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I've replanted/stolen/adopted about 3 kinds of weeds (mostly lawn-type grasses but wait for the pictures) from in front of my building.

  • The soil down there is hardly anything more than buildings' rubble with some sand blown over by the wind. What I replant into is freshly purchased fertilized soil in an (I believe a large enough) pot.

  • The temperature outside goes down to about -10°C at night; where I've placed them it goes down to zero or so. The noon high is about +15°C. The temperature during all the replanting was at the top end of the stated range, perhaps 10°C outside / +5 at the destination. But zero frost anywhere.

  • Watering and light - have been exactly as for my houseplants (who are quite happy). Water 2/week; several hours of direct sun but not all day.

Digging out all the roots without destroying the finest of them - is IMHO basically impossible, but I've used methods that have worked well in other situations.

Still they all died. pictures soon Why?

2 Answers 2

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Transplant shock - you made a vast, quick, change in the conditions they were exposed to - while you think it's more favorable, the plants don't agree.

First thing to try if you wish to persist would be not using "freshly purchased fertilized soil" since you probably can't easily alter the temperature and light where you are putting them, and it's likely the largest shock factor - over-fertilization definitely can kill plants. Likewise, removing any more soil than is absolutely unavoidable in getting the plant out of the ground from roots damages roots. You should remove a clump of dirt with roots in it, and not disturb that clump of soil when potting it up.

You mention how cold the new location gets - does it also get hotter than the outside? That can also easily kill plants adapted to being cooler.

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You just moved them now? While the ground is still frozen?

You need to do such things while the plants are showing strong growth. That is when they have the energy to recover from the shock of being moved. It does not have to be in the spring, but it needs to be during a growing period. Spring is preferred because it gives the longest time before frost for the plant to store up energy for winter, and so have the best chance to live to next year.

Also, when moving grass and similar plants, you need to be sure you got deep enough to get enough roots. How deep you need to go depends on the type of grass. You also want to take patches that are wide enough to be sure to get more-or-less complete roots. This 6 inch tall plant may have much wider roots.

Generally, transplanting grass is possible, but a lot of work unless you have the right tool. There's this kind of "cake knife" thing that garden centers use. They get it deep enough then peel off a layer of sod, usually around a yard (about a meter) wide.

Unless you want to buy sod rolls, the easy thing to do is re-seed. We had the "how to re-seed" question on this SE just a few weeks ago.

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    I disagree that one shouldn't move dormant plants; I do that all the time - it's one of the best times to give plants away, especially if you have to mail them to their new home. The ground is, of course, not frozen when I do that. Right now I have a primrose and half a dozen Phlox happily living in my basement. Grasses do present more of a challenge, but a saw or serrated knife (if you're splitting a clump) and a shovel should be the only tools needed. But yes, the larger the plant, the deeper the roots, and the larger the pot the plant needs to go into.
    – Jurp
    Apr 3, 2023 at 13:54
  • A plant in a pot is very different.
    – Boba Fit
    Apr 3, 2023 at 14:21
  • The OP is, as far as I can tell, transplanting into pots. FWIW I transplant dormant plants from one garden to another with no problems except when squirrels dig up the transplants, which happens occasionally.
    – Jurp
    Apr 3, 2023 at 18:16
  • @Jurp So you think going into a pot makes it OK? Great, let me know how that works out for you.
    – Boba Fit
    Apr 3, 2023 at 20:03
  • As I noted in my first comment, transplanting dormant into a pot works great. I used to work in a production nursery where we routinely split dormant plants into pots every spring. No issues whatsoever.
    – Jurp
    Apr 3, 2023 at 20:18

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