Field Growing results #1: yes you can do this! I want more of us trying this. Lots of fun, just need land, sapling and time. Learning lots, more comments below

Roughbark trident maple grown from sapling. Approximate age 8-10 years. Some of my first few trees are being dug now after lots of patience. I’ll try to post as much as there is interest in this, so let me know. I’ve learned a lot in 10 years and on 60+ field trees with lots more learning to go. On this tree, not enough front and back movement in all planes but certainly not terrible. I can control this in the field early on if I had known better. The roots are an ugly single mass, so going to ground layer next year. I dug a few trees and fixed roots during in the 10 years but I just couldn’t get to all 60+ trees. Also, the biggest thing I’m just realizing is to pull down the soil line over time. You can clearly see where the soil and mulch were up to on this trees. The bark should grow in over a few years.


Hello Eric,

Great idea! I‘m very interested!


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Definitely following this as it is my plan in the future! Thank you @PutItInTheGround :+1:

I would live to hear ‘step by step story’ from day one 10 years ago if that’s okay with you and you don’t mind to share. Also where about are you so we can get a picture of the climate these beauties grew.
I personally think for this one on the picture there is big potential to become valuable bonsai in less than 10 years with caring approach and implementing some good bonsai strategies. Love your work :hugs:


I did the same with a few of the 60 trees I started from 1 yr old seedlings 9-10 years ago. Planted two Japanese maples in the ground 3.5 years ago, forced the roots to grow laterally by placing clay tiles underneath. Both maples grew to 7’-8’ in height; trunks thickened much quicker than those I potted. Did my first chop of both trees late last summer/early Fall when tree was fully leafed out. It was painful cutting off 6’+ of tree.

Live in northern Vermont, so maples have yet to bud out this season. Soon I hope. Next step would be to find a leader to create an apex (?) and allow branches that develop to grow (thicken). Not sure when exactly to pull these from the ground to check the roots. Suggestions would be appreciated, as would a timetable for moving these trees to pots (1-3 years out?). An experiment still in process…


This is very interesting, I’m tracking this post. I have a plot of ground out in the yard that I will be planting some trees in over clay tiles. How close can I plant the trees together?
(Short leaf pine, red leaf maple and a blue rug juniper)

I like to dig the trees every 2-3 years to do some root pruning. At the minimum I cut around the them with a shovel, cut underneath, and rotate 180 degrees. It helps give better roots, but they are still not that great.

This year I am putting all of the trees in the ground in root control bags to see if that gives fewer big, heavy roots. I am filling the bags with a 50/50 mix of the field soil screened to remove rocks and diatomaceous earth (oil dry that is nominally about 3-5 mm) after reading that this was the approach used by one grower. I am hoping this combination will be close enough to the soil outside the bag to exchange moisture, but loose enough to promote more root branching and be easier to remove when I dig them. I plan to lift and root prune as needed every 2-3 years.

There is a nice thread on grow bags, but I did not need 200+. I found a couple of options on Amazon for a decent price and am trying them. One thing I am doing is to fold over the top of the bag to the outside which stiffens the rim and also reduces the height.

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I plant about 24" from trunk to trunk depending on variety. For example, dwarf varieties and inherently smaller growers can be as close together as 18" in my field. More to come from me on this, just super swamped right now.


I just started some Seiju Elm seedlings on their journey to being field stock. I’m following the process outlined in the Telperion podcast, so I put them in some 1-gallon rootmaker containers and cleaned up the roots. Next year, I’ll be planting them in the ground.


I am one of those people who sees something and it inspires me to experiment. As I have started field growing some trees by one of those ideas, I would love some feedback from those of you with more experience in the horticultural arena.

This idea came to me as a wild offshoot when saw an article referencing using colanders for root growth, and another by a grower who plants shallowly in large nursery pots, cutting more drainage holes where the side meets the bottom and allows the roots to grow out those holes into the soil beneath.

First off, instead of using relatively expensive colanders for something that may or may not, at this point, develop into a worthy tree, I found that my local dollar store carried plastic laundry-style baskets that were about 12" x 5". Rather than trying to describe them, I’ve attached photos. You will see that there openings for hand holds, so the 5" depth comes to the bottom of those openings.

I figured that for a dollar each, it was worth an experiment. So, when I had a few young trees and saplings that I wanted to put into the ground to thicken up, I planted each of them into one of these baskets almost as if I was potting them. I mixed about 1/3 pumice into the soil in the basket to aid in root development, and then I planted the basket into the ground. This was last year.

My reasoning for doing this was that perhaps I could combine some of the benefits of growing them in pots, with the benefits of field growing. Trees in pots are easy to move - to rotate, etc., and the roots in pots are naturally contained and are far less damaged when it is time to transfer into another vessel, although the downside is that growth is slower in a pot.

All of the trees budded out vigorously this spring, and then unexpected events revealed that I would have to move some of them. It was already some weeks after it would have been a good time to repot them, but I had no choice. I found that a couple clean cuts around the outside with the shovel, and I was able to dig up the baskets without disturbing the significant root mass at all. One of them is a hemlock, so I was very happy about that.

I am looking forward to seeing what the roots look like in a year or two. I believe that the basket will encourage significant roots to grow horizontally as if placed on a tile, OR, the mesh of the basket will girdle them, creating a natural cut off point that encourages the growth of feeder roots closer to the trunk.

One item of note is that these baskets do not have any UV inhibitors, so any portion left above ground will crumble. I expect that the portion below the surface, however, will last long enough for me to get my dollar’s worth.


I think this will work very well for you. it’s the same idea as the root control bags with a slightly different execution. You save a dollar or two buying the baskets versus the root control bags. Keep us posted on your results, there just aren’t enough people sharing their experiences, trials and results with field growing IMO.


“Keep us posted on your results, there just aren’t enough people sharing their experiences, trials and results with field growing IMO.”

Thank you. I will. I’m always trying something different, and it’s nice not to be told it won’t work, or it’s a bad idea just because “it’s never been done that way” :wink:

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I’m curious how this method works out! Please keep us updated!

One of my 10 year old maples, put in ground 3+ years ago, chopped last fall (from 8 feet to 1 foot) just starting to push out growth this season.


I use pond plant baskets for several of my trees… a JWP, 2 Mugo pines, a Japanese maple. They are similar to the colander basket shown above, but about 12" square. All the trees have thrived in them for 2-3 years in a 33-33-33 akadama, pumice, lava mix.


I love this idea and I am going to give it a go as well! I wanted to use an Anderson flat and bury that, but those are super expensive and not for burying in the ground… this is more of exactly what I wanted to do… I have a question. Do you think covering up some if not all the bottom holes would be a good idea to keep the roots radial and not having them go down? Either way can’t wait to try this technique this weekend! Thanks again @Studio_B

I believe a grow bag would provide optimum results and is designed to be buried as you describe.


Agree with @PutItInTheGround What is the point to burry the pot in the ground then esp if covering holes of Anderson flat which are for other and very beneficial purpose?


Yah, this is the purpose of using a board or whatever with the roots spread radially planted into the container with the tree.

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Awesome! If the nursery pot it’s in, is a 3.5 gallon, what size bag should do you recommend? I assume a size or two larger to let the roots have some room.

That maple is beautiful.