLC. Thankfully, if you're doing this because your tree isn't thriving or is deteriorating in its current location, the risks aren't as bad since your tree might just as well fail if you don't attempt the transplant.

Steps for Moving Your Mature Fruit Tree

Uprooted trees with their roots bagged for shipping

Prepping the Site

Your first step should be determining where you want your fruit tree to go. This seems obvious, but not having a specific destination in mind and a plan to get there will slow down your entire process. Even worse, picking any old spot that doesn't have the ideal conditions could cause the transplant to go badly and not take. Shade levels, drainage, and soil nutrients are all factors to consider when picking the best tree real estate.

Once you’ve decided where your healthy, mature fruit tree is going to go, it’s time to prepare it for the move. Start by preparing the space where it will go. You’ll want to dig the hole before you’ve started digging up the tree to be moved as this will ensure your tree's root system is uprooted for the least amount of time possible. Once you’ve got an appropriately sized hole, put the soil, mulch, and compost near the hole to make it easier to fill.

As a general tip, it’s often best to wait until winter when you’re fruit tree will be dormant or semi-dormant for the move. Before moving, you’ll want to give the tree a good pruning. This pruning will help prevent loss of water and encourage new growth once the fruit tree is transplanted. Plus, this can help to make the move easier by removing weight and tidying the tree shape.

Moving Your Tree

Now, it’s time to dig out your tree. Start by making a circle around the tree where you’ll dig down. The larger the tree, the larger the ring should be to protect the root ball. Take the spade or shovel you’re using, and start digging around the root ball gently. You want to loosen up the knotted root system enough so that you’ll be able to pull up the tree without the roots tearing, separating, or catching. Using a slight inward angle can be helpful. Just take care not to sever the tap root that grows straight down to close to the root ball. You also want to be careful with the feeder roots. These are the roots that you can often see at the surface of the dirt line. They take in a great deal of the tree's water and nutrients, and can be easily damaged.

After the tree is out of the old hole, it’s time to move it to its new home. A tarp or burlap sack can be helpful in this step, especially if going a long distance. The tarp can help you slide it into place. Water the new hole before placing the tree in it. Carefully put your tree’s root ball into the hole as you want it. Backfill the hole using the compost, soil, and mulch you'd secured earlier for this purpose. Firm down the ground, and make sure that it’s at about the same height as it was in the original hole.

You’ll want to baby your new transplant for a while to help it establish itself in its new home. That can mean staking it, giving it fertilizers, and watering it more than you would normally. Monitor your tree over the next coming months to anticipate any needs it may have to help it thrive.

Things to Avoid When Moving Your Tree

Fallen Tree

One of the biggest things you want to avoid when moving your tree is damaging the root ball. The roots are vital to a successful transplant. Hacking your roots apart to get the job done quickly won’t give you the results you want. You’ll want to take your time when you’re digging up the root ball. Wrapping it can help it survive the trip to the new planting place. Damage during transit can be just as severe as damaging the roots when you pull it up. Placing the roots in their new home should also be done with the greatest of care. Not taking a big enough root ball can also spell disaster for your transplanted fruit tree. Keep in mind that the larger the mature tree to be transplanted, the larger and heavier the root ball will be.

Taking time and care to move your mature fruit tree will help you to best protect your tree’s future. Not rushing will reward you in a tree that’s safely transplanted, and ready to give fruit again in its new home.