transplanting apple trees

krp58(Maine z4/5)May 29, 2008

Hi, can someone tell me how to transplant? I am wondering how large of an area I need to dig around the tree?

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brandon7 TN_zone(7)

How big is your tree?

    Bookmark   May 29, 2008 at 3:39PM
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brandon7 TN_zone(7)

Oh yeah, you may already know this, but now is not the time to transplant trees.

    Bookmark   May 29, 2008 at 3:43PM
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krp58(Maine z4/5)

Hi, no I did not know this was a bad time LOL I thought that after they bloom is when to transplant...
The trees are 9' tall and about 5'around the branches. Thanks

    Bookmark   May 29, 2008 at 4:09PM
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brandon7 TN_zone(7)

Below is a link to a Wikipedia article that gives guidelines for how large the rootball should be for a given trunk diameter and how deep the rootball should be. There are lots of variables that the article only mentions in passing, but you should be alright in following the Wikipedia guidelines for this situation. If you have questions about the best way to plant (digging the hole, soil amendment, how deep to plant, mulching, etc.) please let me know.

The best time to transplant in your area (with much colder winters than here) is early spring just after the ground thaws out but before the tree's buds begin to swell. If that's not a good time, you may be able to transplant soon after leaf drop in the fall but before the ground freezes. This will give the tree a chance to get partially established before it has to deal with the stress brought on by summer heat. Transplanting now would require much more attention be given to watering and might present the tree with more stress than it could overcome.

BTW, do you have a pruning regimen in place? I am a total novice when it comes to pruning an apple tree, but from your description, I think it may need to be pruned. You don't want to let your apple tree grow taller than you can maintain and deal with.

There are a number of previous posts on this forum about pruning, so you could probably review them and get most of your questions answered. Some of the things you need to think about are:
1. How will you use your tree (fruit production, wildlife feeding, ornamental, etc.)?
2. What rootstock is your tree grafted onto (assuming it is a grafted tree)?
3. What variety of apple tree do you have?
4. How will you spray, prune, etc. your tree (from the ground, on a ladder, in a bucket truck, etc.)?

If you read through the pruning posts and still have questions, I'm sure some of the pro-pruners around here would be glad to help.

Here is a link that might be useful: See 'Steps in digging'

    Bookmark   May 29, 2008 at 7:26PM
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Agree with Brandon that the time to transplant apple trees is when the ice is barely out of the ground and you can get a spade into it. This would be well before bloom or any bud swell. If you try it after the trees wake up, chances of losing them are very high.

Even if you transplant in full dormancy, it would be wise to prune back the tops to balance the inevitable loss of root structure. Trees of the size you describe are not too large to transplant, but, having missed the window for this season, they will be a little larger the next. I would probably prune them back during this growing season, and run a spade around them about 18 inches out to cut off some feeder roots in preparation for transplant early next spring. It's not going to be an easy job.

Don Yellman, Great Falls, VA

    Bookmark   May 30, 2008 at 4:38AM
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brandon7 TN_zone(7)

The idea of pruning to balance the loss or root structure is debatable at best; some nurseries still recommend it, but most modern studies show that, in general, this practice is not needed and can even be detrimental. BUT, there are other reasons (ease of maintenance, ease of harvesting, etc) that would call for pruning when it comes to fruit trees. Prune with these reasons in mind, not just to cut back a lot of limbs or reduce total foliage. Don (and others) has a number of posts that describe pruning methods and objectives.

Don's idea about root pruning now is an excellent idea that I didn't think to recommend.

    Bookmark   May 30, 2008 at 4:35PM
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You are right that everything is debatable in this business, but, since trees depend on energy stored in the roots to start up in spring, pruning back the tops a little always made sense to me to reduce transplant stress. I have seen opinions to the contrary, but when opinions are somewhat divided, I usually do what seems best to me.

I am a convert to the open vase form even for apple trees, and it has increased the productivity of my trees while holding them down to where I can work on them from a 7-foot tripod ladder. Doing it in late summer helps to hold down the return of interior growth. I have been mulching the trees for years with stable manure, and they tend to grow very vigorously, maybe too vigorously.

Don Yellman, Great Falls, VA

    Bookmark   May 30, 2008 at 8:21PM
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