A deciduous tree is one that loses its leaves in winter, remaining dormant until it bursts forth with a new set of leaves in spring. Dormant trees might look like a bunch of bare twigs with nothing much going on, but they’re still alive and it’s important to treat them as gently as possible, whether you’re planting a new tree or transplanting an existing one. Here’s how to do it.
It’s best not to try to move a tree that is more than 2 metres tall – look for professional help in that case.
Moving a deciduous tree
Step 1 Wait until the leaves have pretty well all fallen off and there is no sign of active growth, then prune the branches back by about one third, to help reduce transplant shock.
Step 2 Prepare the new planting position, following Step 1 of Planting a deciduous tree, below.
Step 3 With a sharp spade, dig a trench around the perimeter of the root system, which should extend as far as the tree’s ‘dripline’: the extent of the canopy or branches. Try to preserve as many roots as possible. You will probably slice through some – just do it cleanly. Now fill the trench with water and allow it to soak away.
Step 4 Gently ease the plant and rootball from its place, carefully cutting any remaining roots, or damaged ones, with secateurs, and move the tree immediately to its new home, or cover the rootball temporarily with a damp sack to prevent drying out.
Step 5 Follow Steps 3–7 of Planting a deciduous tree, below.
Planting a deciduous tree
Step 1 Dig a hole, twice the width of the rootball of your tree. Do not dig the hole any deeper than the rootball.
Step 2 Lift the tree from the container and gently tease the roots on the surface of the rootball just a little.
Step 3 Place the tree in the hole, orienting it to the best aspect and making sure that the top of the rootball is level with or slightly higher than the top of the hole.
Step 4 Backfill around the rootball, pressing the soil lightly and making sure that the trunk remains perfectly vertical. Do not add fertiliser or extra organic matter.
Step 5 Water the soil thoroughly to make sure it is well settled and that no air pockets remain. Transplanted trees can be given a solution of a seaweed tonic, to help overcome shock.
Step 6 Mulch the soil around the tree, leaving 5-10cm around the trunk unmulched.
Step 7 Water every day for at least a month.