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Tree Blog

Pruning the roots of the fruit tree before planting

Pruning the Roots of Your Tree to Transplant It

One rule for gardeners is to make sure that you never damage the roots of your trees. The roots send nutrients and water to the rest of the tree, and if they’re injured, they can’t do their job as well. This can result in the tree weakening or even dying. However, you’ll need to prune the roots of your tree if you’re going to transplant it, for it’s nearly impossible to transplant the tree with its entire root system. The good news is that this can be done with minimal damage to your tree. Here’s how.

Try to Transplant Only Small Trees

Small trees survive root cutting and transplanting far better than larger trees. Arborists recommend that if you must cut the roots of a tree that has a diameter of more than 2 inches or roots that are more than 2 inches wide, you call for professional help. Even with a small tree it’s a good idea to have someone help you.

Cut Along the Drip Line

The drip line is the circular area around the tree where the longest branches end. It’s called this because water from the tips of these branches drips down into the ground. This is approximately the circumference at which you should cut the roots.

Decide the Best Time to Prune the Roots

You don’t prune the roots at the same time you’re going to transplant the tree. It’s best to move your tree in the spring or in the fall. If you’re going to transplant your tree in the fall, prune the roots in the summer. If you’re going to transplant it in the spring, prune them in late fall to early winter. Arborists recommend waiting six months between pruning the roots and transplanting the tree.

How to Cut the Roots

After you’ve measured the size of the new root ball, mark it with a circle around it. You can use chalk so the circle can stand out from the surrounding grass. Water the soil deeply at least a day before cutting the roots. Clean and sharpen a spade, and then use it to cut into the roots, following the chalk circle as a guide. Cut about a foot into the soil to sever the roots cleanly.

When you are ready to transplant the tree, move it onto a large piece of burlap nearby, roll the root ball into it, tie it, and take it carefully to the place where you want the tree to be.

Learn More About Pruning Your Tree Roots

It may take a year or longer before the transplanted tree adjusts to its new location. Fortunately, many trees are long-lived and can adjust well to their new space if they’re cared for well. For more information about pruning your tree roots, contact our arborists today at Altar Tree Service of Salem, OR.