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!

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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

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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

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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!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Tree Tubes Withstand Flooding

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A customer in Mississippi sent this photo after recent high winds and (obviously) torrential rains.

Even after all that, his Tubex Tree Tubes with PVC Tree Tube Stakes are still standing strong!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Tree Tubes: Giving Nature a helping hand

If you end up with some extra tree tubes after you're done protecting your newly planted seedlings, chestnuts and acorns, here are a couple of ways you can put those tree tubes to use:

1. Use tree tubes on naturally regenerated seedlings (volunteers) that you want to favor and protect

2. Use tree tubes on stump sprouts (suckers) that grow after an older tree dies or is harvested

Obviously growing from seed or re-sprouting from an existing root system are two ways trees have been reproducing since the dawn of time.  But keep in mind that only a tiny percentage of those naturally regenerated trees ever survived to reach maturity - and today's volunteer seedlings or sprouts face more dangers in the form of record high deer populations and dozens of invasive weed species than ever before.  Covering them with Tree Tubes not only shields them from deer browse, it makes it easier for you to locate those special young trees and give them some weed & brush control.

So you don't always have to plant a tree to grow a tree.  Sometimes you can simply take what Mother Nature starts and give it a helping hand.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Projects Of The Week

Whew, it was a whirlwind of a week* with a bunch of new tree planting projects getting off to a successful start.  The pace of orders and shipments turns this time of year into a bit of a blur, so I apologize if I'm forgetting some.

> A grower in PA bought a bunch of 24" tree tubes (yes, we have those - pls call for a quote!) to use on direct seeded American chestnuts and other trees.  And yes, she did get our special discount available to anyone using our Tree Tubes on American chestnut trees to help restore this magnificent species.

> Hazelnut bushes in Georgia - which will benefit from our Vented Tree Tube design

> Genetically select bur oaks in Texas

> Grapevines in Minnesota, Iowa and Pennsylvania

> Northern red oak and black walnut in Michigan

> Riparian buffer CREP project in Virginia

> Willows and cottonwoods in a riparian buffer CREP project in eastern Oregon

As always, thanks to all of our customers for allowing me and Wilson Forestry Supply to play at least a small part in the success of your projects.  Our success is measured by the success, growth and health of your trees, and how quickly they fulfill your plans.

* Speaking of whirlwinds, check out our Tree Tube News section to read how our Tubex Combitube Treeshelters and PVC Tree Tube Stakes withstood sustained 50mph winds in the South.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Tree Tubes Promote Stem Thickness - In Time

A customer asked a very good and well informed question this morning (that's not surprising - our customers are the smartest and best informed tree planters out there!):  She had read that trees need to shake and sway in the wind in order to add stem thickness/caliper, and worried that this would not happen in tree tubes

I gave a three part answer, which this poor customer probably regarded as "20 minutes of her life she'll her life she'll never get back," even though she was kind enough to listen and sound appreciative.  To save you the same 20 minute discussion, here's the Reader's Digest condensed version:

1) It's true that while a seedling is growing up through a tree tube and out the top it does not sway or flex as much as an un-tubed tree, and has a thinner stem relative to its height than the un-tubed tree.  (On the plus side, the tree is the tree tube is actually alive after the first few years, whereas odds are increasingly against the same being said for the un-tubed tree, due to deer browse and drought.)

2) This is not as true for the new vented Tubex Combitube Tree Tubes we offer here at Wilson Forestry Supply, especially when that vented tree tube is coupled with a PVC stake.  Vented tubes have been shown to promote better stem diameter growth than the old, unvented treeshelters used years ago.  And using a PVC stake allows the tree tube - and therefore the tree inside - to sway in the wind, triggering the same growth responses you see in an un-tubed tree: increased stem caliper and taper.

3) Even with today's better tree tubes and with PVC stakes, at the point in time the tree emerges from the tree tube it will have a thinner stem relative to its height than would an un-tubed tree.  That's OK!  That's why our tree tubes are designed to last 5+ years, so that after the tree emerges the tube can continue to support the trunk.  Once the emergent tree starts swaying in the wind you will see that it quickly adds stem taper and thickness.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Tree Tubes on Swamp White Oak

Sold some Wilson Tree Tubes to a customer in Wisconsin yesterday.  There's nothing surprising in that - we sell A LOT of tree tubes to tree planters in Wisconsin (after all, the annual deer harvest by hunters in Wisconsin is greater than the number of whitetail deer that existed in the USA in 1900, and it still doesn't reduce the size of the herd in Wisc!).

What was exciting about this conversation was that the customer plans to use his treeshelters on swamp white oak, Quercus bicolor (also known as bicolor oak in the nursery trade, perhaps out of fear the the presence of the word "swamp" in it name will make it less appealing to landscapers and homeowners).

Swamp white oak is a fantastic tree, but is underrated and under planted.  It grows much faster than most people associate with oaks (in fact ALL oaks grow much faster than people think!), and tolerates poorly drained bottomland sites.  Poorly drained sites are typically low in oxygen, since water is taking up much of the pore space in the soil.  Similar conditions can be found in boulevard tree planting sites where soil compaction creates low oxygen conditions, making swamp white oak an excellent choice as a street tree... and unlike many of the Norway maples and other trees planted along out streets, swamp white oak is tremendously long lived.

So Thank You to our new customer in Wisconsin for planting swamp white oaks on his property, and thank you for protecting them with our tree shelter tubes to ensure their success.  The deer will thank you for two hundred years to come!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Treeshelters for Paulownia

I found this great article on starting paulownia (Paulownina tomentosa) seedlings in Tubex Tree Shelters.

Paulownia, as many know, is an incredibly fast growing tree (as in 10-12 feet in 4 months!) that produces wood valued for a wide range of products.

If you have an interest in growing paulownia, I highly recommend joining the American Paulownia Association.  The organization is a great resource to learn about sources of seed and planting stock, best growing practices, and to share camaraderie with other growers.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Tree Tubes In Action - Weekly Wrap Up

One of the things I like to do during planting season is to look back on the week just past and recap the various projects folks bought our tree tubes for:

American chestnut seedlings in Maryland

Hazelnut and red alders in Oregon, along with with Douglas fir, cypress and ponderosa pine

Hybrid oak trees in MI, OH, MS, VA, TN, LA and KS

Bur oak, burgambel oak, dwarf chinkapin oak, chokecherry, chokeberry, buffalo berry in SD - lucky deer!

Gobbler sawtooth oaks in AL

Fruit trees in UT

American chestnut, black walnut, butternut, black cherry and northern red oak in MN

That's just a small sample.  There have been too many orders and shipments this week for me to track them all, or to know for sure what trees folks are using their tree tubes on.

But as usual, the best part of my job is talking with landowners and helping them achieve their management goals - not simply by pushing treeshelters but by discussing planting layout, species selection, letting them know about all of the great nurseries out there offering unique planting stock, and helping them skip about 3 years of trial and error by sharing the experiences of other landowners I have been privileged to work with.

Thanks to all of our customers for another great week.  And thanks for all of your hard work in re-treeing our land.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Five Foot Tree Tubes Are Here... But Going Fast!

A new shipment of 5ft Tree Tubes has arrived... but it won't last long!  In fact most were already sold before they ever arrived.

I haven't even had time to put them up on our web site!  To reserve your 5ft tree tubes today, please contact Chris Siems for pricing and shipping.  You won't find a better deal on the best treeshelter on the market:  The Tubex Combitube Treeshelter.

