Transplant shock is a major cause of death among newly planted trees. Shock occurs because of a combination of factors, with root loss and a change in cultural conditions being the biggest concerns. The following guide can help you avoid transplant shock or at least give you the tools to aid the tree in a healthy recovery from mild shock.
Minimize root loss
Trees grown in containers do not have extensive root balls. If the tree has been left in the container too long, the roots will have been crowded, which puts them in danger of wrapping around and strangling themselves (a condition called girdling). To try and save a tree from girdling, it is necessary to cut the outer section of the root ball vertically in several locations. While this will prevent girdling death, it can lead to some root death which affects the tree as it recovers from transplanting. To prevent this, check the root ball of a tree before purchasing. If you notice little soil but instead a large mass of encircling, thick roots, you may want to choose a younger tree.
Go for dormant trees
Many people begin planting trees in spring, after they have begun to leaf out. Although many trees survive this process, it is actually a better idea to plant in late winter or very early spring before they begin to leaf out. This is because the biggest surge of new growth occurs during the leafing out stage, so your tree is more likely to quickly put out new roots and transplant well if you plant it right before the leaves emerge.
Don't prep the planting hole
It may seem like a good idea to work compost and fertilizer into the planting site, but it usually isn't. Creating a small zone of great soil encourages the roots to only grow into this lush ground, instead of extending out and anchoring well into the native surrounding soil. Instead, just loosen the soil in an area several feet wider than the root ball so the roots will have an easier time penetrating into the native soil.
Start shaping and pruning the second year after planting. During the first year, your young tree needs all the leaves it has to help support it and feed it as it establishes a healthy root system. Lush foliage helps the tree survive this stressful time.
Keep it watered
Finally, provide your tree with sufficient water. Most trees rarely need to be irrigated once established, but new transplants don't have the extensive roots yet to seek out moisture deep in the soil. Check the soil moisture at a 2 inch depth near the tree a couple of times a week. If it feels dry, soak it with a garden hose.
For more help, contact a tree services company like Green Shadow Tree Service LLC in your area.