How to move an advanced or old tree

If you need to move a large established tree or plant at home, it can be tricky. There are many things you need to consider to ensure that the tree doesn’t experience transplant shock in the move. Bunnings National Greenlife Buyer Katie explains what you need to do and provides a few tips for the job.

Why move an advanced or mature tree?

There are many reasons why you might wish to move a mature tree or plant. You might want to add more shade to an area or you’ve recently changed the layout of your backyard and want to move the tree to a different spot. Or maybe the tree is struggling to thrive in its current location. Whatever the reason, there are a few simple things to keep in mind.

1. Choose when to move an established tree

If you’re going to move a mature tree, your aim is to minimise the shock to the tree, which will help it survive. “The best time to move a mature deciduous tree is in autumn after the leaves have fallen. The soil will also have enough warmth in it from summer to encourage new growth,” Katie explains. Spring is also a good time to move a mature tree before the buds break out on the branches. 

2. Prune the roots of old trees

It’s a good idea to give the longer roots a prune up to six months before you move the tree. Katie says “this will encourage new smaller roots to sprout within the root ball, which will help it settle into its new place.” Dig a trench around the tree at the foliage line and cut off the longer roots with a spade. Then replace the soil in the trench you’ve dug and water the tree to help it recover from the shock it’ll experience.

3. Prepare the new location

When you’ve settled on your new location, dig your hole deep and wide enough for the root ball of the mature tree to sit in. You can also add some organic matter such as compost or a fertiliser into the hole before you place the tree.

4. Dig out your mature tree

With a spade, dig a circle around the old tree to expose the root ball. Lift the spade under the root ball and loosen the soil from the roots. Depending on the size of the tree, you may be able to simply lift the tree right out of the ground with the spade. If not, you can lay the tree down on one side as you loosen the roots from the soil. Try to keep as much of the root ball intact as this’ll help you overcome transplant shock.

5. Re-plant your old tree

Position the tree in its new hole, and make sure the tree is facing the way that you want before you re-plant. If the ground is dry, you may also need to give it a healthy dose of water. When the tree is in place, backfill the hole with soil so that the tree trunk is at the same height it was in its original location.

Pat down the soil firmly to get rid of any air bubbles. Then add some manure or compost and water in liberally. You can also add a seaweed solution to give the tree a greater chance to grow healthily. Add mulch around the tree and it will be thriving again in no time.

Get gardening

Check out the full range of mature trees available at your local Bunnings Warehouse.

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Health & Safety

Please make sure you use all equipment appropriately and safely when following the advice in these D.I.Y. videos. You need to be familiar with how to use equipment safely and follow the instructions that came with the equipment. If you are unsure, you may feel it is safest to consult an expert, such as the manufacturer or an expert Bunnings Team Member.

Grave health hazards are linked to asbestos, which may be in homes built up to 1990. Health hazards may result from exposure to lead-based paints in older materials and copper chromium arsenic (CCA) treated timber. For information on the dangers of asbestos, lead-based paint and CCA treated timber and tips for dealing with these materials contact your local council's Environmental Health Officer or visit our Health & Safety page. You can also use a simple test kit from Bunnings to indicate the presence of lead-based paint.
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