White Oak transplanting

ncdaisiesMarch 27, 2008

I have 2 White Oaks that have popped up underneath a Pine tree in our side yard. I have let them be for 2 summers, and they are now about 3 feet tall. I want to transplant them to get them away from the Pine that we are taking down sometime this summer. When should I transplant, I have read in the Spring, but anything more specfic would be great. Also, any tips in making this a successful transplant would be very helpful. I just love these trees, and really want them to survive even, though, I probably won't be here by the time they mature. lol

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misssherry(Z8/9SE MS)

I would think you should move them immediately or wait until this fall, winter or early spring. Have they started to leaf out yet? Since they just popped up, I assume they came up from acorns, which would mean that they have a long taproot, so you'd need to dig down deep. Maybe other more knowledgeable forum members can tell you how deep to dig.
I won't be alive to see my white oaks get big either, but we can enjoy watching them grow, knowing that our grandchildren can enjoy the fruits of our labor! :)

    Bookmark   March 27, 2008 at 7:48PM
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Yes, I assume from an acorn, but I have no idea from where. There are no Oaks even remotely close to our home. All I can think is maybe the previous owners stuck them in the ground, but if they did, they choose a really, really poor spot. No, they have not begun leafing out yet. I know that digging them up will be quite the endeavor, but I was afraid to move them when they were so small. I am still learning alot about gardening, but I enjoy it so much and am getting much better. I haven't killed anything yet this year... knock on wood. So I will plan on this being my weekend project. Thanks!

    Bookmark   March 27, 2008 at 8:08PM
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Squirrels transplanted them so you could watch them grow. Transplanting oaks are tough because of their tap roots, but even if the ball you will dig craps out not all is lost. I'd say start with a 3 foot diameter ball, the soil can be trimmed back after you get to the bottom which I would surmise should be two feet. Wet the soil throughly 48 hours before digging if you have clay. Don't make it muddy. Whether you can dig it up in a ball or not, cut back the top 1/3 or less above an alternate leaf node.

Here is a link that might be useful: Propagating Perennials

    Bookmark   March 27, 2008 at 8:41PM
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Either do it before the buds burst, or after the trees go dormant next fall. Do not move them during the growing season.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2008 at 2:40PM
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Bravo! Yes, move these trees. White oaks are a treasure and nurseries seldom carry them. Spring is the best time, but early spring while they are still dormant. I have moved several white oaks like yours, only somewhat larger. All the moves were successful, so even though white oaks are not the easiest to move, they are not that hard if you are willing to work a little.

Dig all around the tree with a drain spade shovel--the long-bladed shovel with a rounded blade. This shovel can go deep. I would go about 18 inches away from the trunk on all sides. Give just a little lift with the shovel and go around twice. Then on one side dig a trench away from the circle you have made with the shovel--dig this so you can aim the shovel at a point about 2 feet or more directly under the base of the trunk of the tree. You are doing this to get a good angle so you can cut the taproot. You can't in all probability get all or even most of the taproot, but you should try to get about 2 feet, or better, a little more. No problem if you have to cut it where it is still fairly thick. If it is hard to cut, don't just keep banging it with the shovel--better to clear away the soil and try to get something really sharp to do the trick. Lopping shears if nothing else works.

After the taproot is cut, try lifting the tree a bit more, going all around gently. Eventually you will find and cut any and all roots that are holding the tree. Now plant like any other tree--water and mulch.

Oh, let me add this: dig your hole where you will plant the tree and make it as deep as the taproot will be long. If the taproot extends below the root ball you have with the tree, have someone hold the tree up after you place it in the hole so you can pack soil under the ball and around the taproot to suport the whole. If you plunk the tree down and the taproot is extending down below the root ball, you will cause too much disturbance.

If you can't find someone to help you, you can dig your hole with a little special narrow hole in the center to accomodate the taproot when you set it in the hole--kind of the reverse of the mound that people build in the center of a hole when planting bareroot trees that have no taproot. If you leave a little loose soft dirt in that center hole that can also be good to make sure the taproot is nicely tucked in.
Good for you, save the lovely white oak trees. One I planted many years ago is now about 35 feet tall and is more beautiful every year!


