Thursday, December 30, 2010

Where did tree tubes come from?

To the casual observer (forestry contractor, tree farmer, conservation district manager, etc.) it must seem like tree tubes (aka treeshelters) went from being a novelty to suddenly being all over the internet in the last few years.  Many of these folks are probably asking themselves, where did tree tubes come from, and why are they suddenly "all the rage" in tree planting?

Here's a quick history, from someone who's been a part of it almost from the beginning.

Translucent plastic treeshelters were originally developed in the UK starting in 1979 by a British Forestry Commission Forester named Graham Tuley.  In his honor they were originally - and in many places still are - called Tuley Tubes.  The problem Mr. Tuley was trying to solve was common then and has become an epidemic now:  Unchecked deer populations wiping out any and all attempts at hardwood reforestation.  His solution?  Use a translucent plastic tube to provide "safe passage" for the tree seedling to grow up past the level of deer browse.  Naysayers thought these "mini greenhouses" would overheat and kill the trees.  The opposite was true:  It was found that tree shelters dramatically reduce moisture stress, and therefore increase survival rates and dramatically accelerate early growth.

Fast forward to 1989, when treeshelters were introduced to the USA for the first time.  If anything, the need for tree tubes was even greater in the USA given the record numbers of white tailed deer (the 1900 population of deer in the USA is estimated at about 500,000; today we have states where that many deer are killed by hunters each year without any appreciable effect on herd numbers).  However, two factors combined to retard the acceptance of tree tubes in their first 15+ years in the USA:

1. Perception high cost - Tree tubes were seen as being "too expensive," but it took some time before we all came to grips with part 2 of that statement: "compared to what?"  Yes, tree tubes are expensive compared to the way we used to do things: plant a bunch of seedlings, walk away, deer eat the seedlings, repeat.  In other words, tree tubes are expensive as compared to failure.  In recent years, however, more and more foresters and tree planters have gained a better understanding of the economics involved.  Now the prevailing thinking is, "Tree tubes reduce the cost of successful reforestation."  When you take into account everything that goes into successfully establishing hardwood trees, and compare the cost of tree tubes to that, then you begin to see all of the ways tree tubes save money:  Ability to plant fewer stems to achieve the same stocking level.  Virtually zero replanting due to mortality.  Fast and easy weed control.  And, as always, protection from deer (and their "partners in crime" rabbits).

2. Problems with tree tube performance - Depending on their location, early adapters of tree tubes in the USA experienced difference versions of the same story:  Elation at the initial survival, rapid growth and browse protection provided by treeshelters, followed by disappointment over some later problem or side effect.  In northern climates it was winter die-back; seedlings didn't harden off properly for winter and were vulnerable to frost damage. In southern climates it was fungal problems brought about by too much humidity.

The original tree tubes designs did work well in one part of the USA:  The Chesapeake Bay region.  When you think about it, that makes perfect sense.  The climate of the mid-Atlantic region is probably as similar to the climate in the UK as you can get in the USA, maritime and moderate (although it still gets both hotter and colder in the American mid-Atlantic). So while acceptance of tree tubes in the Chesapeake Bay watershed stayed strong, it lagged in other parts of the country.

The solution?  It seems so simple now it's almost laughable how long it took those of us "on the inside" to figure it out:  Air.  As in punching holes in the tree tubes.  As in ventilation.

Ventilated tree tubes provide several benefits:

1. Equalize the temperature inside and outside of the tree tube, which helps trees harden off properly for winter in colder climates.  Since the introduction of vented tree tubes, winter die-back has become a thing of the past.  I actually look forward to spring - no more do I have to field dozens of called from customers ranging from disappointed to irate about how their beautiful trees, especially black walnut trees, that had almost emerged from their tree tubes the previous year had since died back to just above the ground line.

2. Minimize build up of humidity, reducing the incidence of foliar fungi problems in the Southeastern USA.

3. Increase the level of carbon dioxide available to the tree inside the tube (it was learned that in solid un-vented tree tubes low carbon dioxide levels becomes a limiting factor in growth)

4. Allow some air movement through the tube and pin-points of sunlight, giving the tree "signals" that it is growing in an open field & causing it to allocate more of its growth energy to stem thickness and root development.  In other words: You get a healthier, more balanced tree.

