Transplanting Small Trees in Northern Nevada.

The Victim

Transplanting small trees from the sandy soil of Northern Nevada to another location
can at best be described as something of a challenge.

What we have here is a year old Crab Apple tree that needs to be moved north a ways.

It is late September, 2007 and the weather has finally cooled down.  Temps at night are in
the 40's.  This is a good time to transplant a tree.

As an aside, it is also a good time to plant a new tree.  Giving the roots a chance to set and
grow over winter gives a new tree a bit of a boost the following spring.  Some say that boost
can be as much as a year over one planted in the spring.  I don't know about that, but I think
it helps.

Digging the Hole

The first thing of course, is to dig a new hole.  The dirt here is typical of the area - 90% sand.
Fill the hole up with water and let it soak in.  If you don't do this and just put the new tree
in the hole, backfill and  water, the dry sand in the hole pulls the water away from the
newly planted tree, which gets you off to a bad start.

Mixing Dirt.

I use a 50-50 mix of real dirt and native sand.  This seems to work better than the recommended
1/3-2/3 mix.  Miracle Gro garden soil works well for me.

Keeping the Dirt Together

What's the first thing that happens after you carefully dig the tree out, taking care
to keep the roots in the soil?  Around here the sandy soil promptly falls off the roots.

Pictured here is one solution.  Cut the bottom out of a 3 gallon plastic pot, cutting
through the drain holes around the bottom.  The resulting notches work as an auger.

Tree Removal

Place the pot around the tree and auger it down by twisting from side to side.
Use a shovel to cut any long roots and to help work the pot down.

Fill the pot up with water and let it drain.  This helps keep the soil together.

The New Hole

Meanwhile,  take another three gallon pot and set it to the correct depth in the new hole.
Fill the hole around the pot to the desired depth and fill once again with water, letting it
soak through.

Every few inches I throw in a handful of bone meal.  I believe this actually helps.

The Move

Work a plastic bag under the now potted tree (which now has no bottom) and set beside the new hole.
Remove the temporary pot from the new hole and insert the tree, pot and all.


Slide the pot up over the tree and pull out the plastic bag.  Fill the hole to its
final depth, using more bone meal and a heavier percentage of  good dirt to native sand.

Fill with water again and let soak down.


Now is a great time to add a sprinkler.  I prefer the ones with a 360% pattern which are capable
of putting out  @ 10 gph.


I remove gravel and replace with several inches of bark.  Test the new sprinkler and ensure it works.

The last thing I do is prune all the tips back six inches or so.  My theory with this is that it puts the
brakes on growing while the tree is in transplant shock, and it seems to work.

Other than saying three Hail Mary's,  this looks good to go.  

Now if we can just make it through winter....