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How to use a digging bar to remove a tree or shrub for replanting?

How to use a digging bar to transplant a tree

Shop for Digging Bars

Which design is best?

Chisel edge Because this task may involve cutting through tough roots and lifting a heavy root ball from the base of a tree, you’ll need a bar which is sturdy and well-made, with a chisel edge.
Post hole digging bar Donkee recommends a post-hole digging bar, which will give you the leverage and cutting ability needed, without the weight of a regular or telegraph digging bar, which may damage a tree.
Archimedes' Law of the Lever Using the law of the lever, you now know that for the best leverage possible when lifting the stump, you should choose a longer bar.

What else will you need?

A Spade A spade
A Piece of Sacking Cloth A piece of sacking cloth
Pruning Shears A pair of loppers or pruning shears
A Bag of Coarse Sand A bag of coarse sand

Wonkee’s hoof-by-hoof guide: How to remove a tree or shrub for replanting

dead sapling, dead tree, sapling, tree, dead wood, deadwood, tree death, sapling death Moving a living tree or shrub is a delicate task, and must be carried out with care to avoid damaging or killing your plant.

A rushed transplant will almost always result in failure.

  Wonkee Donkee says: "Preparations for a successful transplant should begin at least a year in advance!"

Between Nov and Feb a year before the transplant:

A Diagram Depicting the Trench, Parallel to the Base of the Tree and the Branches

Step 1 – Dig trench

Dig a trench around the base of the tree, about parallel with the edge of the branches.

Coarse Sand

Step 2 – Fill trench with sand

On the same day, fill the trench with a coarse sand. This will encourage particularly fibrous root growth, which will help the plant to re-establish itself when replanted.

Pruning Branches

Step 3 – Prune branches

Prune back any aged or sickly branches – this will encourage new growth in Spring. Younger, greener plant material is more likely to survive replanting than older wood. Be careful not to over-prune; some trimming will encourage new growth, but too much can make it difficult for a plant to cope with a move.

The day before the transplant:

Watering Hose

Step 1 – Water soil

Water the soil well throughout the day.

Preparing the Spot the Plant will be Moved to

Step 2 – Prepare transplant location

Prepare the spot the plant will be moved to.

The day of the transplant:

Root Spread of a Tree

Step 1 – Dig around base of tree

Dig carefully around the base of the tree to determine root spread – this should extend about as far as the edge of the branches, but may be longer or shorter on some specimens. It’s important to save as much of the root as possible.

Step 2 – Restrain branches

To decrease damage during transplant, carefully restrain the branches by tying them off with a soft rope or non-adhesive tape.

A Severed Root

Step 3 – Sever restrictive roots

Using the chisel edge of your bar, carefully and cleanly sever any roots which are too thick or long to be saved, or which are a stabilising element of another garden feature, such as a fence. The cleaner the cut to a root or branch, the easier it will be for your plant to heal.

Levering the Rootball Up from Beneath

Step 4 – Lift root ball

Using the pointed end of your bar, or the flat of your chisel edge if you are using a post-hole digging bar, gently lever the plant up from beneath the root ball, preserving as much of it as possible.

Step 5 – Keep moist

When the tree is free, place it on a piece of damp sacking, keeping the roots covered to prevent drying. Remember, roots spend their whole natural lives below the ground, so exposure to wind and sun can quickly become detrimental.

Step 6 – Keep moist (contd)

Replant as soon as possible after removal. If you have to wait, pack the roots with mulch (such as compost) and keep them covered with damp sacking cloth. Make sure that they are well-watered at all times.

Replanting the Tree

Step 7 – Place plant in hole

Place the plant in the new hole. Stretch the roots out, making sure that they can extend fully inside the hole. Adjust its size if necessary.

Burying the Roots

Step 8 – Cover roots

Cover the roots, using the height of the soil mark on the stem or trunk to determine the depth the plant should be buried at. Burying too much of the plant will kill it, as will leaving any of the roots exposed; take your time and make sure.

Tamping Soil

Step 9 – Tamp soil

Using the tamper head of your bar, gently compact the earth around the base of your plant to eliminate any air pockets beneath the soil.

Staked Tree

Step 10 – Secure stem

If your plant is particularly large or weak-stemmed, use a stake or guy to keep it upright until the roots are re-established – this will prevent wind-rock (which can damage the roots, and allow water to collect in the ‘socket’ around the base of the tree, leading to rot.)

 WONKEE the Vampire slayer!

For a year after planting:

Dry Ground

Step 1 – Keep well-watered

Keep the plant well-watered during dry spells.

Organic Mulch

Step 2 – Maintain thick mulch

Maintain a thick mulch of organic matter, such as compost, around the roots – but don’t leave any touching the base of the plant, as this can rot the wood.

Fertilizer Bags

Step 3 – Fertilise

In spring, apply fertiliser to aid regrowth.

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