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Rootmaker

Posted by bjb817 8 tx (My Page) on
Sun, Nov 10, 13 at 23:06

For anyone that can compare trees you've planted grown in regular pots VS rootmaker, did you notice an appreciable difference in vigor between them? I'm just curious if it's worth the extra money or not.


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Rootmaker

There may be more to your inquiry than you'd think at first glance. For meaningful study, you'd have to determine at what stage the trees were planted out (how botbound they were), how much root manipulation was needed, whether you wanted to look at initial vigor or long-term vigor/health, and lots and lots of other factors. This topic (rootmaker pots v. "traditional" pots) has been discussed a number of times on multiple threads, and you may want to do a search for some of those. I'm sure you'll get responses (there are some here with strong preferences one way or other), but there is no one simple answer.


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RE: Rootmaker

I was lazy and searched for other threads after I posted. :^P I've had mixed results with trees bought from big boxes, but most of those were pretty pot bound. Granted, I've always done my best to loosen the roots/cut circling roots when planting, but I've been generally underwhelmed by the vigor, or lack thereof.

While initial growth is nice, I'm more concerned about 10, 20 years down the road. Does it matter then?

My bottom line, I wouldn't mind paying a little more if it's worth it. If it's a bunch of hocus pocus, not so much.


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RE: Rootmaker

I've had mixed results with trees bought from big boxes, but most of those were pretty pot bound

==>> you can solve this issue.. by buying smaller stock ...

its the instant gratification ... that is forcing you to buy large specimens.. field grown.. having all their roots chopped off.. and shipped to BBStore ...

if you were to start looking at half the size.. well grown nursery stock .. even mail order ... you will probably cut your loss ratio down ...

it is suggested.. that a smaller transplant.. will outgrow the larger.. in say 5 years.. due to the lesser stresses of shipping.. handling.. planting.. chopping off all the roots etc ... simply because it will get established faster and grow to specs faster ...

i dont really understand.. how in your dynamic of losses.. tree pots comes in the equation.. other than you have a real interest to win this battle .... and want to learn ... and if that is the fact.. then i suggest.. tree pots... is not the base issue..

its the stock you are buying ...

perhaps you are thinking.. that if you find a supplier that uses said pots.. the stock would be better ... yes.. most likely it would ... but that would be.. because you found a supplier.. who cares about the stock 'quality' .. over 'quantity' ....

keep learning.. and.. good luck

ken

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RE: Rootmaker

  • Posted by whaas 5a SE WI (NW) (My Page) on
    Mon, Nov 11, 13 at 9:32

it is suggested.. that a smaller transplant.. will outgrow the larger.. in say 5 years..

I don't know, I've yet to see this in my experience. Also all my b&b have outgrown my container stock as well. Issue with container stock is that its usually, let me go out on a limb here, almost always pot bound from the time it was grown as a seedling. Being up potted time and time again in a new pot bound state. I now have a preference for only 1 gallon and b&b plants now. 1 gallon because there is hope to fix the roots and it maintains some vigor yet because its young but not to young (I've killed more 4" potted plants then I'd care to share or they just don't grow). Others will argue issues with b&b...but I've yet to have casualty in that form. Time will tell I guess.

As for rootmaker BAGS. Hmm, haven't seen good results. I feel like growers leave them in these BAGS longer. The fibrous roots then mat like a son of a gun and its MORE difficult to tease and fix the roots then if grown in a plastic pot.
If the grower is diligent I can see the difference in roots.


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RE: Rootmaker

Whaas, I would encourage you do some testing of your own with the different containers. There is a substantial difference in root development between smooth sided containers and fabric pots/root trappers. I had a maple in a #4 fabric pot for two years and nothing but a dense fibrous root system without any sort of root tangles was found. This next year I intend to paint the sides of a few containers as Dax suggested in another topic to see how that works out.

My BNB success rate is 40% with one of the survivors being a 20' tall shagbark hickory. Now let me tell you why it lived and the others didn't... The hickory was dug several years (~4-5) prior to being bought. It sat at a nursery with the rootball nice and cool in heavy shade making new roots in the ball (and some out of it) the whole time. By the time I planted it, it had made an entirely new root system and the ball was densely full of roots. All 3 of the failures as well as the 1 straggling surviving maple were dug and immediately planted within a couple weeks of being balled and burlapped. So, bnb can be a fine way to transplant trees but success rate can dramatically increase if the tree is held for at least a year before being sold. I certainly would rate if far riskier than potted material especially small potted material where root surgery may not set the plant back as much since it should be young and vigorous and ESPECIALLY ESPECIALLY if the plant has been grown in a fabric pot.

