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transplanting trees

Posted by harvestman 6 (My Page) on
Tue, Feb 26, 13 at 6:23

http://www.goodfruit.com/Good-Fruit-Grower/April-15th-2011/Prevent-transplant-shock/

Some of you might enjoy reading this. I don't agree with every thing Bas writes but it is an interesting take on transplanting trees.

Wish I knew which of his statements are actually research based. When I transplant dormant trees I rarely water them in. The fine roots are already dead and new absorptive roots must regrow into soil.

He claims water helps coat the roots with soil particles. He seems very concerned of roots drying out but I don't believe this is such a big issue with dormant transplants based on my own experience (including accidentally leaving unplanted trees out in the sun for a day).


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: transplanting trees

  • Posted by ericwi Dane County WI (My Page) on
    Tue, Feb 26, 13 at 10:01

Funny how those accidents force us to think again about what we thought was true. I'm sure you didn't mean to leave a bare root tree exposed to sun and wind, but it happened, and if the tree was planted and survived, that is significant.


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RE: transplanting trees

I planted 30 Old Fashioned Lilacs this past fall. The nurseryman had me water them in.

I asked why and was told that the roots need the moisture, but another reason was that would help remove any air pockets.


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RE: transplanting trees

  • Posted by olpea zone 6 KS (My Page) on
    Tue, Feb 26, 13 at 11:39

" When I transplant dormant trees I rarely water them in."

I agree, I never water them in, nor do I soak the roots.

I think the author's advice should be climate dependent. Here, it rains so much in the spring, it's a complete waste of time to water trees in.

Even if there aren't heavy spring rains, for early spring planting, I don't see the difference between planting the trees in damp soil or the refrigerated storage from which they came. In both cases the trees are dormant with little to no transpiration losses, and the roots stay moist.

If the soil was dry, with little rain in the forecast, or soil clumpy so that it doesn't fill in well around the roots, then I can see advantages to watering the trees in.


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I have read that new root formation is inhibited by air pockets. I don't know if it is true. The underground air will be plenty moist (in my region) that I don't worry about drying out but I can see the reasoning behind a reluctance of the tree to send new rootlets into what it perceives as void space.

With a nicely rooted bare root tree there certainly can be a central core that it is difficult to get dirt to fill into with anything but the nicest friable soils.
I like to water in some when the hole is half filled with the express purpose of flooding sediment into that little "netted" area.


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RE: transplanting trees

Because I have seen roots grow right through coarse wood chips and all manner of air pockets and never seen verifying research about the common warning about what harm they do I assume it is just one of those things that is said and believed without question.

Of course you want to plant trees in soil with just the right amount of moisture and that's what we almost always have here in the northeast in spring in soil with good drainage. Bas's statement, however, suggests that it is not about the moisture level of the soil and is about water washing particles of soil against the roots and I just wonder where he came up with this. There is no danger of roots drying out when there is 100 percent humidity in the air pockets- which I assume is the case in moist soil.


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RE: transplanting trees

I have planted several hundred trees on my property over 27 years...and I always water mine in well. There are some situations that it is not extremely important (such as the person who lives in a very wet/rainy climate). I have heard of hydroponics....but never heard of roots being nurtured and grown in mid air. I know we all occasionally do things wrong (or less than ideal) and get away with it. It is best to do things the tested/true way.


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FD, that's the point. I plant several hundred trees every season and don't consider hearsay "tested true". Planting trees without watering in is how orchards have been planted in the humid region for generations but for as long as I remember I've read the recommendation of watering trees in at transplant time. However, I've never seen a sliver of actual evidence that watering in is helpful with dormant plants in moist soil.

When I Iived in CA I always watered stuff in but we were in the habit of relying on irrigation.


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RE: transplanting trees

yeah, so why if they have not dried out do they need water?
guess I always thought it was to encourage good bacteria & fungi to snuggle up against the dormant roots ensuring a beneficial environment when they do begin growing
but I fer sure don't have your experience hm


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RE: transplanting trees

One thing that doesn't make sense to me is to soak the root ball.

Roots are symbiotic with the soil and fungus/bacteria around them, soaking would just seem to wash away what little soil remains connected to the roots after digging.

Here in SoCal, no question I am giving that tree a good soaking once it's planted.


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RE: transplanting trees

  • Posted by olpea zone 6 KS (My Page) on
    Tue, Feb 26, 13 at 22:43

" I know we all occasionally do things wrong (or less than ideal) and get away with it. It is best to do things the tested/true way."

Fireduck,

Since the article was featured in commercial literature I'll respond from that perspective.

It is true that most planting guidelines do recommend watering trees in as a blanket guideline. However, I disagree it's always best to follow blanket guidelines. As Hman points out, tried and true guidelines are rarely universally "tried and true."

We generally get about 6" of rain per month in the spring months with little loss to evaporation. Generally the ground is completely saturated many times during the spring, with water sitting on top of the soil. This type of rainfall is not uncommon for many areas east of the Continental Divide.

I can't see any benefit to watering trees in this situation and neither does the article address this common scenario. For me, watering trees at planting simply involves more labor without any logical benefit.

Last year I planted about 250 trees. The ground was all torn up from preparing the site for planting, and with the normal spring rains, the row middles were all muddy. Even if I wanted to water the trees in, I wouldn't have been able to do it.

My peach trees have always shown high vigor under this type of planting, even in the first season.

I think the article was interesting and provided some food for thought, but I think the danger in this recommendation is that it can become a distraction from the really important horticultural practices.

