Moving My Stewartia

testing for toxicity

Q: I have a five-year-old stewartia that’s seven feet tall. It needs to be moved
due to too much shade. Is this time of year okay to move it? Any tips? 

A: Though October and November might be optimal, December through
February is an excellent time of year to move woody plants. The soil is
usually moist and temperatures are cool. In moving woody plants, whether
shrubs or trees, the key is to bring as many roots as possible from the original
site to the new one. The amount of soil that is transported is not important; the
number of roots that come along is vital.
Start two feet out from the trunk. Plunge the blade of your shovel straight
down into the soil repeatedly as you circle the plant. If you encounter any
roots, sever them with the shovel. Dig a six-inch deep trench outside your
initial cut. Then insert the shovel blade from the bottom of the trench toward
the trunk at a shallow angle. Aim for a spot a foot below the base of the trunk.
A long bladed ditching shovel (a sharpshooter or ditching shovel) is great for
this job because the long blade can be inserted so far. Repeat as you go around
the tree, cutting any anchor roots you find under the plant..
Use your intuition and tools to gradually loosen the root system. You might be
able to gently rock the plant back and forth to further loosen the roots. The job
might go slowly but gradually the root system will be disclosed and you can
lift the plant. Put it on a tarp and drag it to the new growing spot that you
(smartly) previously prepared. Spray the roots with water and cover them with
the soil piled beside the planting hole. Firm the soil with your hands and
shoes, water it once more, and go indoors to warm up and rest.

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