It all comes down to the cultural practices the tree has endured all along the way from the time the plant or the plant's rootstock was a seedling. Endured being the operative word because not one bit of being grown in containers with roots circling into oblivion maybe being moved up to larger pots from time to time or having >90% of your roots hacked off ala bnb is natural! Notice I didn't list a negative for fabric pots in the last sentence ;-)

If you want to be certain of how something is grown, do it yourself (as many on here do occasionally)! And the next best thing to being certain is to pester the seller for info on the entire history of the plant. Many will not accommodate this, but the ones that do have nothing to hide =) I certainly know whaas is not shy when it comes to confronting sellers lol


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RE: Rootmaker

FWIW,
My experience with the rooting bags have been entirely positive. So much so that I ordered some more larger ones over the weekend that have handles. I have a potted Japanese Maple by the patio that will be going into one of those so that it will be easier to move into the garage during th coldest part of winter. Root systems in the root pruning bags are FAR SUPERIOR in my experience. Peeling them off the rootball can be a chore, but you lose very few roots during planting and that is a BIG PLUS.

Arktrees


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RE: Rootmaker

  • Posted by whaas 5a SE WI (NW) (My Page) on
    Mon, Nov 11, 13 at 14:15

It all comes down to the cultural practices the tree has endured all along the way from the time the plant or the plant's rootstock was a seedling.

Amen brother!

Should be noted I've only received 2 plants in rootmaker bags. Both I had to peel the bag off and there was a really nice set of fibrous roots. But when I went to loosen the soil...oops not going to happen as it was extremely compressed. Granted both where maples, lol. So very limited experience with rootmaker bags. One can make the point that the roots tend to mat more so when left too long in the bag.


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RE: Rootmaker

Here's how I see it:

B&B - Less concern for girdling roots or deformed root systems, but takes a LONG time for the roots to regenerate, leaving you with a tree that looks half-dead until it's near the end of the establishment period (about a yr per inch of caliper)

"Traditional" containers - you theoretically can keep most of the root system, but it can still take time to establish either because of cutting off "bad" roots, or the tree being "stuck" in the old rootball for a while.

Root pruning pots (Rootmaker, Smart Pots, etc). Keep 99.9% of the root system, with the root tips "aimed" the right right direction for growth into the native soil almost right away.


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RE: Rootmaker

For me it's:

Few nursery-grown trees have root systems comparable to naturally-grown trees. Natural root systems are often, if not always, better suited for a healthy, long-lived tree. Landscape trees, on average, have a much, much shorter average life span than trees in nature, and I believe root issues are very likely to be a huge part of that!

Smaller trees often have better root systems (less potbound-ness, less root loss when planting out, easier to correct problems, etc) than larger trees - as Ken said above. I believe you often have a much better chance when starting with a smaller tree. As well as being more likely to have a less compromised root system, there are other factors like less transplant shock, quicker establishment, much less work to plant and for aftercare, more likely to be able to correct poor root system structure at planting, etc, etc.

There's been a lot of talk and research about how root systems adapt when they are cut way back in the B&B process. I see the possibility of some of the same concerns in a tree grown for very long in a rootpruning/rootmaker type pot/bag. Rootmaker pots and bags should never be used as an excuse to hold over plants for too long (and unfortunately, they are). With a few exceptions, I don't see any advantage to buying products grown in rootmaker pots/bags IF you buy things BEFORE they've been potted for too long in the first place.


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RE: Rootmaker

Good luck finding plants that haven't been potted too long in a particular container. It's rare to find one even at the proper planting depth (same goes for BnB). Given the choice between root pruning pot, and standard pot, I know which way I'm going based on my own experiences.

One more thing brandon, root systems of wild growing trees undergo a natural self pruning process that reduces the number of roots close to the trunk as the tree grows. While it's true there can be a fibrous root mass in the root pruning pot, these will undergo the same root pruning process. Even trees growing in the wild undergo many disturbances to their roots. Lots of animals dig and cut roots, and the earth sometimes moves through various causes (landslides, rock falls, erosion, floods etc). In the worst cases, they can lose as much root system as if BnB'ed. Yet many old trees show indications of just such disturbances. Shorter lived in the yard or garden is IMHO, more due to human caused insults. Chemical (i.e. salt), physical (driving across the root system, rebuilding at a site, etc), and that the environment is much more arid and exposed as exposed compared to a woodland, and often VERY nutrient poor.

JMHO,
Arktrees


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RE: Rootmaker

"Good luck finding plants..."

It's not that hard when you go with smaller pot-grown stock. You can still run into trouble, but it's easier to determine that up front and easier to deal with when it happens. Whether or not starting small is worth the wait has to be a decision left up to the individual homeowner. But, if a long-lived tree is your main goal, then I believe smaller is usually better.

Self root thinning

Sure some of this can happen, but it's not going to be the same as a naturally-grown root system. Since roots in a rootmaker pot get continuously pruned back and regrown, crossing roots are going to be the norm. The tree has no way to selectively eliminate the "right" roots. This aspect is what I see as similar to the b&b tree, where crossing root (due to regrowth) are suspected to be a problem.


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RE: Rootmaker

One other thing you bnb lovers (Ha!) are missing is the fact that most "field grown trees" start out as small grafts in pots and are prone to the same issues of improper care when the rootstock is in the seedling stage.

I planted a ~4' Picea abies 'Acrocona' balled and burlapped in the fall of 2012. It stayed green all winter into the spring. Had cones on it from the previous year. Looked very nice. It never broke bud or even showed the tiniest hint of waking up. Off to the burn pile it went. Then I looked at the roots. OMG I WAS NOT READY FOR THAT! A huge twisted, kinked mess of God only knows what. The view is from what would be the apex of the root system. The tree did send out big roots above the wrecked snakebite disaster but it is still a good example of what is happening to some bnb below the soil.

