Transplanting Oak Trees: An Update

The Priory oaks are impressive.  Huge, ancient, gnarled, neck-craning impressive.  They were the first thing I noticed and the last I shall say good-bye to.

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September 2013

We have about twenty mature oaks; most hale, a few less so.  With an eye on the latter, and because the Priory should never be oak-less, I planted some replacements.

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When I was nowt but a lad (February 2011), I wrote about digging up and re-planting three small oak trees (see ‘Planting For The Future’).   I don’t suppose I’ve mentioned them since.

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Well, four and a half years later might be time for an update.  And the update is:  after a little initial hesitancy, they’re doing fine.   Slow growing, of course (they’re oaks!), but otherwise fine.  I wasn’t even convinced they would survive the trauma of being tugged up from their original home – a small area of woodland up on the drive .

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Toffee the Viszla on sniffing duty

For a couple of years, I watered them intermittently during very dry weather.   I put tree protectors on the trunks against rabbits; but deer – my biggest worry – haven’t touched them.  Yet.

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One of the three has done especially well.  Why, it’s almost big enough to hide behind … if not to climb.  I’d struggle to transplant it now.

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February 2011

This is the same tree when its protector was a more generous fit.  My intention was to continue an existing line of two big oaks and an enormous ash whilst avoiding an often water-filled ditch.

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July 2015

And I think I’ll achieve just that.  (The large oaks might be dead before these babies reach full height but we’ll simply ignore that inconvenient truth).

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I shouldn’t think I’ll be around in two hundred years to see my oaks grow into mighty giants.

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September 2013

But if they do, I might be allowed to gaze down over the Priory and smile, paternally.  (Assuming I’m up above.  The view from below won’t be as good).

27 thoughts on “Transplanting Oak Trees: An Update

  1. We recently did another walk in England and I love the oak trees. There are many beautiful trees there but oaks are my favourite, simply a delight. The ones you have planted will be a fitting legacy. For our part, we have planted silky oaks on our dry, scrubby lot in SE Qld and they are surviving fairly well. Thanks David, there can never be too many oak trees.

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    • Thanks Chris. Actually, beech is my favourite. We have some enormous and very ancient ones in Southern England – especially if they were pollarded as youngsters. But oak run a very, very close second. D

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    • I like the thought of a Jungle Book march of green elephants, Stacy. Toffee is a new friend of mine. She belongs to Gary (Seaford’s premier barber) and comes to stay with us quite regularly. She finds the Priory terribly exciting but it tends to tire her out somewhat. D

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        • It’s perfect for us at the moment, Stacy. We’ve been away (and about to shoot off again tomorrow) so it’s been a breeze not worrying about dog-cover. We will have a dog again (or rather a dog will have us) one day but not for a while, I don’t think. But in the meantime Toffee is a great Hobbes substitute. She’s a Viszla and very like H in some ways (but not in others!). D

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  2. Hi David
    I love your photos, particularly the last one.
    Planting things, especially trees, is my favourite gardening job.
    I had a few questions (if that is ok!). Are these English oaks that you have transplanted? How did you go digging them up and replanting them? I thought English oaks had a big tap root that made it difficult for them to be in a pot (even as tiny seedlings) or replanted?
    The reason I ask is that I have a pot of 1 year old English oak seedlings saved from a development site here in Tasmania – the 150 year old parent tree has been cut down by the property owner to build a damn ugly supermarket and so I have saved the seedlings for the local Council to replant in the village elsewhere.
    How do go about ensuring these little seedlings live happily enough temporarily in pots until they’re at least several feet high? I can put them in my own garden for transplanting later but I am concerned that they will be killed in the transplanting process!

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    • Sorry – I should have said that these are English oaks (Quercus robur). The earlier post (mentioned above) details how I managed to transplant the saplings and yes, the tap root is the problem. Luckily the ground was saturated when I dug them up and the root just slipped out whole. I was sure they would snap or I would have to cut some of them off. I’m no expert on container grown oaks (at all!) but I would suggest using the deepest pots you have and getting them into the ground as soon as possible. Whether you can keep them in pots until they’re several feet high is a question I can’t answer. Nurseries sell biggish trees but they seem to be bare rooted which would suggest that they are field grown and then dug up. (See – http://www.ashridgetrees.co.uk/trees/native-trees/common-pedunculate-oak-trees-quercus-robur). If you do plant them out and need to transplant them later, thoroughly soaking the ground before hand should make the process easier. I hope that helps (a bit) and good luck. Dave

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      • Having said all the above, I do have some young oaks in pots which I’ve grown from acorns. They are now four or five years old – but only a couple of feet high – and I’ve always intended to plant them out!

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        • Hi David, I really enjoyed this post and I hope you may be able to help me. Last autumn when visiting my parents in east Devon, I collected five acorns which I put into a pot on returning to my home in Edinburgh. Today to my great delight I saw that two of them have started to grow. I presume that the next stage is to transfer each of them into its own pot then leave them to get substantially bigger in a few years’ time before planting out? (Forgive me if this is a very basic question but I am a very basic gardener.) Also, while there are no deer or rabbits in the garden there are squirrels – will the seedlings need protection?

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          • Hi, I’m happy you liked my post. Yes – to your first question. Pot them on into their own pots – but not too shallow pots as their long tap roots need plenty of depth. Just standard potting compost and don’t feed them. Keep on potting them on each year as they grow, if they need it, and put the pots somewhere shady where they won’t dry out. I put mine behind the greenhouse – they get a little sun but hardly any really. I’d suggest planting them in the ground when they are three or four foot tall. I don’t think a squirrel will do any damage to a young tree, at least they haven’t to mine, so you should be fine. Good luck (and thanks for reminding me to pot on my half a dozen youngsters). All the best, Dave

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  3. How wonderful to see that someone is planting for the future. If only local authorities were doing the same but apparently most (especially in cities) do not want the responsibility of planting long-lived trees and the possible damage they may cause. It is so sad to think in many areas future generations will not know the pleasure of looking at a mighty oak.

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    • Hi Rej, sadly I’ve read that too. But we do need to hire tree surgeons most years (at no little expense). In a big garden there is often dead, unsafe limbs to remove and even whole trees to fell. But then we are self-sufficient in firewood! D

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  4. How special to be able to even plant an oak that will one day be that large. I’m hoping to add a cork oak to the garden here, even more slow growing but will make a good native addition to the garden.

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    • Yes Christina. There aren’t many gardens where you can plant three oak trees and positively urge them to grow as big as they possibly can. I know nothing about cork oaks but it’s going to have to be tough to survive summers there. I should get a wiggle on though – if they are so slow growing! Dave

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