How does one successfully transplant a grapefruit tree?

BarbJP CA 15-16/9BApril 3, 2014

A friend of mine offered me her older Oro Blanco grapefruit tree. It's been in the ground several years, not sure how long, I forgot to ask, but probably over 5 years, most likely more. Her soil is nice clay-loam. Mine is well draining clay/silt/rocks/loam. (old creek bed soil, on a slight slope)
What would be a good pre-transplant plan? Should we root prune with a spade around the root ball first? If so, how far from the trunk? How long before moving should that be done? Any nutrients needed during those weeks?

What's the upper limit on age of a citrus tree that would be worthwhile to move?
It's now about 4-5 feet, pretty sure it's a Four Winds dwarf tree.

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Some here have a lot more experience than I have but I suspect it will be a tricky move. I transplanted a kumquat tree last year that was about 3-ft tall and had been in the ground for probably 3-4 years. I dug a huge trench out just beyond the drip line, and dug it deep enough I hoped to get the tap root. I ultimately cut through the tap root about 18-inches below the tree and still struggled to get the huge wad of dirt and the tree out of the hole. The poor tree is still alive but it shed lots of branches. It's just now looking like it will turn around and is putting out some new growth.

    Bookmark   April 3, 2014 at 9:43AM
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Suzi AKA DesertDance Zone 9b

Think of a hexagon, and every two weeks make a slice in the root system on each side of the hexagon. This will give you a gradual root prune and will allow the tree to make more feeder roots prior to the move. Once you have the entire thing root pruned, roll it out of it's hole and put it in burlap for its trip to it's new place. Ours did great this way!


    Bookmark   April 3, 2014 at 10:05AM
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hoosierquilt USDA 10A Sunset 23 Vista CA(10b Sunset 23)

Do not try to root prune if you can, or do the very least amount of root pruning (at 5 years of age, and being a grapefruit, you may not be able to avoid this). Attempt to take the largest root ball possible. Your feeder roots will extend to the edge of the tree's canopy or a bit beyond. The tap root can be quite deep, so that might have to be cut. Try to place the root ball in damp burlap or a very large wheelbarrow. Try not to pull the tree out by the trunk, which can damage and shock the feeder roots, but using several people, pull it out by the root ball. Dig a hole slightly larger than the root ball. Be sure not to plant too deeply - not any deeper than the surface of the rootball. Gently place in the hole. Backfill with your native soil. Water in well to remove any air pockets, and back fill further if needed. Provide a nice large water well at the outside of the hole. Try not to over-handle the root ball as much as possible to lessen transplant shock. Water regularly, as needed to keep the soil moist but not soggy. Expect some mild to severe transplant shock, depending on how much the roots are disturbed. Allow the tree to recover. Once you start seeing new flush, water, then fertilize with 1/2 strength liquid citrus fertilizer. One the tree has recovered, you can switch to a good quality granular citrus fertilizer product. Be sure to treat for Citrus Leaf Miner at the appropriate times for your area, so new flush is not damaged.

Patty S.

    Bookmark   April 3, 2014 at 2:12PM
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molewacker z9b Napa CA (No.SFBay)(9b Danville E(SF)Bay CA)

Patty and Suzi offer great advice. I'd only add that i have had success using a pitch fork rather than a spade in my transplant follies. I suggest as above that you try to not cut / damage the roots, but it is inevitable that some will be cut. When I transplant, I try to tug and pull them out of the ground gently; almost bare-rooting many of the outer extending feeders. Indeed, some grow well beyond the drip line.

I moved a 6+ ft. tall Redblush on Swingle grapefruit that was in the ground for ~ 5 years. I snapped the major upright branch during the excavation. It was an epic battle to stuff it into my big Buick. It has been two full years of TLC during which a new leaf or fruit appeared here and there. it is now pushing a major new leaf flush and appears to have regained its vigor. Be patient with the recovery.


    Bookmark   April 4, 2014 at 12:55PM
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BarbJP CA 15-16/9B

Thanks everyone for all the good advice.

I'm going to check and see how long it's actually been in the ground. If it's 5 years or less, I think I'll give it a try. If more, I think I'll pass. Thinking back on our conversation, I think it may have been 3-5 years, that might be doable.

If I do it, I'll do it quick, have the hole dug and ready, dig it out quick and take it right over and plant it asap. She lives only about 10 minutes away from my place.

If I move it, I'll take pictures and post them.
Should be interesting, as we're both ladies in our early 50's! But we're both in the landscape/nursery business, so it may go OK. I think I'll see if I can get a couple of the 20 something guys I work with to give us a hand with the heavy lifting.

What we all do for the love of plants! LOL!

    Bookmark   April 4, 2014 at 9:58PM
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