Setting the plant
The bole in which a shrub is to be set should be large enough to hold 2 or 3 inches of rich soil at the bottom to receive the roots without doubling them back, and to let the plant stand at the same depth at which it formerly stood. If an evergreen is being planted, the hole must be sufficiently large to contain 2 or 3 inches of good soil under the ball of earth about the roots to allow good, enriched soil to be packed around the ball, and to let the plant stand at the same depth as before transplanting. Don't wait until the plant is received to dig the hole. Do it in advance.
When to transplant
In most of the Eastern United States trees and shrubs may be transplanted in spring or fall. On the Pacific slope fall transplanting is preferable because it gives the roots a longer time to develop before the onset of hot, dry weather. In the colder areas of the intermediate region spring transplanting is advisable unless the plants can be watered 'thoroughly in the fall, the ground mulched against freezing, and the tops protected against drying winds. In the warmer areas, fall transplanting is advisable if ample water can be supplied. Deciduous plants should be moved when they are dormant.
In Southern Florida and Southern California evergreens should be transplanted whenever moisture conditions are favorable, and deciduous plants as soon as possible after they become dormant. Only spring transplanting is recommended for upper New England.
The ground is in condition to be worked if it meets the hand test described before, if a fistful of earth squeezed into a ball crumbles readily when it is released, the ground is suitable to work. There must be no stones, lumps, or clods in the soil that comes in direct contact with the roots of deciduous plants or the earth balls of evergreens. A small amount of fertilizer, such as a thoroughly rotted manure, cottonseed meal, or ground bone, may be mixed with the soil placed around the roots but should not come in direct contact with them. Plants should receive their principal feeding after they have become established.
Arranging roots in the earth
Roots should be placed as nearly as, possible in the positions in which they grew previously, and care must be exercised not to leave them in layers without soil between. The plant may be worked up and down gently to assure that there is no opening under the roots. If the roots are contained in an earth ball, the gardener must male certain that there is no cavity beneath the ball.
To bold the soil firm about the roots, evergreens frequently are planted without removing the burlap if there is no straw or other packing inside. The weave of burlap usually is sufficiently loose to let small roots penetrate it without difficulty, but this penetration may be made even easier by slitting the fabric at several places. Any burlap that protrudes after planting may be cut off at the ground level. If more impenetrable wrapping material has been used it must be removed before the plant is set, as it hinders the passage of moisture and the growth of roots.
When the hole has been filled partially the soil must be tramped or pressed firmly into place to bring it into close contact with the roots. Then it should be filled the rest of the way up with loose soil .without further firming. This is the procedure for the setting of both deciduous and evergreen plants. If a support against swaying is required, a simple one may be provided by driving a stake into the ground a few inches from the trunk and fastening trunk and stake lightly with a soft rope. Be sure that the plant has plenty of moisture until it is established.
Avoid root exposure
Root exposure is a chief cause of death of transplanted woody plants, although the roots of some, such as maples and elms, may be exposed for 2 or 3 hours and still live. The best practice, however, is to reduce root exposure to a minimum. Even if the plant is to be out of the ground for only a few minutes, the roots should be wrapped in some moisture holding material, such as wet burlap, as soon as they are dug up. If for any reason the plant must be held for later planting the roots should be heeled in, that is, covered temporarily with soil.
Roots of nursery plants which seem dry when unpacked are helped if they are soaked for several hours before heeling in. Under such conditions it is frequently beneficial to bury deciduous plants completely, tops and all. With evergreens which cannot be planted at once, the entire earth ball, including the burlap wrapping, should be buried in a shady, protected spot and kept moistened until set in a permanent place.
Collecting wild plants
The gardener who collects his own plants from the woodland must remember that in digging them up he must inflict little or no bruising on the roots. He faces a difficult chore, for in wild growth, free from the nurseryman's pruning which promotes a compact root system, the roots are few and far running, frequently intertwining with the roots of other plants. Thus it is an arduous undertaking to excavate them to the end, and the collector too frequently digs only a little way from the crown and chops off the roots beyond that point. If the plant is to be transplanted immediately, he may as well have saved himself the trouble of the expedition entirely, for this practice usually kills the plant if it is to be lifted from the soil immediately. The collector of evergreens, especially, must exercise the greatest of care to see that virtually all the roots maintain contact with the soil.
If, however, the wild plant collector can make plans in advance, spotting certain specimens in the wood and mentally earmarking them for next year's removal to the garden, there is an effective way to remove them. This consists in digging a circular trench, about 12 or 18 inches deep and 4 or 5 feet in diameter, about the selected plant, then filling the excavation with loose soil and straw. Left until the next season, the old roots thus cut will bud, new hair roots will form, and the plant may be lifted out and transplanted easily.