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How to move and transplant fruit trees

Updated February 21, 2017

Transplant and move fruit trees in the spring as the trees are emerging from the winter dormancy period. As the soil warms up, the roots will have an entire growing season to get established in their new environment before cold winter temperatures return. Transplant success depends largely on the age of the tree; the younger the tree, the more likely it is to survive transplanting. When moving a young fruit tree, keep as much of the soil intact around the roots as possible.

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  1. Soak the area around the fruit tree's roots thoroughly three days before transplanting. Water until the soil is damp in a 120-cm (4-foot) diameter circle and water has penetrated 60 cm (2 feet) deep around the root system.

  2. Measure the trunk of the fruit tree. A tree with a 25 mm (1-inch) diameter trunk must be dug at least 30 cm (12 inches) deep, while a 50 mm (2-inch) diameter trunk must be dug at least 60 cm (24 inches) deep. A tree with a trunk diameter greater than 75 mm (3 inches) will need a 90 cm (36-inch) deep hole and will require special equipment. There are companies that specialise in moving large trees.

  3. Measure the approximate canopy spread of the fruit tree. Carve out a shallow trench around the base of the tree that is two-thirds the size of the canopy.

  4. Prepare the new planting hole. Determine the appropriate light and soil conditions for the fruit tree you are moving. Dig the hole twice as large and as deep as the root ball based on your measurements of the trunk and canopy spread. Break up the soil in the bottom of the hole by driving the shovel into the ground.

  5. Dig out the root ball. Get a helper or two, each with a shovel, and drive shovels into the soil at equal spacing around the trench and to the appropriate depth. Pull back on the handles and lift the root ball from the soil.

  6. Place the root ball in a wheelbarrow and transport it immediately to the new planting site. Do not let the roots dry out; if you can not transplant immediately, wrap the roots in burlap and keep them damp.

  7. Lower the root ball into the new planting hole. If the hole is too shallow or too deep, add or take away soil so that the base of the tree is planted to the same depth as it was in its previous location. Fill the area around the fruit tree and allow it to seep through.

  8. Build up the soil in a 15-cm (6-inch) high, circular mound around the edge of the planting hole. This will trap and channel water down to the root system.

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Things You'll Need

  • Water
  • Shovel
  • Wheelbarrow

About the Author

Eulalia Palomo has been a professional writer since 2009. Prior to taking up writing full time she has worked as a landscape artist and organic gardener. Palomo holds a Bachelor of Arts in liberal studies from Boston University. She travels widely and has spent over six years living abroad.

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