moving a mature plum

yukkuri_kame(Sunset 19 / USDA 9)February 23, 2013

Saw a freecycle ad for a 'mature' plum tree someone needs to move... you dig it you and take it home.

Not sure what 'mature' means. How many years old, trunk diameter, or how tall they've let it grow. Obviously, I will prune the top aggressively, but what about the roots?

Are there any guidelines on how much of the root ball needs to be saved?

Obviously as much as possible... but... I just moved a 2 year apple and that was a PITA to dig.

Hard to imagine digging up a 5+ year old tree without doing a major hack job on the roots.

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Tony(Zone 5. Omaha, Nebraska)

Yukkuri,

I have moved a 5 years old Asian pear that was too close to the house before, you were right about the PITA. I kept all the small lateral roots. All the big roots were chopped off to about 2 feet in length. I forgot how many hours of labor but it was a lot. It took a couple of years for the Asian pear to fruit again.

    Bookmark   February 24, 2013 at 8:09AM
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alan haigh

Difficulty depends as much on soil as tree size. More root more better and plums have no need for accompanying soil so do it bare root using a fork and heavy spade. Free roots carefully as far out as reasonable for you.

Ask about diameter of trunk ahead of time- more than 3" and you are talking about pretty big work. You will probably need at least a light truck for moving it unless it is not too big and branches can be tied together and the tree slipped into something with a hatch-back. Could also be loaded on a roof-rack.

Tree should be dormant but plums- especially J. plums, transplant better than most fruit species and I've moved them after bud break without difficulty. Full leaf is another question.

    Bookmark   February 24, 2013 at 8:31AM
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yukkuri_kame(Sunset 19 / USDA 9)

Thanks for the replies.

Tree is just starting to bud out, but definitely not leafed out yet.

Trunk looks like it may be 3-5" diameter (ugh!), from some unclear photos I've seen.

It's got a lot of upright growth that needs to be pruned aggressively anyway.

I've got a truck and at least 1 more body, hopefully 2. Shovels, forks, saws, loppers and other implements of destruction...

Next couple days it's time to get 'er done...

    Bookmark   February 24, 2013 at 10:57PM
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alan haigh

Pick might help as well. Use shovel by placing blade sideways to tree and you will sever fewer roots. A cultivating fork is the best tool for most of the job, though.

I depend on my King Of Spades long handled solid metal shovel to lift such trees but not worth the cost for a single tree.

    Bookmark   February 25, 2013 at 6:13AM
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yukkuri_kame(Sunset 19 / USDA 9)

Yeah, I've got the pickaxe & cultivating fork, too. Good tip about inserting the shovel sideways to the tree. Makes perfect sense, but I would have never thought of it.

    Bookmark   February 25, 2013 at 11:17PM
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alan haigh

You don't have a nursery and thousands of hours of "conversation" with immigrating trees over the years.

Plum roots aren't too brittle and you will probably be able to move as much root as you have patience for mining for them.

If you get enough root you may even be able to get fruit the first year- something I don't recommend for most species. Usually first year is for root and not fruit for transplants.

    Bookmark   February 26, 2013 at 5:31AM
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alan haigh

You will also be able to do this best if soil is saturated and you can rock the tree back and forth as you get close to removal. This will help to locate and even pull roots free as you rock and gradually lift the tree.

    Bookmark   February 26, 2013 at 5:34AM
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yukkuri_kame(Sunset 19 / USDA 9)

Showed up at the nice lady's house and we see little flags denoting buried gas and electric lines right around the base of the tree..ha!

More than we bargained for. And tree turned out to be pretty substantial. 6"+ diameter trunk.

Started by doing a quick hack job on the canopy with my electric pole saw. It's now an ugly goblet.

After nearly 4 hours of clearing the major lateral roots and start to dig under the tree, my buddy (with longer legs than me) was able to wedge himself between the building and the tree and use his legs and I climbed up on the opposite side of the tree and we were able to get the tree rocking and finally it came out. So heavy we could barely get it into the pickup, any bigger it wouldn't have fit.

Guess he'll get it in the ground tomorrow. It's got a pretty good root ball, and it will be well looked-after this summer.

Thanks for the tips and moral support.

    Bookmark   February 26, 2013 at 9:57PM
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