Fast forward to 2010- well two days away from 2011.  Tree tubes have become all the rage for three reasons:

1. The problems they solve - deer browse, poor hardwood seedling survival, weed control, etc. - have only gotten worse since 1989
2. There is a much clearer understanding that while tree tubes are more expensive that planting trees and walking away, they greatly reduce the time & cost involved in successful tree planting
3. Tree tube design, especially the state of the art Tubex CombiTube Treeshelter, has come a long way and no provides outstanding performance across the full range of climatic extremes in North America

So now that you know why you're seeing tree tubes everywhere on the internet and in the field.  We hope you'll make Wilson Forestry Supply your source for the latest and greatest in treeshelter technology!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Hybrid Oaks + Tubex CombiTube Treeshelters = Optimal Growth!

Think oak trees are slow growing?  Think again!  When you give most oaks what they need to thrive - shelter from deer browse and aggressive weed control to simulate the beneficial effects of fire - you won't believe how fast oak trees can grow.

Still want even faster growth and early acorn production?  Plant hybrid oaks!  In nature oaks of different species frequently cross pollinate to create hybrids that have some of the characteristics of both parent trees.  Oak experts have long noticed two traits of many hybrids:  They grow faster than either parent species, and the begin producing acorns at an earlier age.

Many nurseries specialize in growing and selling hybrid oaks.  One of our favorites is Mossy Oak's Nativ Nurseries.

Now hybrid oaks do cost more; it take a lot more effort on the part of the nursery to locate hybrid trees and monitor their performance over time so they can assure you of improved productivity.

It only makes sense to protect your investment in hybrid oaks with the best tree tube on the market, the Tubex CombiTube Tree Tube, from Wilson Forestry Supply.  If you have any questions about this product, please contact our expert sales staff today.

Happy New Year, and Happy Hybrid Oak Planting!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Plastic Forest

I found this old article online today.  One reason I like it is that it dates to April, 1989 - almost the exact time that I first learned about tree tubes and realized their potential for re-establishing high value hardwoods in the face of increased deer pressure.

The article is a classic - a classic display of short-sighted stupidity that is.  The author complains about all of the plastic treeshelters he was beginning to see when strolling the English countryside.

He did have one valid point:  In those early days tree tube makers were overly optimistic in telling customers that the tubes would photodegrade into an inert powder within a certain number of years.  We now know this to be untrue.  Well-made tree tubes like the Tubex CombiTube Treeshelters we carry here at Wilson Forestry Supply, have a perforation line running the length of the tubes so that the tube will open up and expand as the tree growth.

And responsible manufacturers like Tubex make sure all customers know that the preferable practice is to remove the tree tubes when the trees reach approximately 3 inches in diameter, and dispose of them properly.

As for Malcolm Smith's other complaints about wanting to see the woods like more "natural," well...

Is it "natural" to have a white-tailed deer population that is many, many multiples of what it was 100 years ago?

Is it "natural" for high value hardwoods to compete with dozens of exotic and invasive weed species?

Is it "natural" to suppress the fires that gave oaks and other trees a competitive edge over the surrounding prairie grasses?

We are planting trees into a very "unnatural" world, and as such it makes sense that we must turn to "unnatural" methods, such as plastic tree tubes.  After all, there's a reason foresters invented tree tubes in the first place:  What they were doing before no longer worked!

So Mr. Smith had a choice:  Put up with a few years of looking at plastic tree tubes (perhaps 5 years out of an 80 or 100 year rotation), or be forced to watch year after year after year of failed plantings.

It would be interesting to know, 21 years later, what Mr. Smith thinks of tree tubes now!

Makin' a list, checkin' it twice...

We're getting close... to the day when Wilson Forestry Supply tree tubes, stakes, weed barrier, deer fence and deer repellent will be available for purchase online!

Lists are being made, prices are being checked - reduced - and checked again.  Not in time for your holiday shopping, but definitely in time to get a jump start on spring planting!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Tree Tube Tip: Pre-threaded ties save time

I have worked with tree tubes for more than 20 years, but every year I learn something new.  That's why I love it so much.

Pre-threaded tree tube ties is a largely manual process that adds to the cost of production.  Some forestry contractor customers had always told me that tree tubes with pre-threaded ties could be installed 20 to 30% faster than those whose ties need to be threaded in the field.  One contractor had pin-pointed the difference to 22%! 