This post was edited by j0nd03 on Tue, Nov 12, 13 at 11:14


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RE: Rootmaker

Well for planting size, I still say it applies. Most small trees are grown in those "tree bands" and always always have root issue of some sort. So even first growing year seedlings are a mess more often than not. Then there is the matter of selected cultivars are simply not available as small plants to Joe average in most cases. As far as how big a plant to start with, to me depends upon the growth rate. If you do the math, a fast growing selection like Autumn Blaze there is little penalty for going small. However a slow growing species like Ginkgo will never catch a larger transplant even when the longer (and in the case of Ginkgo often extra slow) establishment is taken into account. I have written the explanation for this in this forum several times.

As for the self root pruning, LOTS of this happens naturally. Take a naturally growing red maple that 3' tall in a woodland environment. Move 3' out from the trunk and take a cubic foot of soil and count the roots present. There will be hundreds to thousands. Do the same sample at the same distance from the original growing point 20 years later (assuming the tree has been healthy with typical growth etc), and what will you find? It won't be hundreds to thousands of roots. It will be 1 to a few AT MOST. Where have the others gone? They were pruned away by both external factors, AND self pruning of the root system. Roots do cross, and they do self graft. This is a natural part of the growth of the root system. Roots of one individual also root graft to others, Hence you have to trench and cut the roots around an oak infected with Sudden Oak Death to keep it spreading to adjacent Oaks that the infected tree has root grafted with.

Arktrees

This post was edited by arktrees on Tue, Nov 12, 13 at 11:36


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RE: Rootmaker

I think another good example of a tree in the process of minimizing the original root flare and choosing a new one is the example of my Legacy sugar maple. This is what the Acrocona mentioned above had done. The Acrocona's new roots looked fine and should have been enough to keep it going while it worked out the messy situation at the bottom.

I didn't comment on it directly, but the source of death is unknown to me even with the roots were a mess. It should have had a slow decline if the roots were the problem. It was anything but considering how healthy it was when I received it. Maybe being evergreen it used up the remaining resources in its compromised root system over winter and had nothing left for the spring flush...

Here is a link that might be useful: Previous topic


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RE: Rootmaker

"Most small trees are grown in those tree bands and always always have root issue of some sort."

My purchasing experience has been different than that (I have not found that most small trees are grown in bands), BUT even if it were the case, it would seem to me to only back up the advice to buy small (so that problems could be addressed at planting).

"As far as how big a plant to start with..."

I agree with that. The individual has to make the decision on what's more important to them. There is no one right decision for everyone.

Ginkgo as an example

My seedling ginkgos have grown well over 2' per year. I planted the seeds 6 years ago (in pots), and many are now around 14' tall. I predict they will surpass my mom and dad's nursery-bought tree (it was at least 10' tall when they got it) in just a few more years. Their tree is grafted, so it may not be a completely fair comparison, but the point is that ginkgos (at least ones with good root systems and proper planting) can grow pretty fast.

This post was edited by brandon7 on Tue, Nov 12, 13 at 23:42


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RE: Rootmaker

J0nd03, that's a great example of what's common with larger (even though yours is kind of "medium sized") nursery stock! Every time they pot things up, some nurseries pot deeper and deeper. The more of these improper plantings (once every year or two) you can avoid, the better off your tree is likely to be. Even nursery field-grown trees often have this same problem; they add a bunch of extra dirt on top of the original ball to make them more rounded.


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RE: Rootmaker

  • Posted by whaas 5a SE WI (NW) (My Page) on
    Tue, Nov 12, 13 at 13:18

Jon, why the hell would you plant that spruce b&b without identifying a flare of some sort? lol

I find that some species more readily develop a flare and send roots outward. Maple is one of those.

I really struggle with Oak and Pines when they are young. They really have those contorted, spiralling roots.


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RE: Rootmaker

Whaas, I did find the spruce's new flare before planting =) It was the one hidden deep in the soil I didn't see. I would have had to destroy the soil ball to have found it!! Which I though one wasn't supposed to do to bnb. I am reconsidering that line of thinking now...

" Every time they pot things up, some nurseries pot deeper and deeper... Even nursery field-grown trees often have this same problem; they add a bunch of extra dirt on top of the original ball"

RIGHT ON


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RE: Rootmaker

brandon,
On the Ginkgo, I have seen a few young Ginkgo put on 2'+ in one year, but then add very little the next year. One in a local park that was about 2' tall, grew probable 2.5' in 2012 with an extreme drought. This year was a much much kinder year, and it grew about 1'. Even this seems to be the exception locally. Doesn't matter if grafted or seed grown. If you get an average 12"/yr you are doing great. So using the 12-14"/yr average, then starting with a much larger plant over a small seedling makes the most sense locally. Would LOVE to get one to 14' in 6 years. Instead I'm on the verge of removing one that has done about 2.5' in 6 years. The only thing stopping me is that it added more caliper this year than the last three years combined and that includes one of it's best years previously. Dam* thing is still green and will be frozen tonight though. Can't even get fall color out of it in mid November. Plus, the math still applies for any slow growing species. It does not have to be Ginkgo. But to be fair, many supposedly slow growing species are in fact not so much. Our Paperback Maple Acer griseum has 2-3' shoot every year. Our triflorum Maple Acer triflorum has 3'+ shoots most years. Hardly slow growing for me, even though both are considered slow. But who knows, perhaps it's my local climate.

