Terry Eliasen, WBZTV Executive Weather Producer & Mark Saidnawey, Owner Pemberton Farms & WBZ Garden Expert

We got a couple of great viewer questions regarding early season gardening and Mark Saidnawey from Pemberton Farms helps us out with the answers…

Question #1:

When is the best time to transplant shrubs/trees? If I grew something indoors from a cutting, can I plant it now or is there too much of a potential for cold?

For most trees and shrubs the early spring (April and May) is the best times for transplanting and the fall (late-September thru Mid-November) would be the second best time. It is not advisable to transplant during the summer months (too hot) as it may stress or shock the plant too much.

WBZ Garden Expert Mark Saidnawey answers the question:

If it is a new plant, growing from a cutting indoors, I suggest transplanting into a larger container and moving it in and out slowly so that it acclimates to the cooler outdoor temperatures and varied sun exposure. After a week or so of that when it appears to be “going strong” in the larger container it will be ready for transplanting. I suggest this in early May when temperatures should remain above 45 at the coldest time.

Below are the steps you should take to transplanting trees and shrubs:

1. Timing: The best time to transplant a tree or shrub is during the cooler months. I like early spring since the tree or shrub may still be in a semi- dormant state and it will have less effect and stress on the plant. As long as the ground has thawed and you can dig a large enough hole in the new location then it is okay to proceed.

2. Location, location, location! Prior to transplanting, determine whether the tree or shrub likes sun or shade, and what its spacing and watering requirements are. For instance, don’t locate a plant that craves water next to one that prefers dry conditions, their needs will be incompatible.

3. Dig the new hole before you dig up the tree or shrub. Once you dig up the plant, the longer its roots go without a home, the lower your chances for successful transplanting.

4. Estimate the width and depth of the rootball by doing a bit of exploratory digging around the plant. The width of the new hole should be twice that of the rootball.

5. When you reach the bottom of the new hole, resist the temptation to break up the soil beneath. You would think that this would help the tree or shrub, allowing its roots to penetrate deeper. Instead, it could cause the tree or shrub to sink, inviting rot.

6. Dig out the tree or shrub selected for transplanting. But don’t start digging right at the base of a mature tree or shrub. Rather, start digging about 3′ out from the base, all along the perimeter. Get a feel for where the main mass of roots lies. Also begin to judge what the weight will be of plant + roots + soil clinging to roots. You may need someone to help lift it.

7. The idea is to keep as much of the root ball (roots + soil) intact as possible. But the larger the plant is, the chances of getting anything close to the entire rootball will diminish — and you wouldn’t be able to carry it anyhow! Usually you will have to cut through some roots on a mature plant (either with a sharp shovel or with pruners — make a good, clean cut)

8. Use a Tarp. Once you’ve removed enough soil from around the sides of the plant, you’ll eventually be able to slip your shovel under it and begin to loosen the plant’s grip on the soil below it. After it’s loose, spread a tarp on the ground nearby and gently move the tree or shrub onto the tarp.

9. Getting it in the hole…Using the tarp as a transporting medium, drag the tree or shrub over to the new hole (dug in steps 1-4). Gently slide it into the hole, and get it straight. Shovel the excavated soil back into the hole. Tamp this soil down firmly and water it as you go, to eliminate air pockets. The formation of air pockets could cause the tree or shrub to shift after transplanting.

10. Mound up the soil in a ring around the newly transplanted tree or shrub, forming a berm that will catch water like a basin. This will help you achieve your main objective from here on out — keeping the new transplant’s roots well watered, until it becomes established.

11. Spread a 3″ layer of much around the new transplant. But keep it a few inches away from the base of the tree or shrub, to promote air circulation.

12. Then water, water, water. The first summer would be a difficult one for the tree or shrub to weather, unless it gets plenty of water. Watering is as essential as anything to success in shrub and tree transplanting.

Question #2:

When is the right time to overseed my lawn?

Mid to late April is a great time to seed your lawn, and even into May as long as it stays cool out. It is great because it is not too hot and the seed will germinate best during the cooler months.

WBZ Garden Expert Mark Saidnawey answers the question:

The key is soil prep. Be sure to rake up the old dead grass, then use a pitch fork or rent a rototiller to turn the soil making the top 4 inches loose. Spread your seed and cover lightly with a fresh layer of top soil. The key is next! Water water water!!! Be sure to moisten the newly planted area twice a day. It doesn’t need a lot, just enough to keep it wet during the germination and new growth period. I suggest using a lawn starter fertilizer as well, it can really make a difference. Best of luck and if you have any other questions feel free to ask. 

Mark Saidnawey
WBZ Gardening Expert
Pemberton Farms
2225 Massachusetts Ave.
Cambridge, Ma 02140

  1. macmum says:

    Whoa! wait! I thought Todd was the expert! Container gardening will start here next month with the greenhouse. :-)

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