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Can I move my plum trees after two growing seasons?

 
Autumn Hughes
Posts: 13
Location: Scottish Highlands
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In February 2013 we bought some plum and damson trees. All on St Julien A, the five damsons were 2 year old bushes (Merryweather) and the plums were 1 year old maidens: Avalon, Jubilee, Marjorie's Seedling. We also have Czar, Opal, Oullin's Gage, Stanley, Cacanska Lepotika and a couple of Victorias.

Unfortunately we just planted them in rows of 4 each, alternating with rows of hazel and we now realise that, not only should we have separated the plums within each row by inserting a few other trees for variety, but also, the damsons are in the wrong place, since they don't like shade and a couple of the plums would probably prefer to be somewhere else too.

If we planted them in February or March 2013 can we move some of them now or is that likely to kill them?

 
Roger Taylor
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Location: New Zealand
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Autumn Hughes wrote: In February 2013 we bought some plum and damson trees. All on St Julien A, the five damsons were 2 year old bushes (Merryweather) and the plums were 1 year old maidens: Avalon, Jubilee, Marjorie's Seedling. We also have Czar, Opal, Oullin's Gage, Stanley, Cacanska Lepotika and a couple of Victorias.

Unfortunately we just planted them in rows of 4 each, alternating with rows of hazel and we now realise that, not only should we have separated the plums within each row by inserting a few other trees for variety, but also, the damsons are in the wrong place, since they don't like shade and a couple of the plums would probably prefer to be somewhere else too.

If we planted them in February or March 2013 can we move some of them now or is that likely to kill them?

It depends on where in the world you are, what season you are, what dumb decisions you make in the process and whether you can wait if the season isn't optimal.

It's spring going on summer here at the moment, so I wouldn't move them if you were me and you were here. That would be because I would wait until the tree was leafless and dormant to move it, to reduce stress. However, if I did want to move a tree and didn't want to wait, I'd take the chance and the risk of setting the tree back and just do it. The key thing is to not dig it out, and let the roots dry out. There's an entire business where people sell their grown trees, and someone comes in and chops it out of the ground, and then this gets on-sold to people who want a grown version of that tree but don't want to wait years. In doing so, they wet the roots and then shrinkwrap them. And it either goes somewhere else to be replanted, or to be put in a large bag to grow in quite happily until someone purchases it.

I'm going to dig up an orange tree by the garage in the next couple of days, and replant it out in the paddock. I expect it to go swimmingly, but naturally it will likely take a while to recover.
 
Autumn Hughes
Posts: 13
Location: Scottish Highlands
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Thanks Roger. That's a relief. I don't mind them being set back a bit as long as we don't actually kill them. They have a harsh environment to cope with, on a windy hillside, with thin, extremely acid topsoil, bleak winters and not much of a summer, but they seem to be thriving so far

It's late autumn/early winter here. We've just received this year's selection of bare-root trees and shrubs so expect to be very busy for the next few weeks. Fingers crossed it doesn't snow or freeze solid!

This time I'm planning with a little more knowledge behind me, so they will be a mixture of species, with the nitrogen fixers put in at the same time and space left for the plants we don't have yet...

 
Roger Taylor
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Location: New Zealand
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Autumn Hughes wrote:Thanks Roger. That's a relief. I don't mind them being set back a bit as long as we don't actually kill them. They have a harsh environment to cope with, on a windy hillside, with thin, extremely acid topsoil, bleak winters and not much of a summer, but they seem to be thriving so far

It's late autumn/early winter here. We've just received this year's selection of bare-root trees and shrubs so expect to be very busy for the next few weeks. Fingers crossed it doesn't snow or freeze solid!

This time I'm planning with a little more knowledge behind me, so they will be a mixture of species, with the nitrogen fixers put in at the same time and space left for the plants we don't have yet...

No guarantees. In the end, it's up to you doing the research and deciding to take the risk.

Also, Sepp Holzer, Permaculture for believable anecdotal support:

The 'Shock Method'

As a child, my route to school was very long and exhausting and took about two hours even if I walked quickly. It was a simple cart path and went through the forest and past fields. I would find no end of interesting things there; a root or a nice pebble, and now and again a small tree which I would plant in my little garden. Shortly before the end of June, the end of school, I found a few small wild apple trees on a pile of stones on my way back home. I could not resist and took them back with me. Although they were a good two metres tall, I could simply pull them up without digging, because their roots had found little purchase on the stones. Full of joy, I carried them back home and wanted to show them to my mother before I planted them. Instead of the praise I had hoped for, she scolded me and said that it was a shame for the beautiful trees, because with fully-grown leaves they would not take root at this time of year. Despite this, I took the trees to my little garden (Beibwurmboanling), dug them in as well as I could and, as always, covered the soil with leaves. I could not water them, because the garden was too far away from the nearest source of water. I did not have any great hopes of the trees growing. My mother had explained to me that I was replanting the trees when it was already far too late and they were already in full leaf. For this reason, I came upon the naive idea of removing all of the leaves, because they seemed to be stopping the trees from taking root. Then they stood bare in my little garden. I went to look at them every day in the hope that I might see some sign of life. Several weeks passed until one of the trees suddenly, and to my complete surprise, produced new shoots. Once I discovered there was no stopping me and, pulling her by the apron, I brought my mother to look at the garden. She would not believe my story, so I had to bring her, so that she could see for herself. Even she was surprised and she asked me: "What did you do to make the trees grow? What luck!" Later on this experience inspired me to develop my 'shock method'. It is an emergency technique to allow badly rooted trees without root balls to be replanted, even when they are already fully in leaf, in flower, or bearing fruit.

Fruit trees planted between raised beds using the 'shock method'.

