We are hoping to move house early this year, and wondered how practical it was to dig up a ‘Discovery’ apple tree, planted at our current address in 2005? It is 5ft-6ft tall, and has just started fruiting properly. Could you also please advise us on protection against codling moth? We have used grease bands with limited success, but many of our apples continue to be blighted by this pest.
Peter Barnes, W Sussex It should be just about possible to dig up a young tree of this size, but you must do it during the next month or so, during mild weather. Once it is out of the ground you should wrap its root ball in sacking or a double layer of weedsmothering membrane, and protect it from frost until such time as you can replant it, ideally before the tree comes out of dormancy. Bear in mind that the roots of the tree will have spread approximately as far sideways underground as the canopy has spread above it.
Damage to one or two of the outer roots will be inevitable, but won’t kill the tree. There will be downward travelling roots, of course, but not a single, all-important tap root. Work fairly gently using a fork at first. You will get a feel for just how extensive the root system is only when you start to dig. This is definitely a two-person job.
As for codling moth – fruit tree grease and bands are regarded as useful barriers, but you may have got the timing slightly wrong. There is also a biological control that is effective: pheromone traps you can hang from the branches of your trees to attract adult moths – go to the Green Gardener website for more information (greengardener.co.uk).