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We're Moving: Can We Take Our Garden With Us?
Q. Dear Mike: Love love love the show! I learn so much each time I listen! Now:
We are moving at the end of August. But the grape tomatoes are looking REALLY good, the egg plant is flowering, and I'm missing my veggie garden already. Can I dig the plants up and transplant them to our new house? There is also a small pussy willow bush with sentimental value; the original I rooted it from was at the house where my husband grew up. Can I transplant it? It isn't very big, really (the size of a rose bush) - and I might have tried moving it anyway if we were staying. Last question: I bought some plants online, thinking they wouldn't be delivered until closer to our closing date. But lo and behold, they arrived yesterday - and they look great. Should I put them in pots until I can stick them in the ground at the new house? Thanks!
---Regina the sentimental gardener; Haddon Heights, NJ
A. Well, my first thought here was that missing plants in the vegetable garden probably wouldn't matter to the new owners, but that big, in-the-ground perennials like your pussy willow were officially part of the house and couldn't be removed without the owner's permission.
And Richard Shaw of Prudential Fox & Roach Realtors in Chadds Ford, PA says that my tree moving thoughts are correct. "In the world of real estate", he explains, "plants growing in the yard are included in the sale of the house. If you intend to take a favorite or two with you, it must be clearly stated to the buyer beforehand. Tell your agent too!"
Ah, but Richard adds that vegetable gardens are another story! "When you sell a farm, the growing crops remain the property of the seller", he explains, "and the same principle would apply to a home owner's vegetable garden. Again, this should be clearly stated just to be safe, but Regina DOES retain the right to come back and pick her vegetables. (Hopefully she's moving somewhere nearby and not across the country.)" Rich adds that "a qualified Real Estate License can help clarify these and other berry fruitful questions for concerned gardeners." Cute. Thanks, Rich. Keep your day job.
OK, so if you ARE moving far away, or the new owners don't want you coming back to harvest your habaneros, you should be able to successfully move the relatively small and upright plants, like peppers, herbs and eggplants. (In fact, it's almost time for me to start telling people my trick of bringing such plants inside for the winter anyway!)
Water them really well, dig them up in the evening with as much soil attached to their roots as possible, put them into the biggest pots you can, water them well again and then leave the pots in the garden—preferably in some shade—for a few days afterward. Then plant them at your new place in the evening—or, better still, keep them in their pots and get a nice indoor space ready for them to winter over and go out again next year.
Big, rangy plants like tomatoes are much riskier. If you must try, dig the plants up on the evening you leave, put this Island of Earth in a big box, plant it at the new place that very same evening and then water it like mad for the next week. If you CAN'T plant that same evening, wait for the next available evening—never put ANY transplant in the ground on a summer morning; it will lay down and take a long nap, perhaps forever.
The pussy willow? If the new owners agree to the hole in the ground, you MIGHT be able to move the whole thing. But willows put down roots, baby. What you see up top IS just the tip of the iceberg. If you're still game, make a big circle around the plant with a shovel, going down DEEP. Try to pop it right up out of the ground with the roots all hid inside that big 'island' of dirt, replant it in the evening and water the heck out of it. Let a hose just drip there for several days. Then water daily if we don't get rain. But I wouldn't try it. I'd just take a whole bunch of cuttings of this plant—like you did its parent—and root them at your new place. If you DO insist on moving the thing, take cuttings first anyway—that way, it'll be alright when you kill the big one.
Big plant moving in general: Best done late Fall or very early Spring (when the plants are all a'sleepies). Dig the new holes soon, while the shoveling is still easy. Then make a big circular island around the plant to be moved, pop it out, plop it into its new hole and water well. This works especially well with roses.
And finally, yes, do pot up those new acquisitions. Keep them well watered and mostly in shade until they can be safely installed at the new abode. On this, your timing is good—Fall is the best time to put in new plants.
You Bet Your Garden ©2004 Mike McGrath