Food Plot Deer Fence Now Available!

We're happy to announce the introduction of a new Food Plot Deer Fence - the easy, affordable and effective solution for keeping deer out of your food plots... until you want them there!

Made from heavy duty plastic netting, this Deer Fence is a breeze to install, fast to take down, and stores compactly between seasons.  It is UV stabilized for a long life - it is rated for 10 years of continuous UV exposure.

We use 10ft schedule 40 electrical conduit pipes for posts, and fasten the netting to the posts with heavy duty cable ties. 

Our Food Plot Deer Fence comes in 8ft x 500ft pieces, and each includes a roll of reflective "bird scare tape" you can fasten to the net to give the deer a visual cue to stay away.

This temporary but rugged deer fence is also a great way to keep deer away from forested areas with a high level of natural regeneration.  You can simply attached the netting to surrounding trees to form a quick & easy exclosure. 

For more information about our Food Plot Deer Fence, please contact us today!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Cost of Tree Tubes: Compared to What?

This past Sunday's Dilbert comic strip was very funny, and it reminded me of conversations I used to have with foresters about the cost of tree tubes

The pointy haired boss (who hasn't had one of those?) says, "I can't sign off on this plan. It's too expensive."  To which Dilbert's colleague asks him, "You heard me say that doing nothing will end up costing twice as much, right?"  To which the boss says, "Yes."

The colleague continues, "And you understand that this is your only alternative?"  At this point the boss leaves and asks Dilbert to explain things to his colleague. 

Dilbert says: "My boss doesn't understand that costs should be compared to alternatives."

Foresters used to routinely tell me that treeshelters were too expensive.  The question they never answers was, "Compared to what?"  There are really only two things to which you can legitimately compare the cost of tree tubes.

First, you can compare the cost of tree tubes to simply buying trees and planting them.  In other words, you can compare to failure - and that's mostly what foresters were comparing to.  But the cost of failure is a lot higher than foresters used to account for.  It's not just the cost of seedlings and planting - and then doing it over and over again.  It's the cost of repeated site prep. It's the lost time - time that you could have sent doing something else, and the added time it will take to reach your planting goal.  Failure definitely costs a lot more than tree tubes.

Second, you can consider everything you would have to do to have a successful tree planting project without tree tubes, and then compare the cost of tree tubes to that.  Without tree tubes,

1)  You'd have to provide another form of browse protection - wire cages, fencing, or repeated treatments with deer repellent

2) Your trees would still be vulnerable to moisture stress and seasonal droughts, either requiring watering or significant seedling mortality/replacement

3) Weed control takes ten times longer without tree tubes - with most of that added time being simply finding your trees amidst the grass and brush, and the other time spent protecting the seedlings from herbicide spray while you treat the grass.  The added time for weed control combined with the fact that most landowners have limited time to devote to maintaining their planting means that weed control is more likely not to get done without tree tubes... resulting in lower survival rates, more replanting, more lost time, etc.

I'm probably "preaching to the choir" here.  In that last 5 years I have seen a major shift in thinking.  I honestly can't remember the last time someone told me that tree tubes were too expensive.  So many more landowners just "get it" and understand that compared to what you'd have to do to grow trees without tree tubes, the tree tubes are a bargain.  And as for failure... for today's landowner failure is simply not an option.

This Dilbert comic tickled me because it took me back to the "bad old days" when hardwood planting failure was the rule rather than the exception, and perfectly encapsulated the discussions I had all too many times.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Stretching Your Tree Planting Dollar - Part 1

We're not just in the business of selling Tree Tubes.  We are in the business of making your planting project a success.  Tree Tubes are just one tool for increasing your success rate - with less work and less frustration.

Part of "success" means "within your budget."  Everyone has a budget, and every tree planter wants to establish as many trees as possible, as quickly as possible, within that budget.

So what happens when you want to plant more trees than you can afford to use buy tree tubes for?  This was exactly the situation for a landowner I have been working with over the past 2 weeks.  Here is how we approached the problem.

1) First we asked: Which tree species are most likely to get browsed by deer and rabbits?  Here we called upon the expertise of local forestry and Soil & Water Conservation District staff for guidance.

2) Where are trees most likely to get browsed?  Portions of the new planting are closer to existing woods, or to a creek - both are favorite haunts for deer and the heaviest browse is most likely to take place adjacent to them.

3) Which trees, if browsed, would "bounce back" and keep growing - perhaps not thriving but at least surviving?  These would be the faster growing trees with indeterminate growth habits that allow them to keep flushing growth all summer.

4) Next we asked: 4ft tubes or 5ft tree tubes?  It was a question of protecting more trees with 4ft tree tubes, or fewer trees with 5ft tubes.  There's no "right" answer to this.  Using 4ft tubes means fewer trees will get browsed initially, but more will get browsed upon emerging from the tree tubes, and these might need to be treated with deer repellent in order to punch through the browse line once and for all.

In the case of this particular landowner, we developed the following plan:

a) 5ft tubes on all the oak trees, since he paid more for specialty hybrid oaks, and they are the least able to bounce back from getting browsed of the species he is planting - plus the goal is getting "fast mast" for wildlife, so every year lost to deer browse makes that wait even longer.

b) 4ft tubes on all the trees within a given distance of the woods and creek draw.

c) 4ft tubes on the species deemed most susceptible to deer browse throughout the rest of the planting.

The next phase of the project is to watch and monitor.  Yes, some trees will get browse by deer, but:

1) Remember, these are the species most likely to bounce back from deer browse.  They might not thrive, they might be kept clipped to ankle height by deer and rabbit, but they won't die.  And as long as you have a living root system, you have a tree.

2) If/when deer browse occurs, un-tubed trees can be treated with deer repellent.

3) After a year or two if the deer are keeping the un-tubed trees mowed off, the landowner can then protect them with tree tubes, knowing that once protected those trees will draw on that well-established root system and literally scream out of the top of those tree tubes.

This plan - focusing the use of tree tubes on the species and in the locations where they are most needed, and then possibly coming back and protecting the trees if necessary and as funds allow - gives the best chance for success given ambitious planting plans and a limited budget.

Working with landowners to help them achieve their tree planting goals is why I love my job so much!  If you have any questions about how best to utilize tree tubes to make your project the success you envision, please contact us

Friday, March 11, 2011

Think Like A Farmer When You Plant Trees

I just got off the phone with a customer who plants trees for wildlife habitat on his Oklahoma farm.  He commented that this must be a great time to be in the tree tube business, because more and more landowners - in his words - "get it." 

By "get it" he meant that landowners these days, especially those planting trees for deer and wild turkey habitat, understand what it takes to successfully grow trees.  And the more you understand what it takes to successfully grow trees, the more you see tree tubes as a cost saver.

This gentleman said something else that really struck me.  Many of today's wildlife tree planters also plant food plots of corn, soybeans, brassica and other crops every year.  They are used to preparing the soil and spraying for weeds.  They understand what it takes to grow a successful food plot, and they transfer this mindset to their trees - with great results.

He went on to say:  "You have to think like a farmer when you plant trees."  I couldn't have said it better myself.  Literally - because in 22 years of selling tree tubes I never have said it better myself!

On another note, after several years of using 4ft tree tubes this landowner is switching to 5ft tubes due to the high level of deer browse he is getting when trees emerge from 4ft tubes.  Judging by my sales, many other landowners are thinking along the same lines.

