When should you remove your tree tubes?

The issue of when to remove treeshelters seems to be a hot topic of discussion boards and online forums these days.  Tree tube users seems to fall into two camps:

1.  Since two of the primary benefits of tree tubes are rapid early growth and deer browse protection until the tree grows past the deer browse line, and since these benefits are generally achieved in the first two years, it makes sense to remove the tree tube at that point, stake the tree for support, and re-use the tree tube to start another tree… and maybe even get three uses out of the treeshelter before it gets brittle from UV exposure.

Some proponents of this approach also mention possible risks involved in keeping the tubes on the trees for an extended period of time, most notably that mice or other rodents can take up residence in them and gnaw at the bark of the well-established tree.  This sentiment was most colorfully expressed in a discussion board post that compared leaving a tree tube on for several years to leaving a dirty diaper on a baby!

2. The other school of thought is that the tree tube should stay in place for 3 to 5 years, providing a succession of benefits:  First fast growth and deer browse protection, then later stem support and protection from buck rub, and throughout the establish period protection from herbicide spray, mowers and weed trimmers.

As with so many things in life, there’s no “wrong” answer as to when to remove tree tubes.  Excellent tree farmers have been highly successful using both methods.  You just have to know the pro’s and con’s of each method.

Those who choose to remove the grow tubes after 1 or 2 seasons need to be aware of two issues:

1.  Proper stem support – The tree will need to be staked for support, but the support stake & ties should allow for stem movement (stem movement triggers growth responses that thicken the stem and add taper to the trunk)

2. The danger of buck rub – Keeping a stake, especially a metal stake, close to the tree has been shown to discourage buck rub.  Use of a scent-based deer repellent can also help.

Those who prefer to leave the treeshelters on for several years need to be aware of two different issues:

1.  Rodents in the tubes – By and large tree tubes effectively protect against damage by rodents.  However rodents can gain entry into tree tubes, and in these cases they can gnaw through the bark and girdle the base of the tree – which can be extremely frustrating just when you think the tree is well established.  The best defense against rodents is to keep the area around the tree tube free of weeds.  Not only will this provide growth benefits for the tree by eliminating competition, it will reduce habitat for rodents.  Mice and voles do not like scurrying across bare ground, exposing themselves to predators.  In places where rodent populations are very high dropping a rodent repellent (or moth balls) in the tree tubes can be very helpful.

2.  Leaving the tube on too long – Tree tubes should be removed when the base of the tree reaches 3 to 3.5 inches in diameter. 

When to remove tree tubes is one of the questions we hear the most.  I hope that this information has been helpful to you.  If you have any questions about proper tree tube use, never hesitate to contact us.

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