My point on the small stock having root issues, is that its nearly impossible to get away from this problem at any age of plant. Then average end planter can not get the very small grafted plants.

On a side note, I appreciate this discussion. Having a heavy Sciences background, I do not take offense when someone disagrees with me, and I hope you have the same POV.

Arktrees


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RE: Rootmaker

Smaller is better most of the time.

However, I'll go somewhat contrary here - IF you want to buy a larger tree, rootmaker (or the like) is THE way to go, if you can presume it's been in such a container all its life (with the possible exception of the liner stage).

THEN - a larger transplant in a Rootmaker can establish faster AND have a better root system than a smooth container or B & B.


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RE: Rootmaker

I honestly do really like the Rootmaker knit bags - the kind grown in cinder blocks - They don't mat as heavily as the white fabric pots. My experience with fibrous-rooted species, especially birch, is that the larger roots tend to get stuck in the fabric - With the finer rooted species, the roots seem to be able to keep growing through that spun-bond fabric interior. The result is a very difficult to remove plant. I am switching all to the green knit fabric pots next year.

Also, I certainly agree with what brandon7 says - The root-pruning pot is NOT a reason to keep the plant in the pot for more than a season - Even the inventor of the Rootmaker pots, Carl Whitcomb, says to either sell, up-pot, plant or throw away the current year's plants at the end of the season. I've found that because the plants grow faster with some root pruning, they actually have to be transplanted SOONER than conventional stock. I planted a cherry (Prunus pensylvanica) from seed in early spring, and after shifting up 3 times and planting in May (weekly watering if needed), it grew to 6 feet tall with a 1 inch trunk! Granted, pin cherry is a fast-growing pioneer tree, but it goes to show, the rootmaker pots work!


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RE: Rootmaker

Here's how some of us look at the smaller v. large debate. I will have to simplify the facts to conserve words, but it will give an idea.

Let's say you bought two trees. One is a 1-gallon pot-grown seedling. When you get it, it is 1.5' tall and requires no significant root manipulation at planting. And, let's say it is expected to grow at 2' per year.

The second tree is a much larger 15' tall, 4" trunk diameter b&b specimen of the same type of tree. We'll use hairmetal4ever's figure of about 1 year per inch for establishment.

So, here are the sizes at various ages for the given parameters:
# years, tree 1, tree 2
0 years, 1.5', 15'
1 years, 3.5', 15.25'
2 years, 5.5', 15.75'
3 years, 7.5', 16.25'
4 years, 9.5', 17'
5 years, 11.5', 19'
10 yrs, 21.5', 29'
20 yrs, 41.5', 49'
30 yrs, 61.5', 69'

In this case, we chose a tree with a "medium growth rate". Even though the trees started out very, very different (1.5' v. 15'), they were much more similar in later years. These figures didn't take into account the better growth rate that is likely, IMO, with a better adapted root system. With slow growing trees, as Arktrees has mentioned, the difference in size would be more pronounced. With faster growing trees, it would be less pronounced. A good example would be when a 1-gallon Green Giant outgrows a 10-gallon specimen in about 5 or 6 years.


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RE: Rootmaker

  • Posted by whaas 5a SE WI (My Page) on
    Tue, Nov 12, 13 at 20:12

Jon, always shave the layer of soil off the top until you get the rootflare.

Here are a couple extreme examples.

 photo SDC11791.jpg

 photo SDC11790.jpg


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RE: Rootmaker

  • Posted by whaas 5a SE WI (My Page) on
    Tue, Nov 12, 13 at 20:47

Hair, if there is one thing I'm passionate about its advising against purchasing plants in larger containers, rootmaker or not. Horrible experience in that arena. Doesn't matter on the seller or the species. They are always pot bound over and over....1 gallon pot bound, 3 gallon pot bound, 5 gallon pot bound and it continues. Its amazing as you advance you can tell where it was up potted and not corrected. I'm more or less talking 7 gallon or larger plants. Again just my experience in this market.

Go 5 gallon or less...or b&b (2" or less caliper).

Brandon,
Where have you come across a 1 gallon tree that didn't need root manipulation? I'd ding that container tree for normal growth rate for at least 1 year. At the end of the day someone has to say to themselves if its worth an extra $100 to enjoy a larger tree for 5 years. At least that window seems like the timeframe where you'd still see a notable difference between the plants.

All my 5 gallon trees are about half the size of all my b&b trees after 3 years at the new place.

Don't get me wrong, I still plant the hell out of 1,2 and 3 gallon plants. I go b&b for shade and specimen trees.


