New house and moving trees

Last week my wife and I signed papers to get the ball rolling on building a new house. Its exciting, but a step backwards for my orchard especially since I am expecting fruit off first grafts this year. Hopefully my usable area is bigger, though the lot is about the same size.

The plan now is to have the new house built and move in Aug/Sept. We would list our house in May. Depending on when our house sells, I might be leaving behind a bunch of fruit.

So many decisions and questions about what to do…!!

Do I move my 2 and 4 year old trees this spring and put them in a temporary location I have for planting at the new house in the fall? Can I move 4 year old trees twice in a year?

Do I act as my own nurseryman and graft out some trees this spring and put them in pots or in a temporary location?

Or do I just wait and take my chances that someone has the rootstock/scion combos I want for spring 2019?

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I would think move them while still dormant in early spring, even if you have to put them in a temporary location. Once you list the house for sale, you aren’t supposed to take things not noted on the sale listing. Or else make it very clear you plan to move them in fall, but that might not go over so well with potential buyers. Four-year old trees might be a little large to dig, unless you have a large machine to do it.
Might any of them fit in large pots? Even those would be hard to transport, though. Bare root would be easier. Sometimes it’s easier to start anew. You will have to make that call. The new owners usually don’t give a hoot, and often kill any nice treasures you leave behind, so take what you really value, if not easily replaceable. Congrats on the new house!

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Congratulations on getting a new house! That is exciting. I don’t know the correct answer but it might depend on the size of your rootstock used. I wonder if you could root prune them now to facilitate moving them now or later? I feel for you though having moved 3 years ago. I still miss a few that I had to leave behind.

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A bunch of ways to see things but here is my thoughts 1.) its an opportunity to do things right because you know what the best rootstocks and scion are! 2.) if you order all new trees get them all certified disease free and leave past problems behind . I figure if I needed to wait for fruit I would wait for the best of everything. Keep in mind if you grow rare stuff and almost all of us do there is not a disease free source. For example if I get pear rootstocks certified disease free and a scion from Corvallis the scion has scab, fireblight etc. and that’s the best program! Congratulations on the new home!

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I would plant them bare root using a cultivating fork to free up roots as cleanly as possible and put them in the temp location. Moving them again will set them back another year, most likely, but the second time they will be easy to dig up. In the end, it will still give you bearing trees a couple years ahead of what it would take by planting brand new trees.

Of course, that doesn’t take into consideration any appreciation having an orchard in your old home would bring into its value.

If I had unlimited wealth, I’d BandB them with massive balls of soil so they wouldn’t even notice the move. I’ve seen this done with large trees in the middle of summer, but the man-hours involved make it extremely expensive. Band B’d trees done in the normal way is usually more disruptive than carefully transplanting conventional fruit trees bare root. Pears are an exception and often do better when moved with some soil.

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I sort of went through this back in 2015 when I moved six trees from my previous home to my new home. Two big differences though. Mine had only been in the ground for about 5-6 months. And I moved them in September/October as they were getting ready to go to sleep for the winter. Since they had only been in the ground a short time they came out easily as bare roots. I really got a good look at the root development that took place that summer. All but one of the transplants were very successful. The one tree that hasn’t done well is my Nectaplum. At the time of transplant it was my best growing tree. But being an ornamental bloomer and self-fertile I positioned it away from my main orchard and placed it in my front yard where everyone could see it. What I didn’t know at the time was that I placed it in an area that gets too much runoff from my concrete driveway. I think it stays too damp through the year and is severely stunted. I thought about moving it but I think it might be too far gone. I’ll see how it wakes up this spring and if it doesn’t pull out of its slump it’s a goner.

My real estate agent at the time was very supportive of me taking the trees to my new home. She said they are not a selling point to 95% of people in the home market. I don’t regret moving mine, but as mentioned mine were younger and the timing was better.


Dig them this spring while dormant and put them into a Missouri Gravel Bed (Google it) at your new house if you can water them at your new property over the course of the summer.

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i was basically in your shoes a year ago. winter 2017 i started shopping for a house. I had 4 trees that went in the ground as 2 year trees winter 2016. What i did was dig them up and put in 10 gallons pots late fall 2017. Signed the papers on the new house March 2017 and planted them out first day I owned the place. Some trees were 4 year old and way to large for me to even try and move them.

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No matter what you do, I would get a couple of cheap trees from a reputable nursery, pot them up in big fabric bags, 25 or 15 gallon, and multi graft them with backups of everything I want to keep.


If you’re going to move them it’s best you cut them back pretty hard this late winter/early spring, then dig them and if you can keep soil on the roots, great. If not that’s okay too. You don’t need a rootball but as much soil that sticks is going to benefit the move.

At the new location, use a tiller to make a temporary bed. Sink them in and keep them moist 100% of the time and do aid with wood chips. I would probably wait until the following spring to move them to their permanent location. Come early fall of next year, take a long spade and drive it into the soil at 4 to 6 points around the root perimeter of each. That will encourage fine feeder roots to develop and aid in the move the next spring.