I have more 5 foot tree tubes on the way, but they are going fast.  Call or email Chris Siems today to reserve yours!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Shrub Prescription: First grow past the deer,then branch out

Many landowners interested in enhancing wildlife habitat for deer, wild turkey, pheasants and other species are planting small, fruit-bearing trees and shrubs like American plum, Nanking cherry, chokecherry, chokeberry (Aronia berry), golden current, buffalo berry and others.

This is another example of how our understand of how best to use tree tube technology has advanced in the past 22 years.

The old - and generally ineffective - recommendation in the early days was to use 2ft or 3ft tree tubes on these shrubby species.  The thinking was that the shorter tree tubes would provide initial browse protection, but then would allow the plants to begin branching out at 2 or 3ft. 

The problem with this approach was immediately apparent.  Deer like to eat these species as much as - and probably even more than - tree species like oak and black walnut.  So every time a shrub would emerge from one of these short tree tubes the deer would nip it off.  Rather than a protective device the tree tube functioned more like an ice cream cone for deer!

Trial and error has shown us a more effective approach:

1) Use 4ft or 5ft Tree Tubes to grow the terminal leaders past the browse line.  Yes, you get a "funny looking" shrub for a while, tall and thin, but a funny looking shrub is a lot better than a "dead shrub" or a 2ft tall "ice cream cone."

The good news is that most of these fruit-bearing shrubs or small thicket-forming trees grow like crazy in tree tubes.  Even if you're planting little seedlings don't be surprised if some emerge from the tubes in the first summer!

2) Keep the tree tube in place for another 2-3 seasons, both to support the stem while it thickens up, and to protect from antler rubbing by deer and bark gnawing by rodents.

3) Remove the tubes after 4 seasons or so, to allow the plants to spread, branch and sucker.  Pruning terminal leaders at that time will encourage more lateral branching. After 5 years or so you will have fully established and well branched shrubs.

It's a different way to grow a shrub, but today's record deer numbers force us to do things a little differently; namely first get past the browse line and then branch out!

Thanks for reading, and if you have questions about this or any other aspect of tree tube use, please contact us!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The Need For Tree Tubes: Case Closed

With thanks to Tree Protection Supply and its blog, I just saw the recent deer hunting statistics put out by the Quality Deer Management Association.

In 2009, 3,253,167 anterless deer were harvested along with 2,585,348 antlered deer - for a total of 5,838,515.  There are several astounding things about these numbers.

1) Keep in mind that in 1900 the population of whitetail deer in the entire country was about 500,000!  Now, half a million deer wasn't the historic population.  Historically deer numbers were higher.  The estimate of 500,000 was after decades of unregulated hunting, which threatened to wipe out the population entirely.  Still, it's an amazing fact that each year hunters harvest more than 10 times the number of deer that existed just over a century ago.

2) These harvest levels are down from previous years.  Two factors contribute to this ongoing decline in deer harvest levels:  More and more land is in private ownership and is not open for hunting, and there are fewer and fewer hunters; young people simply aren't taking up hunting at the rates they used to.

3) The population of whitetail deer continues to increase.  In other words, every year more deer are born than hunters are harvesting.

That fact that the harvest level has declined doesn't mean that there are fewer deer.  It means that there are fewer hunters and fewer places open to them to hunt.  In short, it means more deer!  What has caused the population explosion?  First and foremost, deer are creatures of the forest edge - the interface between forest and field.  Where there used to be millions of acres of contiguous, undisturbed forest (not a deer's preferred habitat) now there is a patchwork of farms and field - and exponentially more of the edge habitat deer love.  Add to that a reduction in predators (replaced only partially by the current largest predator of deer, automobiles), and you have a recipe for unchecked population expansion.

How does this relate to tree tubes?  When you see a mature tree, think about this:  If that tree is 110 years old it got started at a time where there were half a million deer in entire country.  The trees you plant face a world where more than 10 times that number harvested every year, yet the deer population continues to increase!  For 2010-2011 the Wisconsin DNR's overwinter population goal is 794,000 deer.  Keep in mind, a) that is before the new fawns are born in spring, and b) that goal of 794,000 deer is up 80% over the original goal set in 1960, and c) from 1995 to 2009 the post-hunt estimate averaged 47% above the goal. 
This means that the deer herd in Wisconsin is, depending on the time of year, perhaps 3 times the entire population that existed in the USA a century ago. And the situation is more dramatic elsewhere.

It means, in short, that any tree seedling planted without some form of protection doesn't stand a fighting chance.  And tree tubes are simply the easiest, most effective and most affordable method of seedling protection available.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Tree Tubes keep deer from eating "perfect tree food" until it's time!

Wouldn't it be great if deer simply understand that if they left your seedling trees alone for a few years, those trees would grow up to produce more fruit, acorns and nuts than they could possibly eat?  I was going to say, wouldn't be great if deer were smarter, but then I realized that I'm not much smarter than a deer (if at all).  When  my mom baked a cake I was always trying to steal a bite and then hide it with the icing, but she's catch me and not give me a piece for dessert - just like how the deer who eats the seedling doesn't get a mature pear or plum or apple or Chinese chestnut tree producing fruit for "dessert."

What would you call a tree that a) produces fruit that ripen over an extended period of time in the fall, b) holds it fruit even into the early winter, and c) grows across a wide geographic range?  Hunters would call it the perfect tree.  Deer would call it ambrosia, food of the gods.  Foresters simply call it: persimmon.  There is a reason that so many deer attractants and baits are persimmon flavored or scented!

As much as deer love persimmons, they love newly planted persimmon seedlings just as much.  Since they - like me and that cake - don't understand (or as in my case choose to ignore) the consequences of eating the seedlings, you as a tree planter need to protect them with Tree Tubes.  The good news is that persimmons, both American (Diospyrus virginiana) and Japanese (Diospyrus kaki) persimmons grow extremely well in Wilson Tree Tubes.

Speaking of the two different species of persimmons - and there a many different varieties within each species - a couple of notes:

1) I would highly recommend planting some of both species.  American persimmons tend to ripen earlier in the fall.  They are more astringent, and aren't at all edible - even for deer - until they are fully ripe.  Japanese persimmons, on average, ripen later in the fall, and are much less astringent.  They often hold their fruit well into the early winter.

2) Two great sources for persimmon trees are:

> The Wildlife Group Nursery in Tuskegee, AL

> Mossy Oak's Nativ Nurseries in West Point, MS

In both cases you can order your tree tubes directly from the nursery to ship with your trees, or if you're picking up trees at the nurseries you can pick your tree tubes up than and same the shipping costs!

No matter if you're planting American or Japanese, buying your trees from Wildlife Group of Nativ Nurseries, or getting your tree tubes from the nursery or from Wilson Forestry Supply, you can't go wrong... as long as you're planting persimmons and protecting them with the best tree tube on the market!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Tree Tubes for Paw Paw

Growing up and learning my forestry in Minnesota I didn't learned about paw paw (Asimina triloba) until I started selling tree tubes to tree planters in other parts of the country 21 years ago.  Paw paw has a huge native range, from Florida to Nebraska to Michigan, but it doesn't venture into the frozen tundra of my home state.

Paw paw is the largest tree fruit native to North America, and the only temperate member of the tropical Custard Apple family (Annonaceae).  It's taste was originally described to me (and I'm ashamed to say I still haven't tasted one) as, "a more custardy banana."  Others say the flavor is more complex, a mix of papaya, banana, mango and pineapple. Yum.

Once more of a local novelty there is a growing interest in planting and growing paw paw on a commercial basis.

Paw paw grows extremely well in tree tubes, and anyone planting paw paw - whether in hopes of establishing a commercial orchard or just as a hobby - will have enough invested in those trees in time, money and effort to make using tree tubes a no brainer.  They are susceptible to drought and moisture stress, and or course deer browse is an ever-present threat to all new tree plantings these days.

Here's a quote from the Virginia Tech web site linked to above:

"Plastic tree tube shelters (4 to 6 inches in diameter) that are used in reforestation and vineyard plantings work well for protecting the new seedlings from sunlight the first year (Figure 11). A wooden or metal stake should be driven next to the tube to secure it in place. Tubes should be removed by mid-August to allow tissue hardening for winter. Tubes left on trees too long may result in significant winter damage."

Don't let this scare you.  This is a reference to the "bad old days" before vented tree tubes. With today's vented tree tubes, such as the Tubex Combitube Treeshelter we offer at Wilson Forestry Supply, you don't have to worry about winter injury any more and can leave your tree tubes on all winter for additional protection, and more growth the following season.

To learn more about using Wilson Tree Tubes on paw paw, please feel contact us.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Phrase of the day: Seismo Stress

I love learning new botanical and plant physiology terms and understanding how they apply to the science of tree tubes. I have written several posts lately about how today's tree tubes produce saplings that resemble open-grown trees in terms of stem thickness and stem taper, as compared to trees grown in the old, small diameter, unvented tree tubes we used years ago (and, of course, as compared to open-grown trees that get eaten by deer, killed by drought or swarmed under by weeds!).

Three advancements in tree tube design help account for this.

1) Larger diameter tubes - leaves in today's larger tree tubes are able to fully expand and absorb more light; they "think" they are open grown as opposed to compressed in a small diameter tree tube.

2) Vented tree tubes - venting has several advantages, including increased CO2 availability and allowing the tree inside to go dormant for winter to avoid frost damage.  Another advantage is that the air flow through the tubes gently shakes the leaves, "telling" them they are growing in an open field while still giving them the protection and moisture stress reduction of a tree tube.

3) Flexible PVC tree tube stakes - our pvc stakes for tree tubes sway in the wind, and that shaking triggers the production of ethylene, which in turn tells the tree to allocate more of its growth resources to stem thickness and taper.

In researching these posts and looking for a way to explain this phenomenon I came across the term "seismo stress."  I probably learned that term back in plant physiology in forestry school, but since that was a long time ago (before the evolution of angiosperms), I had forgotten it.  In fact I probably forgot it the day after the exam.  If not before.

Seismo of course refers to shaking, in the way that a seismograph measures the amplitude of earthquakes.  Too much shaking induces stress that inhibits growth.  A little bit of shaking (e.g. with a vented tree tube and a pvc stake) encourages a better balance between height growth and stem diameter.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Tree Tubes: A Dissenting Opinion?

I often visit web forums where tree planting and tree tubes are discussed.  It gives me more insight into the experiences, likes, dislikes, misconceptions and opinions of tree planters - which in turns helps me provide better instructions, develop better products, and in general provide better service.

Wherever people "meet" to anonymously exchange ideas and opinions you never know what you're going to read.  For example, in a discussion board thread about tree tubes on a well-known gardening/landscaping site I came across this, in reference to tree tubes:

"Nasty plastic litter that spoils the landscape and harms wildlife. Often with the remains of a dead tree in the middle."

I wish people would learn not to sugar coat things and would say what they really mean!  There are actually 4 separate aspects of this post, and I'd like to address each one of them separately:

1) Nasty plastic litter.  Yes, tree tubes are plastic.  And yes, if left too long in the field without removing and disposing of them properly they can indeed become litter.  Part of this has been a learning curve.  Foresters were initially told by overly optimistic tree tube manufacturers that the treeshelter tubes would photodegrade into smaller and small pieces that would eventually turn into an inert power... kind of like fairy dust.  Tree tubes do photodegrade, but we know now that they should be removed and properly disposed of after doing their job.

I'll be doing a carbon footprint post soon - a plastic tree tube made from petroleum products that leads to a successful planting the first time, versus the petroleum needed without tree tubes, to grow new seedlings year after year, to prepare the site year after year, to drive to and from the planting site many more times, etc.

2) Spoils the landscape.  Yes, for a brief period of time when tree tubes are used we are forced to look at a field of vertical plastic tubes.  But this statement fails to take into account two things:  The tree tubes are there for perhaps 5 years out of an 80, 100 or 150 year tree rotation.  And, if not for those tubes the view they are "ruining" would look at lot worse for a lot longer, because it would likely be the subject of repeated efforts to clear, site prep and plant.

3) Harms wildlife. On its face this comment seems ludicrous given that tree tubes are helping to create - and re-create - millions of acres of wildlife habitat. They are an integral and necessary component in restoring such wildlife-sustaining trees as the mighty American chestnut in the face of historically high deer populations, hundreds of invasive weed competitors, and in the absence of the climatic conditions and periodic fires that allowed many hardwood trees to get established in the past.  At the "tubular" level this comment might be referring to the tendency of some cavity nesting songbirds, such as bluebirds, to enter tubes - possibly searching for a new nesting site, possibly chasing insects, possibly for shelter, or possibly by accident - and become trapped.  This is why all tree tube suppliers provide plastic mesh caps to place over the top of the tubes until the trees emerge, after which birds no longer enter the tubes.  So to the extent that this was ever a problem, there is now an easy solution.  I'll say it again:  No other tree establishment tool or practice has done more to establish critical wildlife habitat than tree tubes.

4) Often with the remains of a dead tree in the middle.  Over last 21 years I have noticed something interesting in people's perceptions of tree planting success.  Imagine there is a field in which 300 oak seedlings are planted.  The forester decides to use treeshelters on 100 of them.  Now imagine that this planting is in an area with a white tailed deer density of about 40 per square mile, not uncommon in the eastern USA, that there is a drought the summer after the seedlings are planted, followed by a wet year.

Now imagine that you are visiting that site three years later, without knowing how many trees were planted.  What would you find, and what would you think?  You might find a handful of oak trees that survived and grew to waist or chest height without tubes, and you might think, "See, these trees didn't need tree tubes."  And you might look in the tubes and find perhaps 10 or even 20 dead trees.  You might conclude that the tree tubes are an unnecessary  eyesore. 

But in reality, what are you really seeing?  A handful of trees that survived without tubes means that the vast majority did not - killed by drought, eaten by dear or out-competed by weeds.  If all 300 trees had been planted without tree tubes that planting would have been a failure. Tree tubes draw people's attention and scrutiny - they generally walk past (or on) dozens of dead un-tubed seedlings to look down a tube and see how the tree is doing.

10 or 20 dead trees in the tubes means there were 80 or 90 living ones.  And that number likely could have been higher with today's better planting stock and with more aggressive weed control by the planter.  80 or 90 high value oak stems per acre looks an awful lot like success in my book.

Part of this person's opinion - and it's not an uncommon one - is based on the misconception that the project would be as successful, or more successful, without tree tubes.  That would be true,

> if we could go back in time to when there where 500,000 deer east of the Mississippi (instead of 500,000 deer harvested by hunters in WI each year without decreasing the overall size of the herd)

> if we could go back in time to when fire - either wildfires or those set intentionally by indigenous people to manage vegetative cover - helped oaks and other trees gain a competitive advantage over grasses

> if we could go back in time to before hundreds of invasive species of grasses, shrubs, vines and trees started competing with our seedlings from resources

We are not planting trees into a "natural" world, and so we need to use "unnatural" means in order to achieve success. If that means putting up with seeing a "plastic forest" for a few years to get those trees established I think that's not a bad trade off.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Science Behind Vented Tree Tubes: Air Flow Increases Stem Diameter

For me today is a day for feeling old.  Not only have I been working with tree tubes for nearly 22 years, I just learned that one of my best customers was born the year I graduated from high school; I had already been working at garden centers and as a freelance landscaper for 2 years before he was born, thinking about better ways of planting oak trees into the landscape.

But with age comes experience, and with experience comes - hopefully - wisdom.  One area in which the entire forestry community has more wisdom than we did 22 years ago is in tree tube design and function.

Back in the early days - the stone age - of tree tubes in the USA we all thought that a treeshelter should be an air-tight chamber; unventilated with the base pushed into the soil.  We all dreaded the idea of a "chimney effect" of air movement in the tube, fearing that it would overheat or over-dry the seedling inside.

How wrong we were!  Nowadays there is a large and growing body of research that shows that vented tree tubes 1) increase overall growth and 2) result in a better distribution of growth - you get a larger tree with similar allocation of growth between height, stem diameter and roots as an un-tubed tree.

Here is a great page summarizing the current body of research on vented tree tubes.

With every passing year we learn more about how to use tree technology to produce trees with a growth allocation that more closely approximates that of open grown trees.  Of course there is one BIG difference between a tree grown in a Wilson Tree Tube by Tubex and an open grown tree:  One is still alive, and one was eaten by deer!

So while I've been at this tree tube thing for a long time, it's exciting to see how far we've come, and to think about how much there is still to learn.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Tree Tube Video Instructions

Scott Berta of Tree Protection Supply (southeastern marketing partner for Tubex Tree Tubes) has several excellent instructional videos about Tree Tubes posted on youtube:

The ease & importance of applying herbicides around trees in tree tubes

The importance of pruning seedlings to a single stem before applying tree tubes

Direct seeding acorns, chestnuts and walnuts in tree tubes

If you have any questions about how to use tree tubes to achieve your planting goals, please don't hesitate to contact Scott Berta or Chris Siems to learn more.

Sportman's Group Discount On Wilson Tree Tubes

Sportsmen planting trees to improve habitat for wild turkeys, white tailed deer and other game species are doing the "heavy lifting" of creating habitat for the wildlife that everyone treasures and enjoys - game species and non-game species alike.

Hunters also plant tree species that are extremely valuable (Chinese chestnut, hybrid oaks), heavily browsed by deer (crabapples, persimmons, pears, apples) and which they want to bear fruit and nuts very quickly (sawtooth oak, Nuttall oak)... and they of course they are planting those trees into areas rich with wildlife that will eat the seedlings without waiting for them to grow old enough to bear fruit.

In other words, hunters need and use tree tubes at a very high level.  And they are generally footing the bill from their own pocket.

At Wilson Forestry Supply, we want to help those efforts every way we can - and help hunters get more "bang" for their tree planting "buck."  One way to help is to offer discounts on Tree Tubes to members of National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF), Quality Deer Management Association (QDMA), and other sportsman's organizations

To learn more, contact Chris Siems for more details.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Wilson Tree Tubes For American Chestnut

Many people know the story of the American chestnut tree, but sadly many more people don't.  It is one part tragedy, one part farce, ten parts dedication and hopefully, ultimately, 100 parts triumph.

Chestnut blight is a fungal disease that was accidentally introduced to the USA from Asia in about 1900.  Several species of Asian chestnuts had co-evolved with the blight fungus, and were resistant.  The American chestnut - a towering, majestic tree that dominated the forests of Appalachia and much of the eastern USA - had virtually no inherent resistance.  Within 50 years more than 3 billion American chestnut trees were dead.  (We'll never know the degree to which the American chestnut population might have had some innate resistance to chestnut blight; as the disease ripped through the eastern hardwood forest landowners were instructed by foresters to cut down all of their chestnut trees, on the assumption that they were all doomed, to salvage the lumber value.  The fact that a small number of American chestnut trees did survive the blight, and the fact that in large populations a certain number of individuals almost always survive even the worst epidemics, leads us to believe that there would have been thousands of survivors that could have formed the basis of a breeding program to restore a pure American chestnut to the woods.  Such an effort is underway thanks to an incredibly dedicated group of folks, but still we wonder what might have been if those chestnuts had been left standing to determine which could withstand the blight.)

The American Chestnut Foundation was founded by, among others, four brilliant men with - I'm proud to say - Minnesota connections:  Charles Burnham, Philip Rutter, David French and Donald Willeke.  The plight of the American chestnut was thought by most to be hopeless.  These men had other ideas, and under Burnham's guidance initiated a bold and far-reaching plan:  Adapt the precepts of the traditional "back cross" breeding done in other fields of agriculture to the American chestnut.

In other words, cross-breed the American chestnut with blight resistance Asian chestnuts, and then continue to back-cross the most blight resistant of these offspring with American chestnuts.  The goal, of course, is to produce trees that gain the disease resistance genes of the Asian chestnuts, while maintaining and exhibiting the physical characteristics of the might American chestnut.

That process is several generations down the road, and the results are incredibly exciting and promising.  I stand in bewildered awe of the dedication of the American Chestnut Foundation and its head plant breeder/farm manager Fred Hebbard.

At the same time there are other ways to restore the American chestnut.  The aforementioned American Chestnut Cooperators Foundation, whose goal is to breed a blight-resistant tree that is 100% American chestnut in its genetics by working with the few chestnuts that survived the onslaught, the dedicated folks who are working with hypovirulent strains of the fungus in hopes of stopping the blight in its tracks as happened in Europe, and the amazing people who are applying genetic engineering to create chestnut trees capable of fighting off the fungus.

I salute you all.

And here at Wilson Forestry Supply we hope, at least in our own small way, to help in any way we can.  Our Tubex Combitube Tree Tube is ideally suited for use on American chestnut seedlings or direct seeded chestnuts.  Large diameter vented tree tubes have proven to be the best choice for American chestnuts.

If you are planting American chestnut trees this spring, give us a call.  We offer special discount pricing to all of the dedicated folks working to restore the American chestnut to its rightful place in our eastern forests.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Why Pay For Tree Tubes You Don't Need?

This is another in our series on the hidden costs of some tree tubes.

In the movie Father of the Bride Steve Martin had a famous - and hilarious - grocery store melt-down trying to purchase a quantity of hot dog buns that matched the quantity of hot dogs.

Every year tree planters across the country shopping online for tree tubes must have similar melt-downs, trying to purchase a quantity of tree tubes that matches the number of trees they are planting.

Say you are planting 32 trees.  Most tree tube companies force you to purchase 50 tree tubes, so you're paying for - and paying to ship - 18 tree tubes you don't want or need.

Not at Wilson Forestry Supply.  If you need 32 tree tubes you can order 32 tree tubes.  You can do this two ways:

1) Our website, www.wilsonforsup.com is set up to sell our tree tubes in bundles of 25 (although that will change soon).  In the meantime, we are delighted to take your orders for "oddball" quantities by email or over the phone.  Just contact our tree tube expert Chris Siems and he'll be happy to help!

2) If you do prefer to order online we have three partner companies whose web sites do handle sales of 17 or 42 or 913 tubes:

> Tree tubes from Tree Protection Supply

> Tree protection packages from Mossy Oak's Nativ Nursery (and while you're there please browse through their seedling selection - not browse like a deer but browse as in shopping ;-)

> Tree tubes from The Wildlife Group (and again while you're there check out their great selection of wildlife habitat trees and shrubs, but remember:  "wildlife trees" means deer love them, twigs and all, and deer are not smart enough to leave them alone and let them grow to maturity - every one of these trees is valuable enough and tasty enough to deer to deserve - require - a tree tube!)

Together we'll offer any quantity of tubes you need, and we won't charge you extra to break cases.  And, unlike Steve Martin, you won't end up in jail just for refusing to buy products you don't need just because the manufacturers choose to package them a certain way.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Spring Training For Tree Planters Is Here!

Just as pitchers and catchers are heading to Arizona and Florida for spring training and fans are heating up the hot stove league with speculation about player trades and playoff prospects, the tree tube season is starting to heat up. For many of us it's been a long, cold winter.  Record snowfalls, massive drifts and aching backs from shoveling have been the order of the day.  Spring and tree planting season seems a long way away when the only shoveling you're doing involves mounds of snow instead of deep, loamy soil.

I have been selling tree tubes for more nearly 22 years, and every winter/spring I see the same pattern.  As soon as the temperature in the northern US gets above freezing for a few days and the sun starts melting the icicles, the phone starts ringing and the web site starts buzzing with interest in tree tubes.  (This is usually  followed on my part by the fear that, Holy Toledo, I'm going to run out of tree tubes!  This is especially true this year; inventory is already getting tight, as sales have exceeded my projections.  More treeshelters are on the way, but at the current rate those will be sold by the time they get here.)

So today's advice is:  When you check the newspaper or the web to get updates on your favorite team's Spring Training, take a few extra minutes to order the trees and tree tubes you'll need for spring planting.

As for winter, we all know we're not out of the woods yet.  More February and March snow storms are coming.  Here in Minnesota the biggest ones always seem to coincide with the high basketball state tournaments.  But those blizzards - and all that additional shoveling - will be a lot easier to take knowing that you have all of the materials you need for a successful spring tree planting reserved and ready!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Nurseries On Board

Many of my posts have been about how there has been a sea change in the acceptance of tree tubes over the past few years; how they are standard operating procedure for successful tree planting.  One way this has become evident is in the number of high quality tree seedling nurseries that offer - and highly recommend - tree tubes to their customers.

That's a change from the past.  When tree tubes were first introduced to the USA in the late 1980's nurseries were generally slow to embrace the technology.  There were several reasons for this.  One reason was that, for a nursery, offering treeshelters to its customers meant openly discussing the "elephant in the room" that everyone knew was there but no one want to discuss:  The high level of deer browse, and the likelihood that the seedlings customers planted would get browsed off.  It really wasn't a matter of nurseries thinking that deer browse would mean that customers would keep buying more trees to replace those that were eaten; all nurseries want their customers to be successful.  It was more a matter of nurseries worrying that openly discussing the threat of deer browse and recommending tree tubes as the solution would 1) discourage people from planting trees in the first place, and 2) would drive the cost of tree planting past what people were willing to spend.

Fast forward to 2011 and many things have changed:

1)  The population density - and therefore the severity of deer browse - has done nothing but get worse.  The elephant in the room has become the blue whale in the room!

2)  There is now a much more widespread understanding - on the part of foresters, county conservation districts, and private landowners - that simply planting trees and walking away is a recipe for failure.  When you compare the cost of tree tubes to just planting trees, they seem like an expensive added cost.  When you compare the cost of tree tubes to what you would have to do without them to have a successful project, then you realize that tree tubes actually save you money over the long haul.

3)  Today's tree nurseries are producing planting stock that is light years better than the seedlings that were grown 20 years ago.  New root pruning pots and other advancements mean that the seedlings you get from many of today's nurseries are supercharged for optimal growth.  The nurseries have more invested in producing these great seedlings, and the thought of sending them out unprotected to the field to be exposed to the ravages of deer browse and doubt is unacceptable.  And the customers who purchase them, wisely making the decision to spend a little more on top-notch planting stock with known superior genetics, also wisely make the decision to protect those seedlings with tree tubes.

Two of the very best nurseries producing seedlings for enhancing wildlife habitat have partnered with Wilson Forestry Supply to offer Tubex Combitube Tree Tubes:  Mossy Oak's Nativ Nurseries of West Point, MS and The Wildlife Group of Tuskegee, AL. 

The test of how strongly these great nurseries feel about our tree tubes?  1) When they plant trees on their own properties they never do so without our tree tubes.  2) The both tell their customers:  If you have a certain budget for your project it's better to reduce the number of trees you plant and cover them with tree tubes.  3) Both will tell people in no uncertain terms:  If you plant trees without tree tubes with today's deer densities and invasive weeds and grasses you are wasting your time (which means you are also wasting the blood, sweat and tears they put into raising those trees).

It's an exciting time.  After years and years spent trying to convince folks to use tree tubes, that argument has been won.  Now the only question is:  Which tree tube?  And when you're the US source of Tubex Combitube Treeshelters, you also feel very good about the answer to that question as well!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Tree Tubes For Black Walnut - Finally, A Perfect Fit

When plastic tree tubes made the leap "across the pond" from the UK and became commercially available in the USA in 1989, many of the first customers were black walnut growers.

It made perfect sense:  Eastern black walnut produces extremely high value veneer lumber, but can suffer from low initial survival rates and its seedlings are a favorite of deer.  Black walnut growers often paid premium prices for planting stock with known superior genetics; all the more reason to protect their investment with tree tubes.

And while only the most unrealistic of these planters ever hoped to live to see these trees grow large enough to harvest in their lifetime, they all hoped to see those trees well established and on their way to maturity before leaving them as a legacy to their descendants. 

There was only one problem:  Growers quickly realized that from Missouri on north, black walnut seedlings did not harden off properly for winter inside the unvented tree tubes sold at that time.  We learned over time that if the tree emerged from the tube by about August 1st it would generally have enough exposure to ambient conditions to harden off for winter.  If it didn't emerge from the tube until after that date, or didn't emerge from the tube at all the first year, it stayed active and growing too deep into the autumn and would suffer die back after the first hard frost.  It didn't kill the tree; it would resprout from close to the ground the following year and very quickly grow up through the tube.  Ultimately the tree would emerge from the tube early enough in the season to harden off properly for winter.

Unfortunately, by that time many black walnut growers had grown frustrated with tree tubes and stopped using them.

A short term "fix" was discovered through trial and error.  It was learned that if you elevate the base of the tube an inch or two off the ground on Labor Day the air flow through the tube would induce dormancy and would prevent die back.  Of course it would also expose the base of the tree to rodents, at a time of year when rodents are actively seeking food and shelter.  This solution was more like a "patch" software designers come up with while truly fixing the problem in the next version of the software.

Well, the next version of tree tubes - Tree Tubes 2.0 - is here: Vented Tree Tubes.  Vented tree tubes have solved the die back problem with black walnut, chestnut and all other trees where it was a problem.

Black walnut growers were correct to view treeshelters as the ideal solution to their problems.  It just took a little while for tree tube technology to catch up, and for tree tube designers to introduce version 2.0 instead of simply offering a patch.

So if you are planting black walnut seedlings, grafts, or direct seeded nuts, don't plant without our Tubex Combitube Treeshelters.  Your trees - your legacy - deserves nothing less.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

5 Foot Tree Tubes Coming Soon to Wilson Forestry Supply

A frequently asked question has been:  Does Wilson Forestry Supply offer 5 foot Tubex Combitube Tree Tubes?  I'm happy to be able to say:  We will soon!

4 foot tree tubes are still the most popular size, and get the job done in the majority of situations.  Most tree planters are best served by 4 foot tree tubes - moderate cost, excellent deer browse protection, and if deer nip a few emerging shoots a couple of treatments of Deer Guard repellent are enough to get the terminal shoot past the browse line.

However, sometimes a 5 foot tree tube can make all the difference - that extra one foot of deer browse protection is needed to get the trees past the browse line.

The need for 5 foot tree tubes is primarily drive by the population density of whitetail deer.  The more deer per square mile, the heavier the pressure on available sources of food.  The more pressure on food sources the more deer are forces to reach higher to get the food they need - to the point of standing on their hind legs.

So if your spring project calls for 5 foot tubes, don't worry, we have them on the way.  Don't order from somewhere else until you contact us for a low price on 5ft tree tubes!

Tree Tubes: Yes, Time Does = Money

In recent posts, we've been looking at the hidden costs of tree tubes.  In the last post we looked at shipping costs, and how with certain tree tubes you have to use a longer stake to compensate for a flimsier tube.

In this post I want to look at time.  Professional tree planting contractors, for whom time literally does equal money, universally prefer the Tubex Treeshelter design.  There's a little more up-front cost that some other tree tubes, but they save 22.73% on installation time (approximately!). Why?

1) They come ready-to-install, already in circular shape
2) The ties are pre-threaded and looped - all you have to do is cinch them tight around the stake

Sometimes private landowners and hobbyists doing their own tree planting work think, "I have a limited budget and I'm not paying myself per hour to install tree tubes, so I might as well save money on the tubes and spend a little more time installing them."

Even if, in a literal sense, your time does not equal money (in other words, you're doing this on your "free" time) this line of thinking doesn't work.

First, keep in mind that there is ALWAYS something else you could be doing with your time.  Extra time spent installing lower cost treeshelter tubes is time that you're not doing weed control, pruning, fertilizing, or other activities that contribute to the success of your project.

Second, chances are that the very aspects of the lower cost tree tubes that make made them cost less in the first place are aspects that will require much more maintenance down the road... and more time on your part.  For example, if a tube ships flat it must then be formed into a tube in the field.  If it was made flat, it is probably a flimsier design that can either revert to a flat shape or bend or buckle in the field, requiring additional work on your part to reshape, cinch up ties, etc... and again that's time you could be spending doing something more productive.

So even if you are a private landowner planting trees on your own time and on your own dime, time still equals money.  So many things go into making your tree planting project a success, and your time - while perhaps not valued in dollars - is extremely limited.  Any money you save on tree tubes that take longer to install and require more maintenance will be lost if you get behind in weed control and other activities critical to the success of your trees.

Thanks for reading, and as always to learn more please visit us a www.wilsonforsup.com

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

When Shopping For Tree Tubes, Watch For Hidden Costs!

When shopping the internet for tree tubes for tree seedling protection, be sure to watch out for hidden costs - costs you can't see right away but which can dramatically affect the total cost of your tree planting project. 

In this post we'll cover two of these hidden costs:

1) Tree tube stake length:  With our Tubex Combitube Treeshelters, you can use a 4  foot stake with a 4 foot treeshelter.  When you drive the stake into the soil, the tube is rigid enough so that the part rising above the stake won't buckle in the wind.

For some tree tubes which are less sturdy, you might need a 5ft stake for a 4ft tube, so very little of the tube extends above the driven stake.  Otherwise, these pliable tubes would bend and fold over the top of the stake.

An extra foot of stake length means that the stake costs more of course, but also means it costs more to ship it as well.

2) Shipping and "handling" is another of the hidden costs when buying tree tubes.  Make sure you are comparing the full delivered price of a given tree tube, including tax, shipping and "handling."  Some companies post low online prices, but try to make it up with higher shipping fees.

As always, if you have any questions about Wilson Forestry Supply tree tubes, please don't hesitate to contact us.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Most Unusual Uses For Tree Tubes and Grow Tubes

In nearly 22 years of working with tree tubes and grow tubes, I have pretty much seen it all.

Years ago I had a customer in Iowa who used 2ft tree tubes on his sweet corn!  He said that with grow tubes his corn was ripe 2 weeks earlier than everyone else's - and every knows that first sweet corn of the year is worth twice as much.  He only used the tubes for a month or so each summer, then stored them in his barn the rest of the year.  Figured they'd last just about forever, and would pay for themselves many times over.

He's probably still doing it yet today... and hoping against hope that his neighbors don't catch on and start using grow tubes on their sweet corn!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

When To Remove Your Tree Tubes

One of the most frequently asked questions about tree tubes is:  “When should I remove them?”

All too often tree growers remove their tree tubes too soon.  Remember, a tree tube has two jobs:

1) Protect the tree until it grows up past the deer browse line, and

2) Support the tree until it is firmly established.  Removing treeshelters too soon allows them to do only half of their full function.

The second most common mistake? Not removing the tree tubes at all, thinking they will break down and disappear in time.  Tree tube suppliers themselves share some of the blame for this, since in the early days it was thought that tree tubes would indeed photodegrade completely on site.  Here are two important rules of thumb to follow:

RULE OF THUMB #1:  Your tree tubes will need to be removed.  Yes they are photo degradable and will eventually break down in sunlight, but that won’t happen for 10 to 15 years in most cases. (On the other hand, if tree tube manufacturers leave out the UV inhibitors that increase durability, then the tree tubes won’t last long enough to get the job done.)  Best practice for the health of your trees and for the aesthetics of your site is to remove and properly dispose of your tree tubes.

RULE OF THUMB #2:  Remove your tree tubes when the trees inside are approximately 3 inches in caliper (diameter) at the base, BEFORE they start to push out against the walls of the tree tubes.
Our Tubex Combitube Tree Tube is made with a laser-line perforation so that the tree tubes will split open and expand rather than constrict the growth of your trees.  This is especially helpful for large scale and back country plantings that don’t get visited very often.  Even with this great laser line feature it’s still better to remove and dispose of your tree tubes when the trees reach 3 inches in diameter at the base.

If you have any questions about our tree tubes – or any tree tubes on the market – please don’t hesitate to contact us.  We have a wealth of experience we can share to make your project as easy and successful as possible!  And be sure to visit us at www.wilsonforsup.com to learn more.

Tree Tubes Don't Replace Sound Planting Practices

Tree tubes are simply a tool for increasing the odds of success and decreasing the long term cost, labor and frustration of tree planting and establishment.

Tree tubes are not meant to replace good planting practices.

You still need to analyze your site (soil, moisture, climate) and understand which trees will grow best there.  Tree tubes can't overcome a bad match between tree species and site - they can't magically make black walnut grow well on a low fertility sandy site.

You still need to do adequate site preparation.

You still need to take good care of the planting stock from the time you receive it until you plant it - i.e. you can't leave the boxes with seedlings in the back of the pick up in the hot sun; even tree tubes can't grow seedlings whose roots have dried and died.

You still need to plant the seedlings carefully and properly - proper depth of the root collar, no J-roots.

And most of all, you still need to do aggressive weed control.  Even tree tubes can't help oak seedlings grow faster than kudzu, Johnson grass or multiflora rose.

Whew.  Yes, it's a lot of work.  And you're probably asking: If I'm going to spend all that time and money already, why should I spend even more on tree tubes?

Two reasons:

1) Tree tubes make it faster and easier to apply good planting/establishment practices.  Ever try to find a 12" American chestnut seedling in a field of waist high grass and brush?  Tree tubes make it easy to locate your seedlings.  Ever accidentally spray one of your seedlings with RoundUp or run one over with a mower?  Tree tubes protect your seedlings from the very weed control practices that will help them thrive.

2) Without tree tubes you can do all of that work and still end up with nothing to show for it.  Deer can wipe out a planting in a matter of a few days.  Rabbits and voles can gnaw off seedlings.  Periodic drought can stress newly planted seedlings to the point of mortality before they have time to get their roots into a stable moisture supply.

No, tree tubes don't replace sound planting practices.  Tree tubes make it easier (and in some cases make it possible) to apply sound practices.  But most of all tree tubes help ensure that if you follow these sound principles, all your hard word won't go to waste and you'll end up with flourishing, fast-growing trees well on their way to meeting your management objectives.

Thanks for reading, and please visit www.wilsonforsup.com to learn more about our products and our company.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Right Stake For The Job

It's an old adage among long-time tree tube users:  Even the best tube (which is, in our humble opinion, the Tubex Combitube Treeshelter) is only as good as the stake that holds it up.

And after years of experimenting with different stakes we have finally found the perfect tree tube stake:  1/2" PVC.  Here's why:

1. Can be driven into any soil (although in tough soils you might need to use a 1" diameter rigid pvc "driving collar" to keep the 1/2" pvc stake from vibrating while driving it - you can cut the driving collar to the perfect length for driving the tree tube stake.

2. Won't rot - stake failure, even with generally decay resistant types of wood - is the number 1 reason for tree tube failure.  PVC stakes will last long enough to get the job done, and can be reused time and time again.

3. Light weight for transporting and shipping

4. Flexible but resilient - every fall you get some bucks rubbing their antlers against tree tubes.  Wooden or bamboo stakes can break off at the ground line with too much pressure and pushing.  PVC stakes flex to absorb the blow, and spring back to vertical.

5. Better tree growth - PVC stakes flex and sway in the wind, duplicating the motion trees would experience if grown in the open (but without the moisture stress and danger of getting eaten!).  That swaying motion "tells" the tree to thicken its stem, so trees grown in tubes with pvc stakes have thicker stems when they emerge from the tubes, and take less time to become self supporting.

Top 10 Trees People Protect With Tree Tubes

After 21 years of marketing tree tubes, I thought I’d try my hand at creating a list of the top ten tree species on which people choose to use tree tubes.

There are two different ways to determine this: total number of tree tubes used on a certain type of tree, or the percentage of trees of a certain type that planters choose to tree tube.

My list is a combination of the two, with some representatives from both categories.

1. Sawtooth oak (and ‘Gobbler’ Sawtooth oak)
If you’re planting sawtooth oak (Quercus accutissima) that means you’re planting for wildlife. And if you’re planting for wildlife, that means you have wildlife that likes to eat tree seedlings. You also want to get a fast growing, early-producing tree into production ASAP. No sawtooth oak should ever be planted without a tree tube.

2. Black walnut (Juglans nigra)
One of our highest value hardwoods is also a favorite of deer in many locations.  If you’re planting black walnut you’re most likely planting to leave a legacy of beauty and value to your children and grandchildren. 

Note: Black walnut was particularly susceptible to winter injury in the older, un-vented tree tubes, and so many walnut growers stopped using tree tubes for a while.  Now with the introduction of vented tree tubes this is no longer a problem, and black walnut growers and coming back to tree tubes in droves.

3. Any hybrid oak – any Quercus X with an x in the Latin name!
Hybrid oaks typically grow fast and bear acorns at an early age.  Planted for wildlife, and even for human food, every acorn for a hybrid oak is worth protecting.

4. Crab apple (Malus sp.)
A soft mast favorite of those folks planting to enhance wildlife habitat, you wouldn’t believe how fast it grows in tree tubes – 10″ bare root seedlings emerging from 5′ tree tubes the first year is not unusual!  Significant mast production in year 3 is also a very real possibility with tree tubes and aggressive weed control.

5. Persimmon (Diospyros sp.)
Persimmon in another soft mast wildlife favorite in Southern states.  Every one deserves a  tree tube for optimal growth.

6. Bur oak (Quercus macrocarpa)
Like most oaks, bur oak grows a lot faster than you think, and even more so in tree tubes.  Put a bur oak seedling (or direct seeded acorn) in a tree tube and you’ll be amazed.  With the arrival of Emerald Ash Borer in the Midwestern and Plains states bur oak will – and should – fill a bigger role in windbreak and shelterbelt plantings.

(And if you’re planting a windbreak or shelterbelt, by definition you’re in a place where it’s hard to grow trees – you’re in the prairie. Just like your crops and farmstead need the trees you plant to shield them from wind, the trees you plant need treeshelters to shield them from that same wind!)

7. Northern red oak (Quercus rubra)
Northern red oak might be the "most tubed" tree in history, due to its importance as a source of high value hardwood timber and its appeal to deer as a midnight snack.  Foresters don't usually tube every northern red oak - just 30 to 50 per acre to insure a certain minimum stocking level  - so they won't have to go back and start over if (when) deer eat every last red oak.

An underused method is to use tree tubes on northern red oak stump sprouts, and on natural regeneration (especially after they turn scarlet in the and stand out like beacons on the forest floor).

8. Apples, plums and pears planted for wildlife (Malus, Prunus and Pyrus sp.) – especially any fruit tree with a varietal name like Arkansas Black, Chickasaw, Yates, Deer Golden, Methley, Ozark Premier, Dixie Delight, Galloway, etc.)
The varietal name means you paid more for a tree with specific characteristics – fruit flavor, ripening time, etc.  And it means you have high expectations for its performance.  Not using a tree tube is like buying a new Corvette and not doing oil changes!

9. Nuttall oak (Quercus nuttallii)
Our fastest growing native oak can grow even faster – and start feeding wildlife sooner – with tree tubes!

10. American chestnut (Castanea dentata)
Chestnut Blight.  One Asian fungus, fifty years, and 4.5 billion trees dead.  The majestic American chestnut once towered over the Eastern hardwood forest, until the first half of the 20th Century.  Thanks to the heroic work of groups like the American Chestnut Foundation new, blight-resistant American chestnuts are being planted to restore the “Sequoia of the East” to its rightful place in our forests.  Every single nut and seedling planted is precious, and we can’t lose any of them to deer, drought or competing vegetation.

11. (I know I’m cheating by adding an 11th item) Any California oak
The beautiful native oaks of California are in decline due multiple factors:  Cattle grazing, lack of fire to control competition, drought, and deer.

Tree tubes are playing a critical role in the reestablishment of California’s amazing oaks.

Others receiving votes:  Chinese chestnut, paw paw, baldcypress and black cherry. And anything planted for ecological restoration or wetland mitigation. Or in a windbreak. Or for wildlife habitat. Or for riparian buffers. Or in parks or our landscapes (instead of planting large B&B trees with deformed roots, more and more urban foresters are choosing to plant seedlings with tree tubes to allow the root system to develop naturally without disturbance).

Oh, never mind… it would be easier to do a list of the top 10 trees that shouldn’t have tree tubes.  Because there aren’t any!