February 4, 2017

1 – Transplanting established fruit trees can be sometimes be successful if done properly.

Yard and Garden February 4, 2017

Q.

I live in Austin, Texas and I have a ‘Moongold’ Apricot tree that is crowded. It was my fault for planting it where I did. I planted it 5 years ago and it is about 4 inches in diameter at the base.

I dug up and moved a peach tree last year from the same approximate location and soil. I was wondering if it is possible or advisable to move an apricot tree in the same fashion. I would hate to cut down such a healthy tree just because I put it in too small of an area.

- Mike

From NMSU University-wide Extension

A.

Peaches are closely related to apricots. They are both in the genus “Prunus” in the Rose family. Since you successfully moved the peach (it was successful, right?), then there is a good chance that the apricot will survive the move. However, there is no guarantee that it will succeed. You will want to move it very soon while it is still dormant.

You may choose to prune the tree back some before moving it to make it easier to move. As far as pruning to compensate for root loss during the move, I prefer to let the plant decide where it will die back and then pruning the branches and twigs that indicate that the roots supporting them have been diminished. You may be surprised at which branches the tree chooses. There may be no distinct reduction in branches, so then they will not need to be pruned to compensate for root loss. Of course, you should prune any branches that are broken during transplanted.

As you dig the tree, dig as wide a rootball as possible to minimize the loss of absorptive roots. The absorptive roots are the very small hair roots and root hairs. Larger roots serve mainly as pipe or conduits for the water and nutrients collected by the absorptive roots. The larger the roots that you cut, the greater the chance that it cannot regenerate the smaller absorptive root system. By digging a wide rootball you will cut smaller roots that can more easily regenerate absorptive roots.

Because roots will be lost in the transplanting process, irrigation becomes important. Too much irrigation so that soil remains soggy is not good, but sufficient irrigation to maintain moist soil in the root zone is important. Organic mulch can help reduce soil drying and provide a more consistent soil temperature environment that will encourage new root growth.

Proper planting site preparation is also important. Loosen the soil in a much larger area than the width of the rootball, but do not loosen the soil deeper than the depth of the rootball. You do not want the tree to sink as the soil in the hole under the tree compacts, so set the rootball on naturally compacted soil. The wide loosening of the soil will facilitate permeation of water an oxygen needed by the developing roots. Addition of organic matter (compost) into the planting site is good, but not just in the immediate area of the rootball. Work the organic matter into the entire planting site so roots are encouraged to grow and extend into the soil away from the tree. The addition of organic matter is especially important if the soil is sandy or if the soil has high clay content. Compost will help sandy soil hold moisture and will slowly release nutrients to the roots as they develop. Organic matter will improve the structure and aeration of clay soils and in doing so will facilitate development of new roots.

Do not put fertilizer or manure into the planting hole. They can burn the newly developing roots. Fertilization can begin in a year or two after the tree has established its new root system.

If the tree fails to establish after the move, you can always purchase a new tree to replace it. Or, you can choose to leave the old tree in its crowded location and plant a new tree in a more spacious location. The crowded tree will then be able to produce apricots until the new tree establishes itself and begins producing fruit.

For more gardening information, visit the NMSU Extension publications Web site at http://aces.nmsu.edu/pubs/_h, or to read past articles of Yard and Garden go to http://aces.nmsu.edu/pubs/periodicals.html.

Send your gardening questions to Yard and Garden, Attn: Dr. Curtis Smith at cwsmith@nmsu.edu or leave a message at https://www.facebook.com/NMSUExtExpStnPubs.

Curtis W. Smith, Ph.D., is an Extension Horticulture Specialist, retired from New Mexico State University's Cooperative Extension Service. NMSU and the U.S. Department of Agriculture cooperating.