The very best thing you could do is move them to the temporary bed and leave them for one full year and then come along with a long spade a year later (spring to mid summer beginning of June) and drive the spade at 4-6 points around each tree and then move it the following spring. It’ll add an extra year but you’ll end up with a very strong root system to transplant.

So example one is to move to a temporary bed next spring after cutting them back very hard. And the same Fall move them to their permanent locations or better yet, wait until the spring of 2019 to move them

Example two is to move them this spring to a temporary bed and leave them for one full year and then hit them with a spade at 4-6 evenly distributed places around the drip line. And wait until spring of 2020 to move them to their permanent locations in your landscape.

Continue to keep the new-growth cut back hard so the roots get most of the growth along any process you choose.



Thanks everyone for all the advice on moving the trees.

A little bit more info on these bigger apple trees, and why I want to move them:

All but 1 of the trees are cider varieties - Harrison x2, Brown’s Apple, Harry Masters Jersey, Dabinett. If 95% of people don’t care about fruit trees, then 99.99% of people probably don’t want/care to have tannic cider apples.

The odd-ball is Suncrisp that is planted in the middle of the row of the cider trees, and would look funny if I left it. That and it is my favorite so if it is going to have to go, I’m going to be the one to kill it and not someone else. If I move them this spring I can also replant sod or seed in the spots left over and hope to have it established.

I’m still going to be leaving behind 4 apple trees that are going into their 5th leaf - Zestar!, Liberty, Kidd’s Orange Red, and Enterprise - a peach (Redhaven), and two hybrid plums (Alderman and Superior). So the next owners will have either have some basal pruning to do, or get some fruit. I’m going to try to keep spraying them to give them some nice fruit this fall.

Which leaves me with the somewhat rhetorical question - do I keep the mostly organic spray schedule with the unsightly Surround, or switch to all synthetic to avoid the white-out?

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Tough one… Big trees there is no way i’d try digging anything. What about getting some rootstock and grafting them (this spring) in pots and starting over at new house? Trees grow fast. I’d be grafting everything onto potted plants and go that route. I’d have container trees ready to go…you can plant them anytime.

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If they are bigger apples I have pulled them with a bobcat before but not something I would recommend but it did work. If you pull them with a bobcat you might as well dig the new holes with the bobcat and leave as much dirt as possible. If they are really big use a tree puller. The reason I would not recommend it is because it’s a mess dirt is everywhere and the tool does not fit the job but it works.

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I would say go with conventional (invisible) spray. It is also more effective. I personally use Surround and bagging, but it is rather unsightly on my out-of-sight orchard. But novices want unblemished fruit. The next year they can go organic if they want.

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What ever you decide with your trees - just keep in mind that set “Move In” date may be postponed 1,2 even 6 months! So have your plan B ready. My manager’s “Move in” was postponed for 2 months. So he came to the building site with inspection and realized they built WRONG(smaller) house. And he had to fight them in court to get different lot and right house. Here were another 6 months. Keep an eye on them!


I’d love to have everything ready to plant in pots, but I already have pots that I need to figure out what to do with. I think the realtor will tell us having a bunch of pots on the back porch is unsightly for showing a house. Putting them somewhere else is not feasible since I’d need to figure out a way to water them.

Planting at the new location before we are in the house is out. Right now all of the top soil is sitting in a neighboring lot, but they are supposed to put 6" back on by the city’s ordinance. I will be watching them on that… And the developer conveys the lot at closing on the house, rather than us buying the lot now. So I wouldn’t be able to plant on the property if I wanted to.

If I can wrangle up some garden space from my dad I can probably do a nursery bed this year. I just need to buy some rootstock. Not being able to hover over my grafts makes me nervous though. Ha!

I at least know that I want trees in the M26 class. I am thinking to split between G.210, 222, 890, and 935. I’ll take the chance on a few G.935. Presumably I will need some vigor because the soil is going to be sterilized by being piled up for the last few years and it will have no structure. I’ve walked the lot and the soil is clayey till with a bit of rock.

Good idea! I might have to do that.

Wow! Yikes! Well, that is awful. I don’t know how they wouldn’t have caught it before it got past the foundation… but I don’t know the situation. We will be on top of our developer. I’ve done building trades before (plumbing) so I know what is up in the process for the most part. Also, my sister in law can watch them build our house out their kitchen window if she wants and my parents-in-law are down the street a couple hundred yards.

But you are right, the move-in date is definitely not set in stone. Could be a late spring (probably will be now that I don’t care!?) and a wet summer and everything could be delayed by months.

Maybe one of those relatives would be willing to baby-sit your potted trees if they have the space.

I pulled the trigger on a rootstock purchase. I will be doing the be-your-own-nurseryman routine.

I’m getting the following from Cummins:

4 - G.210
1 - G.222
4 - G.890
4 - G.935
3 - Marianna GF8-1 for plums
2 - OHxF 87

I’m going to take a chance on the M.26-sized Geneva roots. I know G.935 has virus susceptibility issues, but let this be an experiment. I will try to keep track of my results if I get scions to take.