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We have a fig tree whose roots have broken into our concrete cistern. The cistern will be fixed next week. Everyone is telling us that we need to cut down the tree, which we don't like to do at all - in our arid desert climate, anything that grows is a treasure - but it's looking like we have to.

Is there any chance it can be moved at that size, and survive in a new location?

We don't know how old it is but it has to be at least 7-9 years.

  • how close to the cistern? How about a picture? – kevinsky Sep 12 '15 at 12:17
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    Before you move it, cut off a bunch of pencil thick branches, dip them in cloning gel and pot them. That way if you kill the parent during the relocation, you might still hopefully have some clones to replant – WebChemist Sep 16 '15 at 9:09
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Instead of thinking of an either this or that choice let's open the problem up for other solutions.

The problem is:

roots have broken into our concrete cistern

Tree roots will grow where there is water so it seems possible that your cistern was leaking and the tree took advantage. To repair or replace your cistern you will have to do some heavy excavation around the area. While you are doing that take the opportunity to line the outside of the cistern with a waterproof membrane that will prevent moisture from going out and roots from coming in.

Your chances of successfully moving an eight foot tree with no preparation are slim. This should only be considered if the tree is very close to the cistern.

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Hard to imagine an 8' fig tree having roots invasive enough to break into your cistern. Yes, you should move that tree, at 8' there is a very good chance at survival. Gotta see where it is that you and that tree are located. In the Northern hemisphere we are about ready to go into fall then winter. Dig a trench about 2' diameter, a foot deep around this tree. Fill with straw. Keep moist until your soils start freezing. In the spring, you should be able to pop this tree out and transplant.

Newbie plants/trees need regular moisture until well established...2 years is good. If not, they will grow roots to find any moisture they are able. But trees should never be planted near a septic system and this tree is young enough to move and perhaps still save. By digging a trench now the tree will have time to develop feeder roots WITHIN a smaller root ball before being transplanted. Do not fertilize if your tree has had at least one decent fertilization this year. I would buy some MYCORRHIZAE to assist with root development/uptake. Keep watered but NOT OVERLY WATERED. In the spring, you can move this tree to a new spot with a bit of MANLY help and a tarp. Make sure to NOT bury any deeper than the root ball. No bark of the stem should be compromised with soil or mulch. Don't dig any deeper than the rootball as settling would lower the bark into contact with soil/mulch. Before any planting, digging, construction, you need to know where your underground utilities lie. All home owners should have an 'as-built' included with their mortgage documents. This shows footprints of existing buildings, septic tanks, septic drainfields, electricity, cable as well as irrigation and water lines. In the U.S. we have a city/county service called 'locate'...give them a call and within 24 hours someone comes out to paint all electrical/cable before digging. Otherwise, you need to dig down to find your septic tank and make dang sure you find 3 corners!! Grin, hope this helps...

  • I think 2' diameter is a little skimpy, if you were gonna move it – J. Musser Sep 13 '15 at 0:16
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    When they send a picture of their fig tree, I'll be able to gauge the drip line better. I've known so many 8' fig trees that are no more than an 8' stick! How big would you GUESS a proper diameter root ball would be? – stormy Sep 13 '15 at 18:12

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