Transplanting A Dwarf Cherry Tree - Knowledgebase Question

Provo, UT
Question by agunnell
March 9, 2001
We have a dwarf cherry tree (not sure what kind) that we want to transplant to another area in our yard. I think it's only a couple years old and is about 6 feet tall. Do you have any advice on any precautions we should take? When we should move it, how deep to dig to avoid roots. Any advice is appreciated.

Answer from NGA
March 9, 2001


Trees develop shallow, spreading root systems in the top two to three feet of soil and have few deep or ?tap? roots. However, roots expand outwards beyond the plant's canopy or dripline. So try to get as much of the root system intact with soil attached as is feasible. Since your tree isn't very old root systems shouldn't be too out of control! Also, have the planting hole prepared so the root system can get back in the ground as soon as possible before having a chance to dry out. Move it while dormant, after your last frost but before new growth begins to reduce shock. Here are planting instructions for trees:

Till or loosen an area of soil that is five times as wide and only as deep as the tree?s root ball (or container size). Starting with a wide section of aerated soil provides roots with oxygen and allows them to spread easily.

In the center of this area, dig a planting hole that is twice as wide as the root ball and no deeper. The top of the root ball should be level with the ground?or just slightly above to allow for sinkage.

Do not amend the backfill with organic matter. In over 30 studies on trees, no advantage was found to incorporating amendments into the backfill. Ensure that the tree is securely upright but do not heavily tamp or pack the backfill, which compacts soil and impedes water and oxygen flow.

Form a circular berm, or rim, to make a water well on the outside of the root ball. The goal is to keep water away from the trunk to discourage disease.

Add a three- to five-inch-deep layer of mulch around the tree?s entire planting zone. Mulch conserves water by keeping soil temperatures cooler and reducing evaporation. Keep mulch about six inches away from the trunk to help prevent disease. Fertilizer isn?t needed for a tree?s first year.

Water the extended planting zone slowly and deeply. Soil should remain moist but not too wet during the first year of growth. Always water deeply (two feet) to encourage root growth and to flush salts below the roots? active growing area. Deep, infrequent irrigation is preferable. Frequent, shallow sprinklings do more harm than good. To determine how far water has penetrated, poke a soil probe (any long metal rod or screwdriver) into the soil. It will move easily through moist soil, stopping abruptly where soil is dry. As trees mature, expand the watering zone somewhat beyond the tree?s canopy (or dripline), which is where roots are actively growing.

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