Tree Shelter Experiences… We’ve come a long way

I was just reading an article entitled, “Benefits and Drawbacks of Tree Shelters,” by Dr. Felix Ponder of the University of Missouri. The article appeared in the December, 2009 issue of the Walnut Council Bulletin. (By the way, we highly recommend that anyone interested in growing black walnut join the Walnut Council, a great source of information and a great way to meet fellow enthusiasts!)

Dr. Ponder has been studying the effects of treeshelters for nearly as long as anyone in the United States, as part of his work on rejuvenating Central hardwood forests that have suffered severe site disturbance. In this article he summarizes the experiences of several longtime tree tube users.

This information is especially helpful for first time or new tree tube users, but it is important to point situations where problems voiced by these “early adopters” of tree tubes have been solved through improved tree tube design and better instructions.

The most common complaint among treeshelter users who submitted summaries to Dr. Ponder is that the tubes simply last too long – certainly longer than was originally advertised. This gave the users unrealistic expectations that they would be able to “plant and forget” the tubes and they’d simply photodegrade on site. We know now that UV stabilizing plastic is much more of an art than a science, and that due to the huge range of climatic conditions in the USA tree tube makers have to “error on the side of caution;” adding enough UV stabilizer to the plastic blend to ensure that the tubes will last “long enough” in high Colorado means that tube will last “too long” in northern Wisconsin.

As a result, tree tube users should know going in: You’re going to have to remove the tubes at some point. This is true even with tubes that have a perforated line designed to split open as the tree expands. While this is a helpful feature for back-country sites where regularly visiting the trees is not possible, or for absentee landowners who visit their plantings infrequently, it should be thought of as a back-up plan. In order for the tree to break through the perforated line it must first be in contact with and pressing out against the walls of the tube, and that is not an ideal situation.

Tree tubes should be removed before the base of the tree reaches the diameter of the tube. Otherwise, once the base of the tree fills the tube it can act like a drain plug and moisture can build up in the tube.

Yes, tree tube makers have gotten better at “dialing in” the life expectancy of their products, but again the worst thing is if the tubes don’t last long enough so they tend to “over stabilize” to make sure the tubes will last long enough no matter what conditions they are used under.

So this is a case simply of more experience and better information helping new treeshelter users avoid problems early users learned by trial and error.

In subsequent posts we will look at other experiences described in Dr. Ponder’s great article. To borrow from a commercial for a very different product, treeshelters “have come a long way, baby.”

In the meantime, it’s important to note: All of the respondents to the tree tube survey said that their experience with tree tubes was a positive one and that their trees got off to a great start as a result. Keep in mind that these Walnut Council members and early adopters of tree tubes are the “cream of the crop” in the world of Tree Farming – the very best non-industrial private landowner tree growers. They turned to tree tubes because even they – the best of the best – couldn’t get their trees started without tree tubes!

Thanks for visiting, and please make Tree Protection Supply your low-cost source for the best tree tubes on the market.

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