Tuesday, July 20, 2010

FAQ: Can I transplant junipers? When is the best time?

Q.  I have had junipers planted for a couple of years.....is it possible to move them to a different area of the yard?  Is there a certain time of year I should do this?

A. It is possible to move your junipers to a different area of the yard.  The chance of success varies according to the season of the year and the size of the plants.  It's best to try moving them during the cooler months.

When transplanting, you must keep as much soil intact around the roots as possible.  You may wish to move them yourself.  If not, perhaps a local nursery can assist you.

You did not indicate the species or size of the junipers.  If they are low-growing, you'll need some baling twine to tie the branches upward.  I'll assume that the trunk of the plant is 1" diameter measured about 6" above the soil line.

You will also need a flat-bladed spade with a sharp edge, a square sheet of burlap about 48" x 48", a dozen or more nails (10D, 3").

Your objective will be to form a root ball, move the entire shrub with root ball intact from the ground, place it on the burlap square, wrap the burlap around the root ball, secure it, and transport the shrub ball and burlap to its new location.

The root ball should be 12" in diameter for each 1" diameter of the plant trunk.  Begin by scraping weeds, grass and dirt from around the plant, exposing what will be the top of the root ball.

To form the ball, carve a shallow trench with the corner of your spade around the perimeter at the proper distance from the trunk.  With our example, the distance from the trunk should be about 12" radius.  Now, with the front of the spade facing you, begin digging the trench wider and deeper.  Shape the top of the soil into a ball by pulling soil with the spade away from the trunk and toward you.  Work your way around the plant.  Carve the trench more deeply as you go, remove excess soil.  Continue to work your way around the plant, repeating the steps until 1/2 of a ball has taken shape.  Visualize a small beach ball, if it helps.  When 1/2 of the ball has taken shape, begin carving gradually under the ball.

When you've formed about 3/4 of a ball, begin forcing the spade under the ball at an angle as you continue to work your way around the ball.  Be careful not to disturb the soil in the ball.  You don't want it falling apart.

When the ball is completely severed, you may remove the ball from the soil.  I recommend you slide the spade under the ball, leverage the ball up onto the spade and gently slide the spade with the plant out of the hole.

Slide the spade and root ball onto the burlap square.  Position the ball with the plant upright in the center of the square.  Remove the spade.  Pull the opposite corners of the burlap toward the trunk and tie them tightly.  Open gaps in the burlap may be pinned to close with the nails.  Special nails are made for the purpose, but 10D 3" nails should do.  Take care when pressing the nails through the fabric.  Wear gloves to protect your fingers.

Unless you are replanting immediately, cover the wrapped root ball with soil or mulch and keep it moist.

When replanting, the new planting hole should be the same depth as the original hole, but twice as wide.  When positioned in the hole, the top of the root ball should be at the same level as the surrounding soil.  DO NOT REMOVE THE BURLAP!  With some of the excess soil, form a ring about 5" deep around the hole and pack it tightly.  Place the end of a water hose inside the soil ring at the edge of the hole with the water running gently.  Keep the plant upright and back-fill the hole with original soil.  The water and soil will form a slurry of mud.  Then continue to back-fill the hole.  When the fill has reached the top of the root ball, stop back-filling and turn off the water.  Allow the soil to settle.  If necessary, add more soil around the root ball.  DO NOT COVER THE ROOT BALL WITH ADDITIONAL SOIL. 

If your plant is tall and located in a windy area, it may require bracing.  In most cases it will not.  At any rate, that is a subject for another day.

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