The Art of Moving a Garden: Part 1
Whether we're moving on to another home or just moving plants around, most of us will have to relocate our beloved gardens at some point or another. Fortunately, it's possible to move entire mountains (of plants) with a little planning and a great deal of determination. Don't worry if you're limited by time and space; a few cuttings, bulbs and divisions can go a long way.
Which Plants to Move
If you're planning a big move, think about which plants you could not live without? You know, your collection of rare daylily hybrids, the Japanese maples, or maybe even that unusual variegated plant that you can't find anywhere else. Save the common big box offerings for last. Another consideration is size. It's far easier to transport bulbs, corms and tubers than it is to move shrubs or trees, so focus on those first. Plants with fleshy roots have a much easier time surviving the stresses of a move, and they're quick to establish themselves. Even though bordergrass (Liriope) is common, consider taking advantage of their tuber forming roots for a readymade ground cover or edging.
Remember to take the conditions of your new garden into account. There's no point in bringing along a bunch of hostas to a site without any shade, and your moisture loving gardenias will meet their tragic end if they're headed for dry and sandy soil. Why not see if the neighbors are in need of any plants? Call it a parting gift!
Taking Along Divisions
Many perennials, shrubs, groundcovers and vines can be started from divisions. Dig up any suckers of the desired plant and wrap a plastic bag around the soil covered roots. To prevent bringing along unwanted pests or diseases in the soil, gently wash the roots free of dirt. Set the roots in a plastic bag, add short grain spaghnum moss or coir, and lightly moisten before sealing the bag around the stem with a rubber band. Pot up the divisions in a sterile mix upon arrival, and transplant them to the garden after they've filled the pot with healthy roots.
Bring Me a Shrubbery! (Or a Tree)
The most economical way to move your favorite trees is by taking cuttings. This exciting and rewarding technique will make you feel like an expert horticulturalist, but it's really easy. Essentially, all you do is cut off the end of a small branch, dip it in rooting hormone, and let it form roots in a sterile soiless mix. A quick online search or a look into a book on plant propagation will give you specific instructions for the plant you wish to propagate.
However, if a shrub or tree is small enough, it might be possible to safely spirit it away. If the new planting site is nearby, dig the new hole in advance so that you can immediately plant your traumatized tree. When digging up the tree, water thoroughly in advance to minimize the risk of transplant shock. Also remove any nearby plants so that you can dig a hole two feet out from the trunk. You won't be taking along that much of the rootball, but this way you can preserve some of the larger roots. If you have to cut through any roots, prevent disease by using a clean and sharp knife or pair of loppers. Once the rootball is out of the ground, gently shake off any excess soil around the edge so that you're not hauling more heavy soil than necessary.
Set the rootball on a large tarp (big enough to wrap around the rootball) and gently coil the loose roots around the ball to avoid breakage and keep them moist. Tightly wrap and tie the tarp around the mass of roots and soil and transplant the tree to its new home as soon as you're able. Spread the roots outward in the hole, cover with soil, water thoroughly, and tamp the soil down with your feet to eliminate any air pockets. Continue to water regularly until the tree has become established, usually within a few months.
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