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RE: Rootmaker

Both locally purchased and mail-order trees of smaller size (especially 1-gallon and less) are almost always much less pot-bound than what I find with larger potted stock. I have seen severely pot-bound, smaller stuff, but it's been the exception for me. I have received some messed up stuff (particularly from one commonly praised nursery that gets recommended on this forum from time to time), but it wasn't the norm. It all depends on how conscientious the source is about selling or potting up their stuff. When things are pot bound, it's because they didn't sell in time and weren't potted up.

From what I see, most 1-gallon stuff has been planted up once, at most. AND, that potting up was done before the root structure suffered much because many of the nurseries used the 1-gallon size as their smallest size. There is no advantage for them to let the stuff set around and go bad. Once they get to the selling size, that's when many nurseries start procrastinating. When the trees grow larger, they take more work to repot. This further discourages planting up.


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RE: Rootmaker

It's alot cheaper to throw away/ write off a 1 gallon plant than a 15 gallon plant!!

Hence the reason that older plants can be miserably potbound.

I bought a 1 QUART potted tree mailorder online one time - it had a 1/2" caliper and was cut off 6 inches from the base of the pot!! It was so rootbound that there was almost nothing I could do with it. It put out meager growth before finally dying.


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RE: Rootmaker

  • Posted by whaas 5a SE WI (My Page) on
    Tue, Nov 12, 13 at 21:43

Definitely a fair comparison regarding larger pots. Less risk associated with and being able to fix issues with a 1 gallon plant.

I just rarely come across one that I pull out of the pot and say boy I can shake this thing and just plant it.

Same goes for 4" potted plants. I've ordered so many from Stanley and Sons and those are all pot bound and suffer any way you cut it, pun intended. Usually worth the $8 spent though for plants that will remain dwarf.

Who have you had issues with?


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RE: Rootmaker

I hate to be evasive but the nursery I mentioned above has been very helpful to me more than once and I'd rather not mention them in a negative way here. I will say (as Arktrees already said) that trees that are sold in bands often have compromised root systems. Little is good, to a point, but there definitely is a point at which pots are too little (at least for saleable sized stock). Many of the plants I've received in bands should have actually been in at least 1-gallon pots.


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RE: Rootmaker

It keeps getting said "small plants without root issues" and I keep saying there are very few such plants available on the market to the end consumer. At best it's a crap shoot. Then find where I can buy it without root issues. To date I have gotten plants without serious root issues from just a few mail order shops. In one case the root system was excellent, the rest were "OK". I bring up AGAIN, that this approach precludes many desirable plants. When I selected Sugar Maple, I choose Commemoration and Fall Fiesta due to availability and their characteristics. Find me where I can buy 1(one) Fall Fiesta Sugar Maple in a one gallon pot, or 4" tree tube. Or Commemoration Sugar Maple. The list goes on and on and on from there. Frankly, if you CAN NOT buy small stock (root bound or otherwise) of the many many plants selected for a specific characteristics, then it is a mute point anyway in a very large portion of the time.

I have grown my own from seed. I have gone the tree tube route. I have gone traditional container route. I have very large B&B. And I have gone root pruning pot. If I don't grow my own, then the root pruning pot has had best results for me. To the point of those I grow myself, I typically use the root pruning bags with excellent results. Those results have included many maples, multiple oaks, sassafras, coffee tree, blackgum, and whatever else I felt like growing and giving away to friends, neighbors, family, and coworkers.

Lastly, I have a Scarlet Oak that I started from acorn at nearly the same time as we had a LARGE B&B Scarlet Oak planted. The B&B tree was 2" caliper and 15' tall. It has had three growing seasons now, with 2 or those years drought and heat near hell (110 degrees that first summer) and has added about ~4' during that time, while establishing a full root system. It added 0.8" caliper this season (compared to 0.4" last season), which tells me that it is basically now fully established and likely to hit the after burners next spring. Guess what. That acorn grown tree has done well, but it ain't ever going to catch that B&B tree in my remaining lifetime. Nor are any of the 5-10 other Scarlet Oaks I started at the same time that have been planted at various locations. The point is that it is never so simple.

Arktrees

This post was edited by arktrees on Tue, Nov 12, 13 at 23:18


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RE: Rootmaker

Whichever nursery that brandon may be talking about, there are some IMHO that are far more talented at whizzing on your leg and telling you it's raining (meaning making up excuses and lies and convincing you to believe them), than they are plant people. It seems to me that they will send out the crap first, then hope that the end customer doesn't notice. If they do notice, they then make excuses and get the trusting or naive to buy into to that, thus preserving their reputation. Lastly, those that do not accept this, that know better and press the point, are then sent "good" replacement plants to preserve their reputation, with the associated costs being covered by the excessive shipping charges to everyone. Not naming anyone, but it fits what I have seen over the years.

Arktrees


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RE: Rootmaker

Hopefully, it goes without saying that a few roots growing along the side or at at the bottom of a container do not make the plant's root system defective or damaged. I know most realize this, but I wonder if expectations may be too high for some posters. And, as I wrote earlier, it's usually much easier to deal with any root problems on a smaller tree than it is on a larger one. Trees that have been potted up multiple times are likely to have multiple layers of problems. Trees that have been repotted fewer times are likely to have less compromised root systems.

