With the best of intentions and design skills, there comes a time when you find that a small tree or shrub is quite simply in the wrong place. It may have grown too large, or it may be crowded by it's neighbours. You may have changed your mind about a planting scheme and be keen to try something new. Every gardener does the round-robin removal from time to time, some gardeners seem to have their plants on wheels, they move so often!
Moving a small tree or shrub is a big job - it's easy enough to say, "I'll shift it", and underestimate the effort involved. Before you cut the offending plant off at the base, do try to save it, even give it to a gardener starting out with a bare plot if you are out of space yourself.
The look of maturity a large transplant can bring to a new area is also definitely worth it.
Timing is All
Any plant moves more easily when dormant as activity levels have low and there is less for the roots to support while also trying to establish in their new home. Winter is a good time to attempt your round robin moves, or late autumn when roots will have a chance to make some new growth before winter sets in.
Transplanting outside these times depends on your climate. In mild climates plants can be moved, with care, pretty much year-round. In extreme climates you need to avoid moving plants in hot or very dry weather.
Chose a cool, still day. Blazing sun and wind will dry the tree and the root ball out.
You should ideally 'trench' shrubs six-twelve month before moving them. That is, you dig a trench around the tree at the drip line (the outer edge of the leaf canopy) and to the depth of the roots. This encourages the tree to make fresh roots growth within this area and you can move them more successfully.
When moving a shrub or small tree chose a cool, still day. Blazing sun and wind will dry the tree and the root ball out.
Dig the planting hole that will receive the plant first. Leaving a tree out of the ground while you dig, after the trauma of being handles and dug out, simply increases the stress on the plant. And that digging, after struggling with a recalcitrant plant, is no fun for you either! Make sure that the hole is generous and wide enough to take a decent sized root ball.
Work some blood and bone or slow-release fertiliser in the hole now, and add some well rotted compost. Cover with a thin layer of soil so that the fertiliser or compost will not burn the roots.
If planting in an exposed position, drive a stake into the windward side of the planting hole ready for the transplanted shrub.
Dig it out
Clear plants - perennials, bulbs etc., from immediately around and under the plant to be moved. This gives you more working space and prevents special plants from being inadvertently trodden on. 'Park' the plants in a shady cool place and replant them later.
Dig a trench around the plant, at about the drip line. Work carefully around the plant, piling the soil onto a tarpaulin. You may think that the rootball you are working around is far to big to be moved by hand- you can work the soil free between the roots reducing the size and weight of the transplant.
Take care not to damage the tiny feeder roots. These are the part of the root that absorbs moisture and nutrients. Preserving these is key to the new plant re-establishing well.
Cut through any major roots that you must severe with a sharp knife, loppers or pruning saw. Don't tear roots as this leaves them more vulnerable to disease.
Dig around and then under the plant. When you can rock it in the soil it is ready to move.
Every gardener does the round-robin removal
The maturity a large plant brings is definitely the effort
Trenching is a technique to encourage new feeder roots, the tiny hair-like roots that absorb moisture and nutrients from the soil, on a tree or shrub that is to be transplanted. These roots occur at the end of the root and can easily be cut off or damaged when transplanting, increasing replant shock for the plant.
A trench, one spade width wide and 45-60cm deep, or more depending on the size of the tree or shrub, is dug around the plant at the drip-line. The trench is back-filled with a firable mixture of soil, compost and sand.
In winter when the plant is dormant, it can be transplanted, taking with it a new set of feeder roots and minimizing replant shock.
Dig the hole for the new tree first
Dig a trench around the plant at the drip line
Dig around and under the plant
Take care not to damage tiny feeder roots