Your transplanting success will increase if you’ll observe a few simple rules that take into account the plants’ needs. Basic as they are, simple as they may seem, they are still the fundamentals around which successful transplanting is built, so follow them and give the plants the best of care following their transfer.
These are the general rules. Those which have been starred, refer to the drawings.
1. Cool, cloudy, humid weather is best, although you can transplant at almost any time if you follow the rules carefully and/or use one of the new plastic sprays which conserve moisture, preventing its loss through the leaves.
2. Prepare the new planting hole first. Make it wider and deeper than you think necessary, removing stones and debris as you dig. Either mix in peatmoss and plant food to enrich any subsoil you dig up or replace it with good rich topsoil or compost. Then the hole will be ready and you won’t have to make your plants wait, allowing the roots to dry, while you prepare the fill soil. Water the hole well; let it soak in.
3. A day or so ahead, soak around plants to be moved so that you can dig deeply, get more roots and keep a soil ball around undisturbed roots if possible. In any case . . .
4. Keep roots moist during transplanting. Should roots be bare (in dividing perennials this is inevitable) keep them covered with a wet sack or soak in a pail of water until used. Heel them in if more than a few hours must elapse before setting in place.
5. Try root ball for size in new hole to be sure the roots will spread well without touching the edge of the hole or without bending or tilting up at the edges. Dig the hole at least 1 foot larger than the spread of the roots for trees and 6 inches larger for shrubs.
6. Place good soil under root ball so that the plant will be the same depth it grew as before. (You will be able to see soil mark on trunk or stems.) Fill in around root ball, watering in and rocking plant gently to settle and bind soil in contact with roots, or work the soil in around the roots with your hands.
7. Transplanting fertilizer solutions aid recovery, giving the “booster” necessary to overcome transplanting shock. Don’t be alarmed if plants are set back a bit for a time.
8. Prune deciduous trees and shrubs (not broad-leaved or needle evergreens) to compensate for loss of roots, reducing twigs about 1/3, keeping future shape of plant in mind. Don’t cut leaders (topmost vertical twig) on trees or the shape will be spoiled.
9. Shade small plants from sun and protect from drying winds. Wrap trunks of trees with burlap or tough paper made for this purpose to prevent sunscald the first year. Plastic sprays now permit moving plants which are in full leaf.
10. Stake trees to avoid wind damage through tipping which breaks small new roots. A small tree whose trunk at waist height is under 3 inches in diameter needs only one stake. Larger trees require two stakes or, better, three or four guy wires. Set stakes before filling the planting hole, then tie the tree to the stakes with canvas or burlap strips. Guy wires are run through sections of hose around the trunk so they don’t cut the bark.
11. Water, water and WATER! Keep soil moist but not soggy all summer, and sprinkle the foliage early in the day at first. A 3-inch mulch of straw or leaves the first year conserves water and discourages weeds.
12. Feed lightly the first season. Plants suffering from moving-shock need light meals until new feeding roots grow and get hungry.