Moving the Magnolia

If you picked up a copy of the July/August 2014 issue of Hobby Farm Home, you likely saw my editor’s note explaining some of the outdoor tasks being tackled around the farm, including moving the large, semi-mature magnolia tree located just inches from the corner of the house. Refusing to forfeit such a beautiful (and expensive if purchased at this size) tree, my husband and I delved into the world of landscaping do’s and don’ts.

Most extension websites and some landscaping websites recommended moving trees only after they’ve gone dormant. The problem is that this particular magnolia is an evergreen. After several conflicting recommendations, we decided to risk moving the tree while the weather was cooperating and let the dice fall where they may. Leaving the tree in its original location would prove just as hazardous to its overall health as we began work on a new front porch.

Photo by Stephanie Staton

Using the bucket on the backhoe, my husband loosened a large chunk of soil from the ground, leaving it in tact around the roots, and lifted the tree from its locale. He repositioned it a safer 25 to 30 feet away. Using the backhoe, he then tamped the soil around the tree roots and staked the tree for support against our area’s blustery winds. We immediately gave it a thorough watering and continued to do so several days following the move.

Transplanting the magnolia tree wasn’t without its hardships: Scorching temps and periodic light rains took a toll on the tree’s ability to support new growth. Despite losing a good many leaves, which most informational websites we read said it could not only survive but recuperate from fully, the tree has continued to produce blooms and seed pods, so we’re hopeful that it was the right move at the right time. The magnolia is now settled with plenty of rain since that initial onslaught of heat, and though its branches are still sparse, we’re optimistic that the tree has had sufficient time to root and prepare for the winter ahead.

Everything we have attempted during our renovation has afforded us a lesson. Here are three things I learned from moving the magnolia tree:

1. Water consistently.
The tree might have fared better if I had been more consistent with the watering schedule. Sometimes I missed the prime watering window in the morning but didn’t want to dehydrate the poor thing so I watered later in the day and sometimes in the evening, which probably did as much bad as it did good. Watering in the heat of the day can actually stress plants more, and watering at night is often an invitation to pests and disease.

2. Use a timer.
Timers for watering systems come in all shapes, sizes and prices. While the expense didn’t break the bank, we left the hose running much longer than planned not once, not twice but three times before I made a trip the local hardware store for faucet timer. It’s easy to get distracted with other farm jobs and forget about the hose, so the purchase of a timer is worth it!

3. Plan ahead.
If we had taken the time to research more about tree transplanting recommendations before coming down to the wire on our outdoor project, we and the tree might have been better prepared for the move. If you can’t find a consistent recommendation from reputable online sources, call your local nursery or county extension agent for advice specific to your area.

Tags front porch, transplant tree

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