For peaches, planting in (or making) a well drained site and keeping the area mulched and weed free is 90% of the battle. Until I see actual research conducted in wet climates, for me watering in trees is just a diversion from more important work.

In poor drained water saturated soil, I actually think watering in peach trees would do more harm than good. I've rarely seen peach trees suffer significantly from too little water, but have lost many from too much water.

Soaking the roots fall in the same category for me. What's the point of soaking in a bucket when the roots will be soaked soon enough in the ground?


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RE: transplanting trees

  • Posted by fruitnut z7b-8a,4500ft SW TX (My Page) on
    Tue, Feb 26, 13 at 22:47

In west Texas any newly planted tree, bare root or potted, that isn't watered in stands a nearly 100% chance of being dead. And even with watering in the tree will die if not watered regularly. In mid to late summer we can get periods with enough rain that a first year tree could go periods of weeks without irrigation.

So any recommendation like this is very dependent on soil and climate. I'm not disputing anything anyone else has stated. Just know that conditions vary widely.


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Good points OP. Because this was written for commercial producers it is assumed without saying that all weed competition will be destroyed- usually chemically and that the site was selected fulfilling all the usual requirements of drainage and soil quality.


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O...your note addressed to me seemed to try to prove my ideas wrong by noting situations where the ground is saturated and the climate rainy. I think I addressed that situation in my comments. you wrote ....."We generally get about 6" of rain per month in the spring months with little loss to evaporation. Generally the ground is completely saturated many times during the spring, with water sitting on top of the soil. This type of rainfall is not uncommon for many areas east of the Continental Divide.
I can't see any benefit to watering trees in this situation and neither does the article address this common scenario. For me, watering trees at planting simply involves more labor without any logical benefit. "


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RE: transplanting trees

  • Posted by olpea zone 6 KS (My Page) on
    Wed, Feb 27, 13 at 13:26

"I think I addressed that situation in my comments."

My pardon Fireduck. You had a statement that allowed for an exception for wet/rainy climates, but I interpreted your overall flavor of your post to be that growers should heed the blanket advice to water in, based on a "rather safe than sorry" philosophy. My mistake.


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FD stated watering in wet rainy locations "may not be extremely important" which is not the same as not very important or of no significance.

The point of a discussion is not to prove anyone wrong but I don't see the sense of being polite to the point of not actually hashing out the facts of the discussion. If I believed watering bare root trees in moist soil offered any appreciable benefit I would do it whenever water was readily available.

I actually thought by bringing it up someone might come up with actual research or some kind of comparison from anecdote.

My comparison is that when I first started planting in the east coast I watered things in but then decided the roots needed air as much a water and watering would just delay the best balance of the two when you are beginning with moist soil. However, my observations cannot be useful as far as exact comparison. I probably did all the trees the same way on any given season.

If I was back west I wouldn't water plants in either- I'd just prewater the site because I actually think it is probably slightly beneficial not to water plants in and just to water when soil is less than optimally moist.

My soil is all drainage and drys out very rapidly. If I get the chance and no rain is in immediate forecast maybe I'll water in a single row of same species or even same variety and make a more scientific evaluation by comparing with a row nearby not watered in. If I do so I'll post the results.


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RE: transplanting trees

I planted 30 Old Fashioned Lilacs this past fall. The nurseryman had me water them in.

I asked why and was told that the roots need the moisture, but another reason was that would help remove any air pockets.


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RE: transplanting trees

  • Posted by fruitnut z7b-8a,4500ft SW TX (My Page) on
    Fri, Mar 1, 13 at 19:04

Harvestman:

It sounds like you have good friable soil and a climate that not only provides frequent soil water but low evaporation in spring. In much of the country that's not the case. My soil is pretty friable but dry. Others have hard clay soil and little rain. Watering in serves a useful purpose with hard dry soil and no prospect of rain. That means nothing for your situation just as your results mean nothing in an area like west Texas.


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RE: transplanting trees

I like air pockets and consider the idea that they harm roots a well worn fallacy. Roots grow perfectly well through them and as long as soil is moist I see no impediment. I'm digging up plants all the time and get lots of opportunity to witness how roots manage.

Fruitnut, I believe that unless you've made a real comparison, you can't actually know that a heavy watering immediately after planting is more beneficial than one preceding and allowing gravity water to drain before planting. I don't care where in the country you are talking about.

Springs are not reliably humid in the northeast and dry Canadian air often dominates at this time but the soil is always moist coming out of winter because of low evaporation when soil is frozen or covered with snow.

Trees often require irrigation for best growth after they leaf out, but bare root transplants will generally survive here no matter what the weather as long as they are mulched or otherwise protected from weed competition. Especially immature bare root trees. .


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harvestman:

Most trees in WA state commercial orchards are planted by machine. That probably leaves more air pockets than hand planting. I believe that's where the article you posted originated.

I once worked with a pecan grower in north Texas that I thought had a somewhat crude but fast and easy method of planting his trees. Dig a 2ft hole with a post hole digger, stick the tree in the hole, fill the hole about half full of water, push the soil in with your feet while holding the tree with your hands. His trees grew fine.

In Amarillo with a sticky clay soil I'd dig the holes in fall for February planting. This allowed freezing and thawing to get rid of the hard clods before planting. But I still watered in because it might not rain for months.


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RE: transplanting trees

He used to be a consultant in WA but now is situated and consulting in Australia. His articles may be tailored to the publication but both locations provide dry conditions that require irrigation.

The question still remains whether there is really an advantage to actually watering in transplants when the soil is already at optimum moisture level at time of planting. I wish I could contact him to see if his opinion is research based.


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