It's also a mistake to think that one size (1-gallon, for instance) is necessarily the only size that can avoid problems. My (and other's) point is that smaller is often better, but that doesn't mean that you have to necessarily go with the smallest size plant. My example of growth rates above used a one-gallon size and a much larger size just for a simple comparison. The example was in no way meant to say that something in between (say, a 4' or 5' tall tree) couldn't be considered. The whole idea is that the larger the tree is (depending on how it's been grown and other factors), the more likelihood there is for problems. Just about any specific plant can be found in various sizes. For instance, the Fall Fiesta Maple that Arktrees mention is available from over 40 growers and in many sizes. I didn't look through to see if a one-gallon size was available, but it wouldn't surprise me if it were. Now, a specific nursery may not be practically able to order a single small tree of that particular cultivar from a nursery that offers it, BUT, if they can get one at all, it's likely that they could obtain different sizes. If they can get you a 4' tree or an 8' tree, and instant gratification is not an issue, go for the 4' tree! Save money, save time, save effort, and quite possibly get a better quality plant.


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RE: Rootmaker

"...always shave the layer of soil off the top until you get the rootflare...

I have had to do so on every bnb tree I've planted. I think one of my maples had ~8" of soil piled up above the rootflare. This info is known by the grower/seller and usually not passed on to Joe Schmo homeowner to his disadvantage.

As I stated earlier on the Acrocona, I removed several inches of soil and found the new root flare the tree had made. I would have had to destroy and bareroot the tree to find the tangle of roots at the bottom. The new flare was several inches to maybe a foot higher than root tangle.


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RE: Rootmaker

Just a few morning musings:

-I've heard anecdotally that well-grown Rootmaker trees have very little, if any, "slow growth" period during establishment, since there is little root loss, but they still have to "establish" as in, root out into the native soil, & may actually need MORE water during that initial phase. However, with proper watering, they'll grow faster from day one.

-Root pruning in a more "traditional" method (such as, scoring around the rootball while in the field has been employed by many nurseries for decades, so its benefits are not overstated. Rootmakers, Smart Pots, etc simply make this process more aautomated, and with little or no loss of vigor, since only the tips of the roots are destroyed, leaving 99.9% of the root system intact with each pruning.

The MOST important factor really is nursery practices, and ethics - a poorly grown tree in a Rootmaker will certainly underperform compared to a B&B or traditional container plant that recieved the utmost care, was up-potted at the right time, etc. However, from what I've seen, I'd give a modest, but noticeable edge, to plants grown in Rootmakers (or the competitors, to be fair) over the other 2 common methods, if all other factors are the same. This would vary by species, & most of what I've read says that the benefits are greatest for trees generally thought of as hard to transplant, like oaks, vs. more naturally fibrous-rooted trees like maples and many conifers - but they can benefit, too.

There is some concern about the long-term health of a root system that was repeatedly pruned in the nursery, lacking natural taproots, etc. However, some studies have shown that oaks grown for a decade in root pruning containers still managed to send down several deep taproot-like roots once in the landscape a few years.

It also seems that acceptance of root pruning pots at the liner stage is far more universal than later on down the road.

Ark - I'd be willing to bet your B&B Scarlet Oak was repeatedly root-pruned in the field, and the liner itself that the nursery planted may also have been grown in some type of rootmaker-like pot, since it appears to have established so nicely.


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RE: Rootmaker

Another things I think we might see more of, that to me is a hybrid of B&B and root pruning containers, the in-ground root bags that are sold by Rootmaker as well as some other companies. The benefits of field growing with the root pruning benefits built-in. Supposedly using these you can have twice the roots in a smaller rootball. The only possible negative with these is that the rootballs are too small for the tree to stand without staking once planted, moreso than with B&B.

One final point - the main thing I dislike about B&B is the difficulty in moving them (weight of rootball) & the fact that most nurseries and landscapers leave the burlap & wire on the rootball - I'm NOT convinced, thanks to seeing many dead trees yanked out of the ground over the years, that the roots penetrate the burlap as well as they say, or that the burlap rots and the wire rusts as quickly as is claimed.


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RE: Rootmaker

Actually that makes my point for me. Fall Fiesta IS very widely grown, by numerous growers. However these growers DO NOT sale to the public. Therefore they are not an available source no matter how good they may be at the growing part. Therefore any size consideration is mute. But even if you do find one available in the 4-5' range, you immediately have the same ole rootbound problem. At BEST a tree this size will be in a 5 gallon pot, and a tree that size would naturally have a root system much much much larger than the size of that pot. So immediately you are hacking roots to fix root problems, resulting is setting the tree back considerable while it regenerates it's root system. Containerized trees will have a less extensive root bound problem as most of their roots were removed before being placed in the container to be allowed to recover. BUT their root systems are in NO WAY normal, and will require 1 to a few years to finish their recovery. The only possible hope of avoiding having to cut on the root systems is tree bands or 1 gallon pots, and again where are you going to be able to acquire Fall Fiesta or so many others in this size available to the public. Sure I know there are liner producers of these and most other cultivars, but they ain't selling anything to me. Therefore they may as well not exist. Lastly, I have not seen a retail nursery that could be bothered to get one tree of this size for a customer. Simply little to nothing to gain for them.

hair,
I have no doubt that my B&B Scarlet Oak was repeatedly root pruned. They have a bad reputation for transplanting due to a dominate taproot if allowed to grow to their choice. This is really just a larger brute force version of root pruning pots done with a blade instead of air. Produced in the traditional way, I'm sure our Oak would not have survived. However with root pruning, it has done very well, and demonstrates well the value of this approach. The very fact that all trees have adaptations (i.e. generate new roots at the broken ends) to repair their root systems, proves this has to be a normal part of the life of a tree. We humans just take advantage these adaptations to the limit to move them around to new locations.

