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.

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