    Bookmark   March 28, 2008 at 7:38PM
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Hi,I want to move some bur oak and white oak with mechanical spade for CRP program oak savannah restoration. My oaks are tightly grouped and need thinning, but are 2-3 inch caliper. Is it possible to move these trees with a tree spade to another part of my property? Or am I just asking for problems with mortality?

    Bookmark   February 2, 2011 at 5:21PM
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I have transplanted trees with 3 inch caliper at 5 foot above ground, up to trees with 6 inch caliper.

I have had the most success so far with white oaks.

I have had zero success with hickories and all in the hickory family. Hickory taproot shoots straight down deeper than my equipment can go.

Winged elm seemed the most fragile and did not survive. Trees with many fibrous little spider roots require a special procedure in planting and also a steady supply of ground moisture to survive.

The two keys to transplanting any mature (3-6 inch caliper 5 foot above ground - like an 18-20 foot tall tree) are: 1. preserve the rootball intact from the dripline inward and place the tree on a wagon or cart so as not to shake the dirt off, and 2.; use a vibratory compactor and re-bury the rootball while adding well powdered dirt while your helper tanks the tree in with water.

Time to do this - JANUARY. Not spring, not fall!!! Yes, it sucks to be working when the ground is COLD and you are COLD and wet but this is the greatest chance for tree survival. Wait until march/april and your tree will DIE. Turgor pressure doesn't push oak leaves off until veyr late in winter so the tree is still actively growing and the little water pumps are doing things very late in the year.

    Bookmark   June 14, 2013 at 8:48AM
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brad_s(Z5 IL)

Getting back to the original post. We're talking about 2 year old saplings, nothing that requires tree spades.

Of all of the advice that has been offered thus far, I would say that based on my own experience, I would agree most with Quercus_M and Spruceman.

I would offer that the role of the taproot on an Oak is highly overrated. Yes, you should try to get as much of it as you can, but the lateral roots are more important as they are the moisture/nutrient gatherers. Based on the description of the subject trees, I would reckon that a foot and a half of taproot coupled with a foot and a half of diameter from the trunk should suffice.

SPRING, just after bud break is the optimal for moving any species of the White Oak tribe, and I would discourage *any* other time of year to move an Oak or Hickory. However, because these are small trees, you *might* be able to get away with moving as late as late July *provided* that you keep them well watered, and get no less than the roots as described above. This is if you are anxious to get 'em moved :-)

Digging them from the ground and attempting to move them in fall or winter (January) is a recipe for failure. These rules may be negotiable with a tree spade, but even at that I would not risk it.

Once they are moved, resist the temptation to fertilize or prune them. Let these trees recover for at least a year (longer for trees larger than these). When they put forth a flush of new growth the next year after moving your Oaks, you'll know that you've been successful! Go for it!

Just my 2 cents based on my personal experience.

Brad N.IL/Z5

    Bookmark   June 14, 2013 at 9:59PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

my experience here in z5 MI ...

is to move trees ... any size ... as soon as the ground thaws .. lol.. that probably doenst help you ...

6 to 8 weeks PRIOR to bud break.. so that as the soil warms.. the roots can start pumping water ... so the plant is hopefully functioning.. PRIOR to having to support leaf growth ...

the trick is to mark the darn little stick.. so you think of it in spring .... i have brilliant pink suryeres plactid stuff.. but you dont need to spend money on that ...

below is a pic of my moving of a cherry tree ... note the date on the pic .. it was out of the ground only long enough to snap that pic.. and the new hole was already dug .. hint.. hint ... dig it first ...

i am not sure about your zone ... but i would bet.. 6 to 8 weeks before bud break.. puts you in january or so ... where is john doe???


    Bookmark   June 15, 2013 at 9:14AM
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