Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Mossy Oak Tree Tube Video: Tree tubes versus wire mesh cages

Our friends at Mossy Oak Tree Tubes sent this great video comparing the benefits and performance of wire mesh cages versus Wilson Tree Tubes:

While you're visiting Mossy Oak's Nativ Nurseries web site be sure to check out their awesome hybrid oaks and other wildlife trees!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Tree Tubes launch hybrid oaks with amazing growth!

(Click to enlarge)

I have been designing and marketing tree tubes for more than 22 years, and I have seen some amazing tree growth - but this might take the cake.

The Tubex Combitube Treeshelter in the photo above is 4ft tall.  That means the tree growing inside of it is a good 8ft tall.

That tree was 18 inches tall when it was planted.  Here's the question:  Do you think it was planted in spring 2010 (two growing seasons) or spring 2009 (three growing seasons)?  Either one would be impressive.

But both answers are wrong.  The tree was planting in spring 2011.  In one season it grew 6 1/2 feet!!

As Paul Harvey would say, here's "The Rest of the Story:"

The planting stock is from Mossy Oak's Nativ Nurseries.  It is a hybrid oak, Overcup x White oak.  Oak naturally hybridize in the wild.  The offspring of those hybrids often exhibit fast growth.  Nativ Nurseries hand selects acorns from naturally occurring hybrids that have shown fast growth and prodigious acorn production.

The seedlings were given granular fertilizer at planting time, and have not been fertilized since.

The seedlings were not watered.

Weeds and grasses were aggressively controlled (thanks to the tree tubes which make it easy to located seedlings and shield them from herbicide spray).

And, of course, they were given the very best Tree Tubes on the market:  Tubex Combitube Treeshelters from Wilson Forestry Supply.

We're less than one year since this tree was an acorn!  My guess is that it will be producing its own acorns at 3 or 4 years of age!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Happy oak in a Wilson Tree Tube

(Click to enlarge)

Last week at this time this little bur oak seedling was happy to be safe inside this Tree Tube, rather than exposed to 30 to 40mph wind gusts that would have dried it out.

Today the seedling is just as happy not to be exposed to a blistering sun - it's over 90 degrees here in Minnesota. 

I'll be photographing this bur oak every Monday, to put together a time lapse sequence as the growing season goes on.  This is a really fun thing to do, in part because it's always fun to see how fast your trees are growing in their tree tubes (some guys supercharge their cars to see how fast they can go, I supercharge my trees to see how fast they'll grow!), and in part because making a weekly visit to your trees really makes you appreciate how stressful growing conditions are for unsheltered trees, and how much tree tubes function to reduce stress.
Stress is to tree growth what friction is to motion.  Low stress = Fast growth!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Tree Tubes spell relief from wind & moisture stress

(Click to enlarge)

Looking at this photo you can practically hear the little bur oak seedling sighing, "Ahhhh."  I took this photo yesterday.  Nice sunny day, but the wind was howling with gusts up to 35mph and more.
An un-tubed bur oak seedling - or any seedling - would have been under severe moisture stress as the wind continually stripped away the moist envelope of air surrounding the leaves. Not this guy.  All he "felt" was the gentle swaying of the tree tube thanks to its PVC tree tube stake.  No wind.  No stress.  Just perfect conditions for growth. 

Why do trees grow so much faster in tree tubes?  Two reasons (well it's a lot more than two reasons, but we'll concentrate on two for today).  One a windy day like yesterday the leaves on un-tubed trees close their stomata - the pores through which they exchange gases and transpire moisture.  This is a good strategy for conserving limited moisture resources, but it's a bad strategy for photosynthesis, which slows dramatically.  In other words, it's a survival strategy, not a growth strategy.  By contrast the leaves of a seedling in a tree tube keep their stomata open and photosynthesis continues full bore.

Since the leaves of the seedling in a tree tube are not exposed to stressful, windy conditions they can optimize their morphology and structure for growth:  High surface to weight ratio to optimize light absorption and gas exchange, bright glossy surface.  The leaves of a seedling outside a tree tube are smaller, thicker, darker and duller.  They are survival leaves, not growth leaves.

To put it another way (and to use a Memorial Weekend analogy), the leaves in a tree tube are an Indy car, while the leaves of an un-tubed seedling are a 1974 Pinto.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Tree Tube Talk: Call Me Before You Plant Trees!

This past Saturday I was invited to give a talk about Tree Tubes at a Minnesota Forestry Association Field Day (which turned into more of an inside day, thanks to torrential downpours).  I have no idea how many talks I have given about tree tubes over the course of 22 years; it's a lot, but I never, ever get tired of it.  Yes, hopefully a result of my talks is that I sell a few tree tubes.  But that's not why I enjoy giving these talks so much.

