Standing up (or at least springing back) to deer!

Getting back to some of the issues raised in Dr. Felix Ponder’s excellent article, “Benefits and Drawbacks of Tree Shelters,” published in the December 2009 issue of the Walnut Council Bulletin.

One issue raised by growers who responded to Dr. Ponder’s survey was that tree tubes are sometimes damaged by deer rubbing their antlers on them.  To quote from the article, “Deer knocked down many of the shelters in their travel through the plantation. This gave rabbits and voles the opporunity to browse on the seedlings until shelters were reinstalled.”

Of course the only reason that there’s a healthy tree in that place in the first place is because of the tree tube. But that doesn’t make the land owner feel any better when the tube gets knocked over by deer, either damaging the tree directly or exposing the tree to damage by other factors such as rodents.

The problem isn’t the tube, it’s the stakes.  Most tree tube users have chosen either hardwood or bamboo stakes to support the tree tubes.  Hardwood stakes have the advantage of strength, and bamboo stakes have the advantage of low cost.  However both stakes have the same two drawbacks: They both deteriorate below the ground line creating a weak point, and they are both rigid materials with little or no flexibility.

Both types of natural stakes have a third possible drawback, although this is based only on speculation and not on hard evidence: Both have rough surfaces that might be attractive to bucks rubbing the velvet off their antlers, making them targets for getting knocked over in the fall.

In response many tree tube users have switched to using either steel electrical conduit or rebar for their stakes.  These materials have the advantage of durability and strength, and certainly are less attractive for deer to rub their antlers against than wood or bamboo.  However these materials have drawbacks as well.  The first is logistical: these materials are really heavy, and are extremely expensive for tree tube suppliers to ship via UPS or FedEx.  The second is much more serious: As a forester I have a hard time recommending the use of steel stakes if there is any chance – no matter how remote – that the stake could be forgotten, left in the woods, and get grown into the tree.  We never know which trees might become the timber trees of the future, or might be cut down by someone with a chainsaw.  The last thing we want is to create a hidden hazard for someone in the future.

As we have discussed before, the trend in tree tube stakes is moving toward flexible plastic, especially Schedule 40 PVC electrical conduit pipe. This solves all of the above issues, and provides additional growth benefits as well.

PVC conduit’s smooth surface makes it less attractive to rutting bucks in the first place.

If bucks to rubs against the tree tubes and stakes, PVC stakes won’t break at the ground line and will spring back to position.

PVC stakes flex and sway in the wind. That flexing motion helps the tree inside develop more stem diameter and taper, so it isn’t has thin-stemmed upon emergence from the tube as trees grown in tubes with rigid stakes.  That means that after the tree emerges from the tube it will need less time to slow down in height growth while it adds stem caliper in response to sudden exposure to wind, and will keep right on growing.

The stake has long been the overlooked and forgotten part of the tree tube system, which is ridiculous when you consider that a good stake is so critical to the success of the tree tube.  This oversight – and resulting stake failure due to buck rub, deterioration & wind – has resulted in decreased tree tube performance and increased maintenance time & effort on the part of land owners.

We at Tree Protection Supply were among the first to focus on the importance of tree tube stakes.  Tree tubes have and will continue to revolutionize tree establishment.  Tree Protection Supply offers only the best tree tubes on the market, and the best tree tubes deserve the best stakes in order to fulfill their potential and provide all the performance and growth they are capable of.

We will soon be offering PVC tree tube stakes.  Check back soon!!  UPDATE: WE HAVE PVC TREE TUBE STAKES NOW. Click Here for info and pricing.

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