How do I plant or transplant a nut tree?


If you are planting a northern nut tree, the seed must either go through the winter, or be stratified.  Most northern nuts need a period of cold before they will germinate. You can leave them outside for the winter or you can put them in the refrigerator in a plastic bag with a slightly damp rag for a couple months and they should germinate properly.  

Transplanting nut trees of any size is a lot of work, but can be done.  When you look at the tree, figure that the tap root is as deep as the tree is tall, and the tree would like to keep the whole tap root.  However if the tap root is pruned properly it will bring out laterals to replace lost tap root. Keep as much of the tap root as you can and still move the ball in one piece.  Bare root moving is not recommended.  

The best time to transplant is during the dormant period. You can dig a trench around it and have it ready to remove while there are still leaves on it, but definitely do not cut the tap root and transplant it while there are green leaves on it. The preferred time is right after the leaves drop this fall, as it will give the tree more time to establish roots prior to leafing back out. If there is danger of extreme dry periods or hard freezes (to 0 degrees F.) this winter, apply 6 inches of mulch (apply the mulch anyway, it isn't going to hurt).  Pyramidal or columnar trees are the most difficult to transplant because of the long tap root with few lateral roots. Dig deep to get as much of the tap root as possible. 

If you are starting trees in a container to transplant later on, use a long planting tube, say 18 to 24 inches with a screen in the bottom to air-prune the tap root and any laterals. When you transplant it now try your very best not to shake the dirt from the roots. Stacking milk cartons works but will decay if you leave them in the container too long.  Two years would be the longest that you would want to leave them in a tube and would require a plastic or metal planting tube. 

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