Our Experiences in Transplanting Trees and a Sort-Of How To

“I am the Lorax. I speak for the trees.” No, not really. Well, sort of. Gaby and I do love a good tree.

Our success with trees, flowers, and food plants has a lot more to do with luck and nature more so than anything we’ve ever done. Maybe it’s because we pick things that are easy to grow, maybe it’s just that God allows vegetation to grow in dirt. We don’t do much more than stick a plant in the ground and water it once a day if it hasn’t rained. That’s why I say it doesn’t really have anything to do with us.

New Home Ownership and Fixing Others’ Mistakes
Crab Apple Tree Loses a Branch
This was a sad day. We had a wet snowfall one year before the trees lost their leaves. The snow was so heavy that it was too much for my beautiful ornamental crab apple tree, which ended up losing one of its main branches. The branch took with it quite a bit of the trunk and core, but I’m happy to say that with a little pruning sealant, the tree survived. Maybe our thumbs are greener than we think!

Our Calgary home was the first opportunity we had to take care of our own yard. Prior to this, the only experience we had with garden and lawn maintenance was helping out our parents when we were young.

The landscaping on our first property left a lot to be desired. The previous owners deemed themselves “green”, but in reality, they were just lazy. They covered the front yard in mulch to avoid mowing, and let the weeds grow where they may. The backyard, well… let’s just say they didn’t exactly have a green thumb. Our first experience in transplanting trees came from that backyard.

The trees had been planted much too close to the fence and were being choked out. We needed to remove two completely due to of lack of space, but there was one tree worth saving – a Japanese lilac. Imagine our surprise when we dug up around the roots, only to find that all the trees had been planted in the ground inside their original plastic pots and burlap bags! We’re so glad that we decided to take on this project, as the lilac tree we wanted to save would have died had we left it where it was.

While transplanting this tree, we didn’t do anything special, just dug it up, removed the burlap, stuck it in a different hole, and watered. It had a little transplant shock for the first couple of days, but took off like a weed after that. I must say, we were quite proud of ourselves in saving that little sapling, especially when we had no prior experience (save for planting sticks in the sandbox when we were kids and expecting that they’d grow into big, beautiful trees. They didn’t… go figure).

We eventually planted a second lilac tree in the backyard, as well as two Saskatoon bushes, all of which were bought at a local greenhouse. Those were planted with a little more research under our belt (thanks to the personnel where we bought the plants), and we used a product called Myke Tree and Shrub Growth Enhancer. All three thrived.

Planting a TreeA Bright Green Idea

Fast forward a few years, and we are now living in South Eastern Manitoba. We have a beautiful piece of property with four large trees (three oak and one elm), but the landscape is actually quite bare, considering that this entire area used to be bush and pasture land. When the builders were clearing the property to build the house we now live in, they took down a lot more trees than we would have liked (though this was probably to the previous owners specifications).

As you all know, Gaby’s been working at clearing out the bush on the west side of our property. While in there, he had the foresight to save some of the saplings (the non-thorny ones!) from the weedwacking blade for transplanting. So we took it upon ourselves to make a row of trees on the north property line.

How We Did It

We are not arborists, nor do we claim to be. Honestly, we didn’t even research the proper transplanting procedure before digging up the saplings. But, in case you’re curious on how we did it (either to avoid our mistakes or follow along), here was our procedure:

  1. We chose which saplings we wanted to move – five from the bush area, and one that was already in the yard, but in a spot where we eventually want to put our workshop and greenhouse. Three of the trees we chose were poplars, two were maples, and one might be a birch. The saplings we chose were healthy, with bright green spring foliage, and fairly tall, between 4 and 6 feet.
  2. We marked out a large circle around the sapling we wanted to transplant using our spade, and started to slowly dig to break up the roots gently. That’s when we noticed none of the saplings had great root systems. In fact, all of them were shoots off the main roots of the larger trees in the area. Not knowing what else to do, we left as large of a piece of root as we could, and cut the sapling from the main tree.
  3. Bone Meal and MykeWe dug a large hole where we wanted the tree to be planted. My sister, who helps out at her in-laws’ greenhouse, gave us some bone meal to place in the new holes. We had never heard of such a practice, but apparently, it helps to establish the root system. We added about half a cup to the hole around where the roots would be, as well as a scoop of the Myke natural fertilizer that we had left over from our plantings in Calgary.
  4. We buried the roots, making sure that the tree was secure and straight and gave it a long drink of water.

And… that’s it. After all six of our transplants were in the ground, we cleaned up and walked away. We now water them once a day (the kids LOVE helping with this job) and are hoping they survive. It’s been almost a week since they’ve been in the ground, and they are doing marvelous, if I do say so myself. They had some transplant shock the first day after replanting, but have all since perked back up.

Did We Do It Right?

Row of Trees on the Property LineHere’s the thing. Those trees that we moved were saved from being cut down – the bush was overgrown, and we need the space for our shed and playhouse. So, by trying to transplant them, we’ve given them a second chance. Only time will tell if they will survive. If not… well, we know  of another bush that we can go and dig up a few more saplings to try again.


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