Now that it’s January, we’re getting excited that spring is on it’s way! While we’re dreaming of April/May weather, here are some good tips on transplanting nursery plants into your garden:
1. Select the healthiest looking plants at the nursery.
You’re paying your hard-earned money for your trees and shrubs, so you have a right to demand the very best plants your money can buy. Inspect them carefully before buying. Check for evidence of insects, diseased foliage or stunted growth. Avoid plants that have experienced obvious physical damage like nicks, cuts, broken limbs, tattered leaves or those that are clearly spindly and weak. These plants are already under stress from being moved alone; the last thing they need is other stresses on top of the stress of transplanting.
2. Test container grown plants for root ball integrity at the nursery
Not all plants sitting in pots on the nursery floor are truly “container grown”. In some cases, they were received at the nursery bare-root that spring and then stuck into pots with some loose soil, following which they were immediately put out on sale. There is a huge difference in how likely these are to survive, so before purchasing a tree or shrub, do a simple test (or ask the nursery to do it for you, and be aware – most won’t like you doing this because of what it might reveal!) by grasping the tree or shrub at the base and then gently tugging it out of the pot. If it comes out as a solid mass shaped like the pot, you can consider it a container-grown plant. If the plant starts to pull out of the soil or the soil breaks apart – buyer beware!
3. The best transplanting time depends on the type of transplant.
The best time to transplant any plant is while plant is still dormant, that is either in early spring before the buds have swelled and broken, or in late fall after the leaves have fallen (use it as a guideline for evergreens). This is the safest time for all the above transplanting methods. And for bare-root, it is the ONLY acceptable time to transplant. With field-dug, machine-dug and balled and burlapped plants, it will afford the greatest chance of success; avoid moving these kinds in the heat of summer. On the other hand, truly container-grown plants can be moved at any time between thaw and freeze-up.
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4. Proper planting is critical for root development.
This cannot be repeated enough; a successful transplant is utterly dependent on how the plant is planted in its new home. Rather than going into great detail on the ins and outs of proper planting, check out this Info Sheet – “Digging The $100 Hole”. Read it carefully and do as it says!
5. Only fertilize with root boosters the first year.
The eager gardener is often tempted to force the plant into a growth spurt as soon as it arrives in their yard by giving it a jolt of fertilizer. While this is actually a good thing with annuals and even most perennials, it could spell disaster for trees and shrubs. Unless they were container grown, their roots have been compromised, and the last thing they need is to be driven into vigorous growth without first having a root system which can support it. Devote the first year to promoting healthy root growth by mixing a root-boosting fertilizer such as bonemeal, bloodmeal or a micorrhyzal stimulant with the planting soil, and stay away from high-nitrogen fertilizers until the plants are fully settled in, i.e. at least one full growing season.
6. Manage watering religiously.
Newly planted trees and shrubs do not have the kind of root systems they need to handle drought or excess water stresses. So, ensure they experience neither of these in their first year or two. Keep the soil evenly moist throughout the entire growing season by watering when necessary, but not watering when it’s not necessary (as obvious as that might sound, too many people miss that point!). “Even moisture” is best tested by sticking your finger about an inch into the soil near the base of the plant. It should be detectably moist – if not, it’s time to water.
7. Stake young trees to minimize damage to developing roots.
Besides feeding plants, roots also anchor them into the ground. High winds can jostle newly planted trees and shrubs around, tearing new roots that are trying to grow into the soil. This is particularly a problem with top-heavy trees. Use a two-stake method (at 180° apart) to firmly secure the tree for the first year or two. But be sure to remove the stakes after this time, otherwise the tree may develop a weak trunk (winds actually help to strengthen the trunk). The objective is to keep the stakes in place until the tree has developed enough roots to anchor itself against the winds.
8. The jury is out on whether or not to prune the top growth of new transplants for balance.
There is a common theory out there that it is beneficial to prune out some of the top growth of the newly moved tree or shrub, in order to reduce the demands on the compromised root system. However, testing of this theory has at best provided inconclusive results. The most convincing argument is that leaving the top-growth untouched actually stimulates vigorous root growth as the plant naturally tries to regain balance, Besides, the plant gets its energy from the top growth and would likely be subjected to a deficiency of energy. Finally, the roots have already been stressed, so why now stress the above-ground parts as well? If in doubt, don’t prune for balance – just let the tree or shrub take its natural course of healing.
9. Watch your new tree or shrub like a hawk.
Your new transplant is likely stressed to begin with from the move alone. The last thing it needs is troubles with insects or disease to add to its misery. Keep a close eye on the plant the first year. Carefully examine the leaves and stems for insects top and bottom. Transplant shock may manifest as a myriad of symptoms, and it can often be difficult to tell whether a particular effect is from the transplant shock or something else that demands attention. When in doubt (and where possible), snip off a sample of the afflicted area, place it in a sealed plastic bag, and bring it into the nursery or garden center where you purchased it. Ask to speak to their plant experts. Get them to positively identify the problem, and to suggest a remedial course of action. If it’s transplant shock, patience is your best course. If not, follow their advice and deal with the stress immediately.
10. Patience will be necessary on your part.
Face it, trees and shrubs were never intended to be moved by nature, so they don’t respond well to it, even in the best of circumstances. Transplant shock should be expected the first year – be thankful if your plants dodge it! More often than not, your plants will take a full growing season or even more to adjust to their new surroundings and to compensate for the stresses of transplanting. Allow them this time, and don’t try to force them to grow and perform as soon as they get home! Your plants may not look happy for a year or two; just accept this and do your best to help them out. In time, they will recover from the transplant and then get down to the business of doing what they do best – looking great in your yard!
Tips sourced from: www.realfarmacy.com