Arktrees


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RE: Rootmaker

One more thing to add about our B&B Scarlet Oak. It was not my first choice. In fact I bought a another rather expensive Scarlet Oak that turned out I was going to need considerable work on the roots. What's more, I was not sure just how well it was going to color in the fall. While when I went looking around locally, I found these really large 2" caliper Scarlet Oaks available that had the most intense color I had ever seen on a Oak but in B&B. For the size, the price was good, the B&B rootball large, but I was still hesitant. Everyone told me to plant in spring, but I reasoned that I would care for it better overwinter than the nursery would, and it would still be overwintering as B&B either way, and it would be in its final location if I went ahead. Finally after a week or so of mulling it over I threw down the $$$ to have it planted. My significant other stayed home (as I was working stupid amount at the time) to make sure it was planted how I wanted. In short I gambled for the intense color (it has NOT disappointed) and won. I normally would not have considered such a large tree, and certainly not one that had the reputation for difficulty of transplanting. But I could not be happier that I did. It was $$$ well spent. But ti also shows, that best planting size is not always clear cut even when it appears that it should be.

Arktrees


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RE: Rootmaker

Oaks are worth buying a bit larger, so you can see their fall color-I've seen a lot of seedling/small sapling oaks with great color, even species that don't color well normally, but then they peter out (fall color-wise) right around the 2" caliper size.

If fall color is something you are looking for, in an oak at least, there is some benefit to buying one big enough to have grown out of its juvenile phase where the fall color can be misleadingly intense.


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RE: Rootmaker

  • Posted by bboy USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA (My Page) on
    Thu, Nov 14, 13 at 15:06

Definitely the dominant issue with what I see is woody stock in small containers too long early in the production cycle. This is a gift that keeps on giving for the rest of the life of the specimen, and trumps whether it came out of a field at time of final purchase etc. - if that tight square or knot is still in there, right at the base of the plant it doesn't matter what else has happened to the roots since the original deformity occurred.

I've had shrubs that were in place here for decades fall over in snow. Upon exhumation it was seen they had pivoted over on turnip-like root knots at the bases of the stems.

Grafted ornamentals in particular can be pretty much counted upon to have really bad roots, there apparently being this weird convention that if plants are earmarked to be used as root-stocks there is no need to pot them on - as if production of stock with deformed roots by container nurseries was not already pandemic.


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RE: Rootmaker

What p**ses me off is there are just a couple steps they could take that could avoid this.


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RE: Rootmaker

Whenever I see a thread about this topic I hear the distinct sound of tubular bells from the Exorcist in the background :)
Many bemoan the fact that the commercial trade does not use rootmaker products. Here is an attempt to say why.
I got a price quote today for a pallet (348) of 3 gallon injection molded rootmaker containers to be shipped from Royce City TX. When you include shipping they come to $2.60 per pot. Conventional 3 gallon blow molded containers for me are about $.62 per pot delivered.
The reality is that nursery containers are a disposable item much like that coffee cup at the drive thru. Wholesale growers pot up the liners and move them ASAP, no one wants to hold onto inventory longer than they have to. The space is needed for the next crop. Ever notice how much grievance is expressed here about mailorder firms? They are stuck with plants they can't sell. They are loathe to shift plants to a larger size, they may not fit in the shipping box. As for me, I would never recommend spending alot of money on a plant, sight unseen.
Like all regions of the country the mid-Atlantic has an annual trade show, ours meets in Baltimore with just under 1,000 vendors, nary a one uses the rootmaker pots or root control bags. The rootmaker site boasts a grand total of two certified growers in my state.
The American Nurseryman magazine has had countless articles about rootmaker containers, grow bags and additional products, all authored by Whitcomb who has been promoting his ideas for decades. I wouldn't recognize a rootmaker pot if it bit me where the sun don't shine! They are virtually invisable in the commercial trade. Is it true that the biggest market for those pots is marijuana growers?
Along with many others I purchased 'Princeton' elm liners several years ago, they were in Anderson bands like this one. I canned them up in 3 gallon containers for one year and they were planted, no problems whatsoever. The clay tree pot shown here was once popular for understock but seldom used anymore.
 photo 11-17-13002.jpg
We discussed the limitations of in ground root control bags on another thread, the question was brought up what to do with trees that don't sell. A poster suggested to dig them up and repot them in a larger bag and replant them. That's one of those ideas that make perfect sense if you don't think about it. The reality is that 40% of a trees value is in the labor to dig it. Can anyone here find an image of a field of in ground root control bags? I can't. How do you keep the cultivator from snagging the bags? How do you stake those things without puncturing the bag? When the trees are ready is there any demand?
Does anyone here remember that Collapsing Root Ball thread? When it came out several of us detected a foul odor. Its important to note that the WSU site does not make recommendations for areas outside of the PNW.
My objection was based on the recommendation to bareroot actively growing B&B stock. On her can of worms blog Chalker-Scott was repeatedly challenged about this. She acknowledged the shortcomings of her observations and deferred Dr. Bonnie Appleton's work in Virginia.
The late Dr. Appleton was a real gem and a professional, university level researcher. Search for her bare root to bare root research. She named the species that she worked with, red maple and willow oak. She wrote Nearly half of the willow oaks bare rooted while actively growing were dead The red maples bare rooted while actively growing defoliated. I need someone to explain to me why anyone in the trade would follow the suggestions on the WSU website.
I've linked here info from Cornell University. This is all tried & true info for handling bare root stock which is only handled while dormant. It also includes species not recommended for barerooting under any circumstances.

