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Packing up the Garden

Oh My Apartment · Dec 24, 2007


Everyone knows that there are some things you have to leave behind when you move out of an apartment, like the toilet, refrigerator and kitchen sink. But it’s hard to get attached to any of those things, especially in a rental unit. Your garden is another matter. The product of love, attention and countless hours of work, your garden is something that is hard to leave behind. So hard, in fact, that some people choose to take their gardens with them to their new homes. If the thought of parting with your garden is too difficult to bear, read on for some tips on how to take your garden with you on your next move.

Beware of “Transplant Shock”
Transplants are extremely stressful for plants. Most plants will suffer some degree of “transplant shock” if you try to remove them from the garden. More resilient species will be better able to handle the stress of a transplant and adapt in their new homes. For other plants, the shock of being uprooted can be deadly. Before moving any of your plants, check with your local nursery or gardening website to assess the resilience of the plants you wish to move. Also remember that the longer the plants are out of the ground, the more likely it will be that transplant shock will set in. Moving a garden is a better option for intra-city and other short-distance moves.

Time Your Transplant
Weather plays a huge role in the success of your transplant. Winter transplants are often most successful because plants and their root systems are dormant. If you must uproot in the warmer months, do so during rainy or overcast days. Sunny, warm weather causes plants to lose moisture and makes them more vulnerable to transplant shock. Time of day is also important. Try to uproot and replant during early morning or late evening hours to avoid direct sunlight, warmer temperatures and unnecessary drying.

Recent Arrivals Make Better Transplants
Younger plants are often easier to move than older plants because their root systems are smaller and less dispersed. Older plants with large, established root systems may be more vulnerable to transplant shock. It will also be harder to uproot enough critical root mass to ensure the plant’s survival elsewhere. Similarly, former potted plants are also better at moving because their root systems are more concentrated and easier to remove. They may also be more accustomed to the stress of moving than plants that have been in the garden for a long time.

Take a Look at Your Lease
Before you do any digging, check your lease to see if you are even allowed to take garden plants with you. Even if you purchased, planted and cared for these plants, they may still belong to your landlord. The question of garden ownership has actually become an issue for many renters. Check your lease terms to avoid any confusion and unnecessary stress.

Tips for a Successful Transplant
Once you have assessed which plants are likely to survive the move, you can start planning for the transplant. Here are some steps to take to ensure that everything goes smoothly:

  • Water your plants the day before the transplant and then again immediately before you uproot them.
  • Dig a wide circumference around the plants. Once you have removed them from the soil, water the root system again and cover with a cloth or tarp to prevent drying.
  • At your new garden, dig a hole approximately twice as large as the root ball of the plant. Create a mixture of soil, compost and transplant fertilizer (which can be purchased at nurseries or garden supply stores) and add it to the hole. This ensures that healthy, fertile soil will surround your plant in its new home.
  • Lightly pack the soil around the plant. Once you have completed the transplant, water the area and cover it with mulch to keep it moist.
  • Newly transplanted gardens need more water than usual. Water once a day or every other day at least. If possible, shield new plants from direct sunlight for the first few weeks with a screen or a few well-placed boards.

Remember that it may take weeks or months for a new transplant to overcome the shock of a move and actually start to grow again. Trees may take a full year to complete the adjustment.

What if You Can’t Move the Garden?
If your garden plants are too fragile to withstand a move or you are simply moving too far away, your plants may have to stay put. Don’t just leave your garden behind; ensure that it falls into capable and caring hands. Consider officially giving the garden away to a responsible neighbor or to the apartment complex association. Passing on the responsibility of the garden is crucial to helping it survive after you are gone. If there’s no one to pass the garden to and you think your plants can survive a short move across town, think about giving particular plants away to friends or family members with backyards and green thumbs. They may be delighted to receive a potted plant as a reverse going-away present from you.

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