How to move garden plants

I have two young flowering cherries, but they were planted too close together. I do not want to lose either, so can one be moved?

Certainly, but moving of a deciduous tree should be undertaken only during the dormant season, from November to April. The first job is to prepare the new site by digging a hole of ample size and forking the bottom over, incorporating well-rotted manure. Choose a spell of mild weather and place a sheet of tarpaulin or heavy-gauge polythene by the tree. Dig carefully around the base, about 600 mm (2 ft) from the trunk, and then gently slide the tree and its root-ball onto the sheet.

Drag the sheet to the freshly prepared site and reposition it at the original depth. Before replacing the soil, drive in a stout stake between the roots close to the trunk. Backfill the soil and secure the tree to the stake with two plastic ties. Complete the job with a thorough watering.

I have a conifer 1.8 m (6 ft) high which will be in the way of a new garage. Will the tree survive removal to a site nearby?

Conifers can be particularly difficult to move, but the success rate is good if the job is tackled in the right way. First, make sure the tree is well watered and spray the foliage with an anti-dessicant to prevent the leaves from losing too much moisture. Prepare a planting hole. Now gently lift the tree by digging around the base, then slide a large square of hessian under the root-ball to retain as much soil as possible. Plant the tree in its new position as soon as possible and, as newly planted conifers tend to fall over, place stakes around the tree and attach plastic mesh to them in order to break the force of any wind.

I have a Scots pine with a large limb that is dead. What is the best way to remove this?

Branches can be deceptively heavy and, in order to prevent a limb from ripping bark down the main trunk, as much weight as possible should be removed before sawing through the limb. This means lopping off smaller side branches and also shortening the limb itself. Before making the main cut, rope the limb to a stout branch above. Undercut the branch about 300 mm (12 in) from the trunk and then make a second cut above the first to remove it entirely, making sure to stand clear as the branch swings free. Lower the branch to the ground and trim the stub as close to the trunk as you can, finally applying a wound paint to the cut surface.

I have felled a large sycamore that was dominating one end of the garden, and now wish to remove the stump. How should this be done?

When felling a tree make sure that you leave enough stump to provide leverage. Dig around the base to expose the main roots and sever these with an axe or bow saw. Snap the minor roots by rocking the stump backwards and forwards, and then lever the stump over in order to expose the tap root, if it has one.

If the stump has been cut right down to ground level it will be difficult to remove, and it can be killed by using chemicals poured into specially bored holes. These chemicals are poisonous and the holes must be plugged securely to make them child- and animal-proof.

My untidy heap of decomposing vegetation is getting out of hand in the corner of the garden and I want to construct a simple but efficient compost bin. Advice, please.

Compost bins should ideally be situated out of direct sunlight and cold winds. A simple bin can be made by driving four 100 x 100 mm (4 x 4 in) section posts into the ground and stretching heavy-duty plastic netting around them to form a cage, making sure that the front can be opened to allow removal of the compost. A more permanent bin can be built from concrete blocks, but remember to leave gaps at the back and sides to allow the circulation of air. The compost should be built up off a simple platform of boards resting on bricks.

My blackcurrant and other soft-fruit bushes are constantly raided by birds. How can I make a cheap but effective fruit cage?

Plastic netting has revolutionised fruit cages. Simply mark out the boundaries of the area and dig a trench 150 mm (6 in) deep on all sides, but leaving a gap for the entrance. Drive 75 x 75 mm (3 x 3 in) section posts or poles about 600 mm (2 ft) into the ground and 1.8 m (6 ft) apart at a height to allow you headroom. Stretch galvanised or plastic-coated wire between the poles, fixing it with staples. Now use plastic netting to form the roof and sides of the cage. The side netting should hang down into the trench. Secure the netting to the poles and wires with garden twine, and anchor it at the base by backfilling the trench.

I have a small garden and wish to grow espalier fruit trees. Unfortunately all my fences and house walls are already clothed with climbers. Any ideas?

Espalier and cordon fruit trees are great space-savers in a garden, and practical too. They can make an ideal screen or division within the garden and in your case can be simply trained on posts and wires. 100 x 100 mm (4×4 in) section posts will be necessary, and these can be concreted into position 1.8 m (6 ft) apart, with the tops all at a height of 1.4 m (4Vfe ft). Three horizontal strands of galvanised wire should be stretched between the posts at equal intervals, the bottom strand 450 mm (18 in) above the ground. Treat the posts with timber preservative (not creosote).

The front of my house is built in an attractive but rather overpowering red brick. I wish to train climbers up it but do not want to use trellis. Is there an alternative?

Yes, wires stretched horizontally along the wall provide an ideal host for climbers and are sensibly unobtrusive. Drill and plug the wall (in the bricks rather than in the mortar joints), and insert round-headed galvanized vine-eyes, the bottom row about 1.2 m (4 ft) above the ground and the holes 1 m (3 ΒΌ ft) apart horizontally and 600 mm (2 ft) apart vertically. Wires can be threaded through the eyes, and climbers are simply tied back to the wires as they develop.

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