How to Transplant a Tree

You have a tree in your yard that you really like, you just don’t like its location. Maybe it obscures a view or hangs over a walkway. We don’t know. We just know that people often wish their trees could be in a different place.

Well, we have good news. You can totally move a tree, without professional help or fancy tools, on a Saturday morning.

Here’s how to do it:

Water It

For 2-3 days before you plan to dig up your tree, water the area around it so that the soil is nice and moist. If you’ve gotten some good rain lately, this may not be necessary, but better to play it safe.

Dig It Up

Obviously, the bigger the tree, the bigger this job is going to be. We’re not telling you to dig up a 60-year-old oak, because  you will need help on that. But maybe you have a reasonably young maple or oleander or something like that. What you have to do is dig around and underneath the root ball. How big is the root ball? Here’s a helpful tip: Wrap a piece of string around the base of the trunk, measuring the circumference. However long that string is, is how far out you need to go in order to get the whole root ball. On young trees, it’s probably not going to be more than about a foot.

So start digging in a circular pattern around the tree, going about a foot deep. Lift and pry and spike and dig and cut until the tree shakes loose from its root system.

Prune the Roots

Most likely, you ripped and scored some of those root tentacles. The tree will probably be OK, but you can speed up its process of re-establishing its root system by making a clean cut on all those jagged root ends. So get out some shears and clip off all the damaged root ends so that they have a nice clean, square cut at the bottom.

Dig a New Hole

Dig a hole that is just barely bigger than the root ball, and place the tree in that hole. Fill in with dirt all around, and give it a good soak. On top of the dirt, put down some mulch. This will look nicer than dirt, but that’s not the main reason for doing this. In addition to its appearance, the mulch will help the root ball retain its moisture. Water it again.

And that’s about it. You’ll probably need to stake it to keep your tree growing straight up, but you’ve done it. You’ve transplanted a tree, and it probably took you about an hour. Reward yourself with a glass of lemonade and a shower.