TransplantingSmall Trees

How to replant a small tree

First, let’s talk about what counts as a small tree. For transplanting purposes, a small tree is any tree that has a trunk diameter of 2 inches 10cm or less. To get a good read on diameter, wrap measuring tape around the trunk 1 metre from the ground, pinpoint the circumference in centimeters and then divide that by pi (3.14). Now, follow these steps to transplant a small tree: If you are not sure whether there are any underground services such as water phone electricity sewer etc then we strongly recommend that you Dial before you dig. Dial 1100 or go to This service helps you locate underground utilities to ensure you’re planting the tree in the right place. Figure out root ball size. Remember, trees with a trunk more than 10cm in diameter are considered large. For small trees, the width of the root ball should be around 10 to 15 centimeters wide for each centimeter of trunk diameter. For example, a tree that’s 5 centimeters in diameter needs a root ball that’s 50 to 75 centimeters wide. But wait! Before you uproot the tree, complete steps 3 and 4. Water the soil. Water 1 or 2 days before you transplant—that’ll make the process much smoother. Dig a new home. Once you’ve picked the right place to plant, dig a hole that’s 2 or 3 times the width of the root ball and 5 to 10 centimeters deeper than the height of the root ball. It’s important to have the new planting site ready to go so you limit the amount of time the tree’s roots are exposed. (Keep these measurements in mind when finding a new spot for your tree!) Trench around tree roots. With a sharp spade, dig a circle around tree roots to create a root ball that’s the width you calculated in step 2. Dig down 30 - 50 centimeters, and then cut under the roots to round out the root ball. Transport the tree. Here’s where you’ll really want to take your time (and where it would be good to have an extra pair of hands.) Keeping the root ball secure is essential to the tree’s survival. To do that, cut a piece of burlap that’s large enough to cover the entire root ball. Then, carefully tip the root ball onto one side, and put the burlap in the hole. Roll the root ball onto the burlap, wrap it and secure it with twine. Lift the tree out of the hole from the bottom, making sure not to lift by the trunk. Then, gently carry the tree to the new planting spot.

Your tree's new home

Plant the tree. Place the tree in its new hole with the top of the root ball just slightly (no more than an inch or two) above ground level. Planting trees too deep is a pretty common mistake, but this handy video on planting trees at the proper depth will help you get it right. When the tree is in place, cut and remove the burlap and twine, and then fill the hole with soil from the original planting site. Protect from transplant shock. The tree is set, but your job is not quite done!

Protection from transplant shock

Water the tree thoroughly right after transplanting, and then follow these steps to protect your tree from the stress of transplant shock. One of the main reasons trees struggle after being planted or transplanted is because they lose a massive amount of their root system during the process. Sometimes up to 95 percent! And to make it even tougher, the roots that are left are often incredibly dry, but you can help out with that. Here’s how to help solve that: 

Hydrate roots with at least 5 minutes  of watering each week.

Add a 5 - 10 cm  deep layer of mulch from the tree’s base to its outermost leaves. Then, pull the mulch a few inches away from the trunk to avoid volcano mulching as you do not want your mulch in contact with the trunk of the tree.

Apply a light soluable fertiliser during water to promote growth.

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