Here is a link that might be useful: Creating the Urban Forest


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RE: Rootmaker

sam,
Excellent post. Cost to the grower is a big issue. Those special pots ain't cheap. I can personally attest to that. No doubt about it. I will say that prices finally seem to be falling more to where they should be. But that does not change that even now they are difficult to swallow for the grower. Due to my job and the people I work with, I'm well aware that labor cost have to be reduced wherever possible. I was trying to acknowledge that the re-potting was a serious issue in my posts. I knew it was not trivial. I was also aware that there were other things I was not aware of, and hence I wanted input from the growers. So I much appreciate your post. I hope you can also understand the frustration experienced by the end buyer as well.

Arktrees


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RE: Rootmaker

Sam - are you saying that root pruning pots etc are not necessary, harmful, or, not beneficial enough to be worth the extra whopping $2/plant production cost (snark intended)?

Since I've had the following issues in my own experience:

-Trees topple in a storm with a kinked, deformed, turnip-like root system
-B&B that never roots out of the burlap
-Years of setback from root loss at transplanting

I can certainly imagine the benefits of root pruning. As far as Brandon's concern about the long-term health of root pruning on a root system, it's a valid concern. However, I've read that roots often graft together, which I'd imagine happens when a bunch of fine roots are close together, & that the effects of root pruning only last about five years.

I wonder what Whitcomb's first trees he produced look like now. That would help us get the answer since it's been some 30 odd years I think.


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RE: Rootmaker

sam_md I know the rootmaker pots cost a lot more. Probably hard to recoup when Joe Bradford Pear and Nancy Thundercloud Plum don't even know what a root collar is, let alone what a healthy root system means.

However, there are some developments that *could* have merit, if we assume that root pruning is something that is beneficial.

I think both Rootmaker Products Co & Root Control, Inc (makers of SmartPots) sell a "pot liner" that is made of the roottrapping material, but can line a regular pot & be reused. I could imagine a system where, at the time of the sale, the plant is lifted, the pot liner torn off, and the plant dropped back in the cheap, plastic pot for final transport.


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RE: Rootmaker

Ark, I think part of the "problem" is that there is this underlying assumption that ALL trees in urban and suburban landscapes have a fairly short life span for many reasons (poor, stripped, compacted soils, poor care, etc) & therefore, root issues aren't quite as important, since they're going to die in 30 years anyway.

However, plenty of people who buy trees ARE looking for something to live centuries. We have parks, people with larger properties, etc. etc. etc. & those people are ignored in favor of the more profitable office parks, municipalities, subdivisions with lots too small for even a single Acer rubrum, etc. etc.


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RE: Rootmaker

Boy, this is a lively discussion! I'm just Joe Homeowner wanting to plant the best quality tree I can get in my yard. It looks like in the trade the consensus is that there is no consensus. :^)

From what I've gleaned from the discussion, either get a smaller size, like under 5 gal, or give the rootmaker a try for a tree that will establish better, no?


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RE: Rootmaker

"From what I've gleaned from the discussion, either get a smaller size, like under 5 gal, or give the rootmaker a try for a tree that will establish better, no?"

IMO, YES, that statement is on point and pretty much what I follow in my buying process after a lot of trial and error. I'll never do bnb again. I'll never get a container tree in person without checking the roots to the best of my ability. If I ever find a local nursery that charges me $5 more per tree but they use rootmaker products, I will give them a LOT of business.


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RE: Rootmaker

Re: consensus

Yes, there may be some variation in opinions about rootmaker type products, but, as I said in the first reply, it's more about the fact that the answer is not a simple yes or no. There are multiple variables and things to take into consideration. You could probably get quit a bit of consensus if you were able to pin down every variable and present a specific case.


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RE: Rootmaker

  • Posted by whaas 5a SE WI (My Page) on
    Mon, Nov 25, 13 at 21:14

If I could go to a tree farm, select and dig my own trees, I'd be happier than a pig in sheet.

One of the few nurseries that actually sells bareroot, stores them under straw in a tent. I can never time it in which I get there the day they get them. They also lack selection.


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