First of all, when speaking to groups of landowners interested in forestry and tree planting I invariably meet fascinating people - the people who become my heroes for the amazing work they are doing and the dedication with which they tend their little patches of heaven.

Second of all, I always learn something from the folks I'm supposed to be teaching.  (It's interesting how these first two items have a lot more to do with listening than with speaking - it's true what they say; you can't learn anything new when your mouth is moving!)  Non-industrial private landowners own most of our forest land and they are the ones on the front line of the battle to regenerate and improve our forests.  They have been through the wars and have the battle scars - and knowledge - to show for it.

Finally - and here's where the teaching comes in - my talks almost always turn out to be about a lot more than tree tubes.  They are about successful forest regeneration in general.  One thing I have noticed over the years is that landowners often are not told the truth about tree planting by forestry and conservation professionals.  It's not that these professional lie, it's that they just don't want to tell landowners how difficult it is - and how much work it takes - to successfully grow trees.  I think there is an element of denial at work here, a hearkening to the old days before 70 deer per square mile when you could plant seedlings, walk away and expect adequate survival.  In part I think there's a fear that if landowners realize how much work it takes, they will choose not to do it.

So instead what happens is that landowners plant a bunch of trees with visions of passing a new forest down to their grandchildren, but become disillusioned when their trees get eaten by deer, cooked by drought and swarmed under with weeds and grass they can't possibly spray or mow fast enough.

Sadly, at this point many landowners give up.  Some - the dedicated few - the ones I meet at forestry field days - keep trying, and keep seeking new solutions.  Eventually this search leads them to me, and to tree tubes.  Luckily tree tubes are easier to find these days thanks to the internet.

Once they start using tree tubes,

1) They can't believe - and are in many cases angry - that no one ever told them about tree tubes before.

2) They fully understand that tree tubes reduce the cost of tree planting as compared to everything else they would need to do in order to be successful (and in many cases are in fact the only way they can be successful).

3) They tell me, "I wish I had known about this the first time I planted - it would have saved me years of wasted effort."

That's my challenge.  To spread to word more effectively, to teach people about tree tubes before they waste years of hard work and money, and before they give up altogether.

That's why I enjoy giving these talks so much.

Thank you to the Minnesota Forestry Association for inviting me, and thanks to so many dedicated members who braved inclement weather to come to the field day.  It's not always a bad thing when rain forces a field day inside and gets landowners together over coffee and donuts to meet, share information, and learn new tricks.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Tree Tubes: The Importance of Pruning to a Single Stem

You have planted your seedling, pounded in your tree tube stakes and you're about to lower your tree tube over the seedling.  You notice the seedling has some beautiful little lateral branches and you realize that you are faced with a decision:  Gather and bunch up those laterals, or prune the seedling to a single stem.

I call this the tree tube moment of truth.  What do you do?  You grit your teeth.  You wince.  You suck in your breath.  And you prune the seedling to a single stem.

I know it's hard to do.  I know it is counter intuitive.  Not only did you pay good money for the seedling (so you don't want to leave its branches laying on the ground), you also know those branches will produce leaves that will fuel faster growth... right?

Wrong.  I know that answer to this because I have done it both ways.  When you prune to a single stem not only will you get a tree with better form (no narrow branch angles cause by cramming lateral branches into the confined space), you will get faster growth!  That is because when you prune to single stems before applying your tree tubes each leaf will be exposed to more sunlight, and more air - especially carbon dioxide - will circulate in the tree tube to fuel more growth.

Several times I - or one of my customers - have done side by side tests: Same species, same site, some pruned to a single stem and some left unpruned.  The pruned trees always perform better.

So when confronted with "the moment of truth" and facing the decision "to prune or not to prune," hopefully it will make it easier to do the right thing - pruning to a single stem - now that you know that your trees will not only have better form, they will also grow faster.

Think of it this way:  When you buy and plant a seedling what you are really buying is a root system.  Tree tubes are the fastest, surest way to turn that root system into a healthy, established tree.  Pruning to a single stem accelerates the process of turning that root system into a tree.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Tree Tubes: There's no "wrong time" to install a tree tube!

People often ask me: When is the best time to install my tree tubes?

My answer:  Today!  (The second best time:  Tomorrow.)

Seriously, there's no bad time or wrong time to install your tree tubes.  They can be installed when seedlings are still dormant, or they can be installed when your seedling are in full leaf.

If you install them later in the summer after the seedlings have already pushed new growth you might not see a dramatic increase in growth from using the tree tubes until next year... but that's OK - at least your trees will be safe from the deer!