I begin by laying the trees in the sun, so that the leaves dry out. Naturally, the roots should be covered, because they cannot tolerate sun. I use a wet jute sack to cover the roots. To make sure the leaves dry quickly, the trees must not be watered. The wet sacks will ensure that the roots do not dry out, but they will not provide enough water to supply the leaves. After about a day, the leaves will have dried out and the trees can be replanted. I do not soak the soil before planting or water the trees afterwards. The only protection they receive is a layer of mulch to keep the soil moist. I would never be able to water all of the trees on the Krameterhof, because it would take far too much time and energy. Trees planted using my method quickly develop new, fibrous roots, which supply the trees with nutrients and water again. They can survive the initial lean period, because they no longer have any leaves or fruit to support. If I were to plant a tree in full leaf and fruit instead and not water it, then all of its energy would be used to maintain the leaves. The roots would not get enough attention and the tree would grow badly, if at all. This tree could be compared to a cut flower: it is given plenty of water, yet it can barely support itself. Trees treated using my 'shock method' concentrate on taking root and do not produce shoots until they have the energy to do so. The trees are raised to be independent. I have cultivated thousands of trees over the years using this method. I have bought remainder stock, which are often just chopped up or burnt, from tree nurseries at a very good price and planted them using my 'shock method'. In my experience, trees planted using this method grow best between raised beds. A large amount of moisture collects between the beds and the trees recover quickly. After two to three years the trees have developed so well that I can dig around the root ball and replant or sell them. In this way my childhood experiences have provided me with a very good business
 
Autumn Hughes
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Location: Scottish Highlands
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That's very interesting. I'll bear it in mind if we need to move anything in the spring or summer.
Not a problem we'll have at this time of year though. They've definitely lost all their leaves.
 
Patrick Mann
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Location: Seattle, WA, USA
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It shouldn't be a problem to transplant after 2 years. You will lose a lot of the fine feeder roots, so for a while the tree will be more drought-susceptible. That's why the wetter fall is a good time for transplanting. You might add some mycorrhizal fungi to the root zone to help the tree with water and nutrient uptake. You may also want to stake it for a year.

For best result you can root-prune 6 months ahead of transplanting, in order to encourage growth of new feeder roots closer to the trunk that will be part of the transplanted root ball.
 
John Saltveit
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I agree with Patrick and Roger. PLant during a moist time of year, hopefully not when the trees are growing rapidly. Let them get used to the area, and then they should be fine. I moved 15 10 year old trees from one house to the other. They all lived and most just needed one season in which they didn't fruit. They have fruited every year since.
John S
PDX OR
 
Dan Boone
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This spring I found a wild plum on an eroding embankment deep in the understory of some overgrown oak/pecan forest on our property. I would guess it is more than five years old, but it was still only about four feet tall, albeit with an overall foliage diameter more than that. Since it was scrubby and destined to fall into a ravine, I dug it up and transplanted it into my orchard area. It didn't really have a root ball and all the soil fell away from the few roots it had. This was already June, and there were flowers and lots of leaves on this and all the nearby wild plums. Totally the wrong time to transplant, but I did my best. At first all of the leaves fell off, but a few weeks later it sprouted about fifteen new leaves and sat there with 15 healthy green leaves all summer long. I am pretty sure it was growing new roots in the better soil I put it in. I have high hopes for a healthy tree next spring!
 
Wi Tim
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Location: North Idaho, zone 5a
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I've heard that many of the nursery trees are replanted twice - first when they get from dirt in wholesale nursery to the pot in retail nursery, and then when you buy it and plant to the ground. Thus, it's essentially no different than buying a 3-4 years old tree that has been in a nursery pot for two years.
 
Bryant RedHawk
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Autumn Hughes wrote: In February 2013 we bought some plum and damson trees. All on St Julien A, the five damsons were 2 year old bushes (Merryweather) and the plums were 1 year old maidens: Avalon, Jubilee, Marjorie's Seedling. We also have Czar, Opal, Oullin's Gage, Stanley, Cacanska Lepotika and a couple of Victorias.

Unfortunately we just planted them in rows of 4 each, alternating with rows of hazel and we now realise that, not only should we have separated the plums within each row by inserting a few other trees for variety, but also, the damsons are in the wrong place, since they don't like shade and a couple of the plums would probably prefer to be somewhere else too.

If we planted them in February or March 2013 can we move some of them now or is that likely to kill them?



Fruit and any other type of tree can be moved once it is fully dormant. The real trick to success is to be able to dig enough of the roots to ensure life can go on when the tree wakes from its dormancy. I have moved a 25 year old Magnolia tree and it did just fine with being moved in late December. One other thing you can do to help the tree re-establish is to dissolve 2 Vitamin B12 tabs in 1 gallon (4 liters) of water then after soaking in the transplant, pour this solution all the way around the outside edge of your new placement.

Don't forget to make the new hole for the tree at least 2/3 larger than the root ball you dug up. When digging the root ball, have some burlap or plastic, or some sort of tarp that you can work down on one side then as you go under the roots, slid this under to be able to contain the root ball. This will help in the lift out as well since you won't have to worry so much about the tree going bare root.

Since you say your soil is very poor, I would enrich the new hole with some fully mature compost and perhaps a bit of manure mixed with the removed dirt from the new hole, this will help the roots get of to a smashing start when the transplants come out of dormancy.

The ideal situation is to be able to take a full year to do the dig up. You would start by cutting the outside rim of your root ball ( at least 1.5 feet from the trunk) then every few weeks dig a trench away to the outside of this cut line. Working your way down to the depth you can go. Then on the lift day you would cut under the trunk, wrap the root ball with burlap or canvas and lift the tree, take it to the already prepped transplant hole and drop it in carefully, un pin the burlap or canvas and back fill then water in.
 
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