For a long time I didn't believe them.  I thought that there was very little difference in installation time between tree tubes with pre-threaded ties and those without.  And if there was little to no difference in installation time, then pre-threading ties at the factory was an unnecessary added cost, right?

Wrong!!  I did some time trials myself.  Pre-threaded versus un-threaded, 100 tubes each.  The time difference between the two?  You guessed it:  22%.  I learned a couple of big lessons in that field.  #1: always listen to the guys in the field who install thousands upon thousand of tree tubes per year.

#2: Always offer the best treeshelter on the market, at the most reasonable prices.  You might pay a little more for a tree tube with pre-threaded ties, but when comparing prices be sure to balances that slightly higher prices against the 22% savings in field labor you will realize!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Wilson Forestry - The Best Gets Better

Tubex Treeshelters have been the "gold standard" for hardwood establishment worldwide since 1985.  Their easy of installation and durability have made them the choice of tree planting contractors and forestry professionals.

Wilson Forestry Supply is proud to offer the Tubex CombiTube Treeshelter, without question the most advanced tree tube on the market today... and at unbeatable pricing.

What makes the Tubex CombiTube so unique?  It's the only tube that combines the classic Tubex nested tube design with the benefits of ventilation.

Back in 1989 when Tubex Treeshelters were the first tree tube introduced to the USA most foresters thought that a tree tube should be an air-tight chamber.  Man, were we ever wrong!  Subsequent research has shown that vented tree tubes have multiple benefits:

1) Increased CO2 availability, for more total photosynthesis (in the old unvented tubes, the tree seedlings would use up all the CO2 in the tube and then stop growing until the tube was slowly "recharged" with CO2)

2) Better stem caliper growth - those little puffs of wind and the dots of sunlight that come though the vent holes are not enough to cause moisture stress, but are enough to foster better stem thickness growth

3) Reduced heat and moisture build up in the Southeast means fewer problems with foliar fungi as compared to unvented tubes

There is no case where ventilation is not beneficial - no matter where your project is and no matter what species you are planting.  If your job specifications call for Tubex Treeshelters but do not specify vented tubes, give us a call.  We can help get vented tubes accepted and create a win/win/win for you, your client and the trees!  Call Chris at 507-301-5106.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Where to buy online

Looking for the perfect Christmas gift for the tree farmer or outdoor enthusiast on your list?
Wilson Forestry Supply tree tubes and stakes are available through 2 great online partners:

Tree Protection Supply - Based in Newnan, GA Tree Protection Supply carries a range of tree tubes.  Owner Scott Berta is a registered forester and has a wealth of experience with tree tubes.  Scott pioneered the use of 1/2" pvc conduit as the ideal tree tube stake - durable enough to last, flexible enough to allow the tree to gain stem caliper as it grows up through the tube, resilient enough to sway in the wind (or when rammed by a rutting buck) and spring back without breaking or tilting.

Mossy Oak's Nativ Nursery - No one cares more about the outdoor experience than Mossy Oak, and the folks based in West Point, MS bring that same dedication and expertise to their young (but fast growing - literally!) nursery operation.  So while you're shopping for your tree tubes & stakes, be sure to check out Nativ Nurseries amazing range of hybrid oaks and other wildlife-feeding trees.  Nativ Nurseries seedlings and the best tree tubes on the market make an unbeatable combination.  You literally will not believe how fast young trees - even oaks (actually especially oaks!) can grow.

Both companies allow you to purchase any quantity of tree tubes, rather than forcing you into buying pre-packaged numbers that are too many or too few for your needs.  With other tree tube companies, it's like trying to buy the right number of hot dogs and buns.  With Tree Protection Supply and Mossy Oak, if you need 17 tubes you can buy 17 tubes - no "broken case" fees, no hassle.


Welcome to Wilson Forestry Supply's new forestry blog.  For more than 15 years Wilson has been the go-to source for the best in vineyard and orchard supplies.

Now we're bringing that same level of expertise and dedication to providing you with the very best in tree planting supplies!
And we'll be adding new products all the time - so visit and this blog often for the latest news, info, and tips for making this year's tree planting project your best ever!