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Sep 18, 2010 08:46 AM

Is it OK to move a young sour cherry tree now, or should I wait until spring?

We're in Zone 6, just north of Boston on a windswept hilltop. We're starting some renovations to our yard and I have a 4-year-old sour cherry tree that's in the way of the eventual new driveway. We don't *have* to move the tree right now - the crew can work around it. It will take 3-4 weeks for them to finish the project, so it could be mid October before the tree gets moved.

How late in the season is too late to move it? Or should we wait until spring? And either way, should I remove the blossoms next spring to give it a chance to recover from the move?

I have the same question about a couple of 4-year-old blueberry plants.


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  1. If you could move it during the dead of winter when it has no leaves (is dormant) that would be best. If you dig it out carefully, making sure to not break the roots and dig a really big hole so that all the roots fit without bending, it should be okay. Mix in some compost, tamp it down firmly so that there are no air pockets and make sure to water if there isn't a lot of rain. All this is assuming that it isn't a huge tree. It it is huge, it might not be worth trying to move.

    3 Replies
    1. re: Glencora

      Thanks Glencora. It's a North Star pie cherry, so it's a dwarf. It's just about 6 ft high. I'll wait a bit to move it, then, maybe late Nov or early Dec before the ground freezes solid.

      1. re: gimlis1mum

        I successfully moved a dwarf apricot, so your cherry tree will probably be fine. Have to admit, as a California gardener, I never even thought about the ground freezing solid.

        1. re: gimlis1mum

          Do not move it in the middle of the winter. Boston winters are obviously vastly different from Cali winters. What works in Cali ain’t gonna work in the N.E. all the time.

          You can either transplant it right now (perfect timing) or next spring (also perfect timing). Seasons to avoid are summer and winter.

          Deflowering it next spring will do nothing to help the tree. Just leave ‘em on there.
          Additionally, someone recommended tamping down the soil firmly after transplanting. Do not do this. As you toss soil back into the hole around the root ball, gently work it in and around the root ball with your fingers. As you continue filling the hole, just work the soil with your fingers to break up any large clods of dirt and remove any larger air pockets in the soil. Remember, there is always air exchange occurring under the soil with that of the ambient air above the soil line… an absolute requirement for healthy soil. Tamping will only compact the soil to a point where air exchange is minimal.

      2. Actually, I'd move it some time between now & late October/early November at the very latest. Frankly, the "dead of winter" in Boston is way too frigid for tree planting. Doing your move while the ground will still be unfrozen for a couple of months gives the tree time to establish itself a bit with new roots, & will enable it to take in much needed moisture. Dead of winter when the ground in Massachusetts is frozen solid = dead tree. Sorry to disagree with you, Glencora.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Breezychow

          No, you're right -- I should've clicked on the OP's profile to see where she (?) lives.

        2. Considering where you live, at this point I'd wait to move both the blueberries and the sour cherry until early next spring after the ground thaws and warms just a bit. If you wait until October they may not have enough time to get settled in, over transplant shock and establish their roots a little. When I lived in upper NY state the advice from most nurserymen was to plant trees and shrubs in early spring. That left the better part of 3 seasons for them to establish themselves well before the freezes of winter. Since your hilltop is windswept, this will also give them time to become more resistant to windburn if any of the plants are young and tender.

          1. Thanks everyone. It ended up happening that the tree was moved TODAY - so much for my understanding of the contractor's schedule! I wasn't around when they moved it & so didn't have the opportunity to oversee, but it went into a spot that I've been adding compost to for the last few seasons. I put a soaker hose around it and gave it a nice long drink tonight. Hopefully it'll be OK.

            One of the blueberries got moved too, since it was in the way of current work. I'll leave the others in place until next srping when I get to plant my new fruit garden! Yahoo!!

            Thanks again!

            1 Reply
            1. re: gimlis1mum

              Updating this thread too - both the cherry and the blueberry appear to have survived the move (and the winter). It's not quite time for bud swell but both plants appear perky, in a late-winter/early-spring sort of way. Right after they were moved, I kept them well-watered with a drip hose and gave them a nice layer of mulch. I think the thick blanket of snow kept them cozy all winter long - the cherry tree was buried up to its branches for most of the really cold weather!