Transplanting a fruit tree is best done when the tree is young. Though different varieties root at varying depths, one thing is certain: the bigger the tree, the deeper the roots go and the longer it takes for the tree to reestablish itself. Always transplant when the tree is dormant because stress and root shock can kill or severely weaken a fruit tree if it's moved when flowering or fruiting. In most regions, fruit trees should be moved in late winter or early spring, before leaves bud and sap begins to run.
Measure from the trunk of the fruit tree to the drip line of its branches. Double the number to get the diameter of the hole you'll have to dig. Measure the height of the tree and divide by two to get the depth of the transplant hole.
Dig the hole in the new site according to the measurements, adding a few inches to the diameter for adjustments. Pour half a bucket of water in the hole. If it does not drain quickly, amend the soil with equal parts peat and sand to improve drainage.
Return to the fruit tree and dig in a circle, just inside the drip line. Angle the shovel point at 45 degrees toward the tap root. Pry up gently as you go. If the tap root resists, dig deeper and try again.
Lift the fruit tree out of the hole and set it in the wheelbarrow. Roll it to the new site. Set the tree in the hole. The graft union, a small scar on the trunk where the rootstock is attached to the rest of the tree, should sit 4 to 5 inches above the soil line.
Step back to see that the fruit tree is standing straight, adjusting it if necessary. Backfill the hole with dirt, pressing it firmly against the roots to close air spaces that can dry them out. Finish with a full bucket of water to help ease transplant shock.
Shovel the remaining dirt into the wheelbarrow. Roll it back to the original site and backfill the hole. Wash off tools with water before putting them away.
- Continue watering every other day for the next three weeks after transplanting to help the fruit tree establish roots in its new environment.
- Get help from a professional tree service if you are moving a tree that is more than 6 feet tall. You have almost no chance of getting enough of the root system without a tree spade.