English Oak repot in the Uk

Good day all, I am after some advice. I have an English Oak that has been growing in the ground for 3 years and has now reached the truck thickness I am happy with (about 3" diameter). I planted it about 12" above a floor tile so hopefully the tap root hasn’t got away.

I am planning on putting it in an escape pot with a mesh base and holes drilled in the side for good O2, sat on my grow bed. With the regular fertiliser and water it grows branches around 3’ long every year which I would like to cut back again this year before it goes in the pot.

Finally the advice I am after. I have read with interest Harry Harrington success with English Oak replanting work in August. If I aim to move the tree in August next year would I be better to cut back the top growth straight after leaf drop this year or just before bud push next spring.

Sorry it’s so wordy, any advice on timing, soil mix, the escape pot or this English oak in general will be greatly received.

Hi @Welshwood,
I would prune after leaf drop to give buds a chance to build up. One year I tried rubbing all the buds off my oak after leaf drop (don’t ask me why, it seemed like a good idea at the time) and it grew new ones by spring.
You may be able to get away with digging it up just after the leaves come out in the spring.

Thanks for the reply, didn’t get back straight away I was watching the end of trunk bend part 2 the best sequel since terminator 2 :wink:.

Any thoughts on the soil mix I was thinking of having a base of the 1:1:1 but increasing the organic percentage with a small amount of some regular potting compost?

When you say potting compost, are you talking about multipurpose or John Innis? Fine bark is often a good additive for organic matter.
TB2 is epic!

Just general compost from the garden centre just one of the basic ones. I was also thinking that or some of the soil from my growing bed just o blend so as not to cause to much of a soil difference to imped the drainage through the bottom of the escape pot into the ground? Only a little maybe enough to raise it to 2:1:1 but the 2 being 50:50 catidama and the soil?

I don’t know a great deal about escape root technique, but my understanding is that you are trying to create a fine root system in the pot, but allowing some of those roots to jump back into the ground to help faster thickening of the trunk?
If that is the case, I would just go for 1:1:1 or 2:1:1

Thanks Andy that’s my understanding as well, I’m looking at it as a step between the ground and a pot, grow finer roots in the pot section with the added safety net of some roots in the ground.

FROM THE OTHER SIDE OF THE POND, in Ontario, Canada, I have been trying to get some advice on Quercus alba, white oak. I started a new topic on North eastern oak, quercus alba in the Horticulture section. Used some of Harry Harrington’s advice.

Regarding your discussion on soils, you could check out the Mirai podcast with the folks at Telpenion Farm and the one with Dennis Vojtia (sorry mispelled) on deciduous trees.

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Thanks David I listened to the telperian farm one today and will certainly check out the other one.

I am just rewatching the pomegranate stream, and in it Ryan mentions the the roots of Oak are really sensitive, any idea of any more detail on that? Could I go in this spring lift it out of the ground and clean the bottom off the root structure to get better flare in the nebari? I have read in some articles that the tap root is a reservoir for sugars and starches on the Oak? Any advice would be appreciated :thinking:

In my experience with deciduous oaks (I can’t talk to evergreen oaks since I don’t have any) the roots are very sensitive. The taproot does not like to be trimmed very much in one go. It’s a multi year process to get a shallow rootbase.

There is also a Turkish Oak stream too. Can’t remember if Ryan dives into how to manage the roots though.
EDIT: never mind. Even though it’s deciduous, the information in the stream seems more suited to Mediterranean oaks than other deciduous oaks. Still a fun stream to watch :slight_smile:

Thanks nmhansen, hopefully the tap root hasn’t grown to much. Any experience on the safe reduction of the tap root? In your experience would 50% be to much?

For whatever reason I’ve always had the 33% number in my head for pruning the taproot. I can’t remember who told me or where I read that.

Earlier this year I did about a 70% reduction on an Oregon white oak and everything but one twig has died back. If it survives the winter, it’s back to the drawing board for me.

Oh right, thanks for that I will keep it in mind. Sorry to hear about your troubles with your.:pensive:

Hi, the telperion farms podcast is definitly worth a listern more than once.
As far as repotting and lifting your oak, I do mine when the buds are swelling and just about to pop which is late april to mid may depending on the years weather
It is definitly the best time and the time when you can cut the roots the most. I live in the uk too and have more than 30 oaks, mostly in two large forest settings, and the remaining four in pots and four in the ground. I find full defoliation works but partial defoliation works best as you can do this multiple times in the year (upto 4) to increase ramification. I would not defoliate a tree that was repoted in that same year. You will also find that leaf size is reduced in the year that you repot. I have only lost one oak on repotting and that was due to cutting the tap root back too much.


I also prune back in the autumn. Here it depends on what you want to acheive. The later you leave it the more your branches thicken. I like to have my oaks pruned back by mid oct to let the energy go into forming those buds for next year, pruning back to two buds, or two budding potential points and to heal the cuts. Large cuts i put sealent on. You can do big cuts in the spring to, but it will slow the tree down. You might want to do this if you have a very vigerous tree that has big leaves…
If you cut in spring the it heals very quick. If you prune after leaf fall then healing takes months. I also remove dead leaves that cling on in january as they can carry bugs and desease through to the spring buds. (Cut them off at the petiol rather than pull and tear the tissue)

Finally if you dont get much growth on a tree then let it grow dont cut it back.


Thanks Robin,

Any guidance on how far cutting back the tapp root is too far, maybe as a %?

I think over 40%… but not totally sure… all i can remember is that the one i lost was more tapp root than anything else, ie not much other roots.

Ok thanks Robin I have read that in its natural state the other roots take over the roll initially provided by the tapp root so if enough other roots are present it can survive. Slowly does it I suppose. :+1: