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.