Don't Transplant Trees and Shrubs in Summer
Grumpy has been inundated lately by queries from people who want to know if it's OK to transplant trees or shrubs to new locations now.
Grumpy's answer: Only if you really want to kill them.
Vicki's inquiry is typical. She writes (well, types): "I have a white 'Natchez' crepe myrtle tree next to my pool. It is full of beautiful, white blooms, but so is my swimming pool. Can it be moved and survive? The thought of killing such a beautiful tree is killing me, but so is the constant pool maintenance." Here's a photo.
Now the Grump has seen a full-sized crepe myrtle tree moved in the heat of summer that survived. Unfortunately, this kind of operation involves digging a trench around a very large root ball, wrapping the root ball with burlap, and using a tractor to move the root ball to the new location. Few people other than the Incredible Hulk are equipped to do this themselves, so they have to pay a bundle to get it done. Don't want to pay? Then you either have to wait until fall to move it or move it yourself now and kill it. It's a tough world. Click here to read more about what Grumpy and his good friend, Matt Damon, have to say about transplanting a crepe myrtle at the right time.
Joyce, who lives in Zone 5 (gets cold there in winter), wants to know if she can transplant her dwarf English boxwoods now.
Grumpy's answer: Again, no. Even in Zone 5, where the Grump understands moose and polar bears regularly wander the streets, it gets hot in summer. Disturbing the roots of an actively growing tree or shrub in hot weather causes transplanting shock and probable death, even if you water it. Wait until the plant goes dormant in the cool weather of fall. Then click here and follow Grumpy's step-by-step instructions for moving boxwoods at the proper time.
MK in Oklahoma has a different problem. She writes, "For Father's Day, my son gave his dad three beautiful 'Hoopsii' blue spruces about 8 feet tall growing in pots. Since it is past planting season here, how do I care for them during the hot dry days of summer, as I can't plant until September?"
Grumpy's answer: Even though summer isn't the best time to plant, for trees growing in pots it is better to plant them in the ground now than leave them where they are. This is because root balls in the ground won't dry out as fast as those in pots. Oklahoma's clay soil is a problem for spruces, so I suggest you plant your trees high. This means digging a hole that's 2-3 times as wide as each root ball, but no deeper. Using excavated soil, partially fill each hole so that the top inch of the root ball is above the soil surface. Then fill in around the ball and thoroughly soak it. Spread several inches of mulch atop the exposed ball to cool the roots and keep them moist. Keep each tree well watered throughout the summer. For a crash course on Tree Planting 101, click here.