Fall transplanting observations

I was transplanting a couple of peaches yesterday, one of the trees had been dug up over a month ago and set back into the same soil so it could be moved when needed- the other had been undisturbed since being planted several years ago. The one I had “lifted” 6 weeks ago had a lot of new fine white roots growing while the other did not. The apple trees I’m moving now have plenty of new fine roots growing regardless of whether they were previously lifted.

Because I don’t carefully follow the results of predug transplants I am ignorant of the implication of digging a tree twice during fall. My hunch is that it would be better to do it once with peaches because those fine roots are likely lost during the transplant so the energy required to generate them may be wasted and the trees have to begin the effort of establishing root in a new location a second time.

The only research I’ve seen on fall transplanting compared to spring transplanting was done with apple trees in KY. Significantly better growth was achieved with the trees transplanted in Nov. over those transplanted in spring. How much that benefit, if it is genuine, tapers off as you transplant into Dec I don’t know. What I do know is that significant fine white root growth can occur during the fall months when trees are not in leaf. This would likely create an advantage in speeding establishment in a new site.

I plan to make an effort to keep notes on the subject- in this case follow the establishment of those two peach trees. There is nothing like getting into the ground and observing the roots directly to acquire a sense of how and when they grow.

Incidentally, when I lift trees, I never water them in to “seal the air pockets” when setting them back. Judging from what I see, the roots like that moist soil loose and grow right though small pockets of air. Tamping down with only moderate pressure seems all transplanted trees need in spite of what you may read elsewhere. Some of you already have heard this from me.


Digging up old bones here. I found this post while searching on the viability of moving a young apple tree.

This past fall, I planted five young apple trees, all on M111 or B9 rootstock. All five trees were pruned to about 30 inches in height at the same time. All were planted in the same way. Four of the five are vigorously growing now.

The fifth, a King David apple tree on M111, has only put on small, thin, short limbs just above the the graft union. It’s put on no growth on the upper half. This particular tree gets about one hour less sun than the others (about nine hours instead of 10), but it doesn’t make sense to attribute its meager growth to just that. I’ll lightly fertilize it over the course of the summer to see what happens.

Regardless, I’m considering moving it this fall to a spot that gets more sun, just to see if that’s the issue. Have any of you moved a tree a year or two after planting? What were the results? Do you have any advice for this novice?

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My advice is to give the tree some fast release nitrogen ASAP and try to get some vigor while you still have plenty of growing season. The problem isn’t related to light- you are right that an hour wouldn’t make the difference, and if the spot is well drained it could be just one of those things in horticulture that goes unexplained.


Will do–by this time tomorrow, in fact. Thanks for the advice. I hadn’t considered fast-release versus slow-release nitrogen.


I have a related question.
I have a second year peach seedling (seed start from last year) doing great so far, about 6 ft and the trunk a little more than half an inch. It’s in the wrong spot and I need to move it to its permanent home. I’ve read that it’s better to move trees in the spring before growth begins while they are still dormant. But I’d like to transplant it in the fall because I had ambrosia beetles or shot hole borer this year and I lost 3 trees to them. I’ve read that they attack trees in stress. Transplanting would certainly stress the tree and I don’t want to make it an easy target to beetles when they arrive late winter/early spring.
Considering all this, any advice as to when to move it.

  1. Move now while tree is still growing so it has a chance to establish before winter?
  2. Wait till tree goes dormant in late fall and transplant in around November?
  3. Or wait till March next year and transplant while tree is dormant?
    Appreciate everybody’s suggestions!

Plant the tree when leaves have mostly or all fallen so it will have max stored energy and transplant it bare root. I start to move peaches in the first week of Nov. If I carefully extract most of the root they sometimes behave as though they were never even transplanted.

Just make sure when they start to grow that they never suffer for lack of water and if you are where temps get below 0 F. mulching before harsh weather is mandatory in my book.

Thank you. Will do…