"I have a Concord grape vine that is eight years old and was wondering if I can move it. Or can I cut off a foot-long piece and stick it in the ground. I need a little advice on the best choice."
Moving a grapevine involves some heavy digging and much pruning of vines and roots.
The roots aren't usually deeper than 30 centimetres (one foot) but they spread four or five feet around. If you're a muscular gardener who is okay with strenuous work, or if you have help from someone who can dig a big hole and drag a wide rootball around, then you could certainly get the whole vine moved.
So the choice really depends how strong you are or if you have help.
Grapevines are so vigorous that cuttings or transplanting should result in a live grape vine. Cuttings are easier, but transplanting the big vine would give you more grapes sooner.
Late fall planting gives the roots more time to settle in. But I'm inclined to opt for early spring for moving grapevines or starting grape cuttings, because winter sometimes strikes early and hard. Occasionally, we have severe cold with outflow winds and no precipitation. This is hard on newly planted grapes and may kill cuttings.
Starting cuttings is non-strenuous and takes very little time. All you need is a stem with three buds: when you insert it into the ground, two buds should be covered by soil, with one above it. Rooting hormone is optional.
It is always safer with cuttings to take two or three, in case of accidents, and leave the mother plant in place until you have at least one cutting producing new growth.
"I bought a bunch of trees and shrubs (weeping birch, magnolia, lilac, roses, burning bush, and forsythia) with plans to plant them right away. But now I'd prefer to wait till spring when we can afford to have someone properly plan a garden for us. I'd love to know if I had better get digging now or if I could take steps to protect them now and plant them later."
Jamie Jeffrey, via email
You can do it all, Jamie. You can get digging to protect them now, keeping them in the pots so that you have them ready for planting later.
The best way to overwinter them in pots is to dig holes deep enough in the soil so that you can plunge pots-and-plants into the earth.
The level of soil in the pots should be level with the top of the garden soil. Mulching them would give extra security.
An alternative method for people with greenhouses that can be heated above freezing is to put the trees and shrubs in there. They will be able to survive the winter in the original pots, just as you bought them. They would need occasional watering.
In the days when most shrubs and trees were sold bare-root in fall, gardeners would often "heel" them in - that is, plant them quickly and casually with no extras. Their aim was just to get the roots covered till they could relocate them in spring.
Containerized plants in the soil have a better situation because there's less root disturbance later.
Anne Marrison is happy to answer garden questions. Send them to her via firstname.lastname@example.org