Success Tips for Transplanting and Moving Garden Plants - Water!

When You Water Can Be as Important As How Much

Man watering a newly planted tree
Rob Lang/Stockbyte/Getty Images

Summer is never the best time to move or transplant garden plants. The sun is too intense and the heat is relentless. However, sometimes you have no choice but to move your plants during the hot months. You can successfully transplant garden plants at any time of the year if you follow a few simple guidelines:
 

  1. Water the garden plants to be dug and/or transplanted the day before your do dig. This insures that the whole plant will be hydrated, leaves and all, when it's time to transplant. Make it a good, deep soaking, so the roots can take up as much water as possible. (This will also make it easier for you to dig. A nice bonus.)

     

    If you got the plant bare root, allow it to soak in a bucket of water for a couple of hours.

     

  1. Dig and/or transplant when it is overcast or during the cooler evening hours. This will give the plant the entire night to get adjusted, before being exposed to the heat and bright light of day. This is especially important when transplanting small seedlings.

     

  2. Water the plant immediately before digging or removing from its pot. Soak the root ball so that the soil will adhere to the roots, when it is dug from the garden. This prevents the roots from being exposed to drying winds.)

     

  3. Never leave the roots exposed to sun, heat or wind. It's tempting to remove all plants from their pots and place them where you want them to go in the garden, but roots will desiccate quickly. Remove each plant just prior to planting.

     

  4. Water the hole before you place the transplant into it. You want the soil so saturated it turns to mud.

     

  5. Place the transplant into the hole, fill it halfway with soil and then water again. Allow the water to settle the soil around the roots and then finish filling the hole.

     

  1. Lightly firm the soil around the transplant. You want to close any air pockets in the soil, but you don't need to press so hard that you compact the soil. Let the water settle things, rather than stomping with your foot.

     

  2. Once again, water the whole plant, leaves and all. This probably sounds like too much water, but you would be surprised how much water can evaporate during the planting process. If you are working on a cool, still, overcast day, you can get away with a little less water, but never skip the final watering, once the plant is in the ground.

     

  1. If possible, shield the new transplant from direct sunlight for 3-5 days. Use a floating row cover or lean a board in front of the transplant to block direct sun.

Check the plant daily for the first couple of weeks. Transplants will need watering every day, if not more. Depending on the weather and the plant, you may need to water twice a day until it becomes established. The larger the plant and/or the less roots to top growth ratio, the more water will be needed. And if it is wilting, water it immediately.

All of this may seem extreme, but the shock of being uprooted is stressful to plants anytime of year. In the heat of summer, this extra precaution is vital to easing the transition for your transplants.