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

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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“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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

What kind of tree? You may want to tease out that rootball now and fix bad roots before they grow into bigger issues. Point being, this may reduce the root ball considerably and require a smaller root bag. no basis for this, but maybe 20% bigger than the trimmed down rootball? The telperion guys only ever use 12-14" bags no matter what. On one stream ryan says the trunk on a tree from them was as thick as the 12" rootbag. Wild!

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What I do is to cut a piece of 1/4 in plywood in a size to fit half way down the pond baskets. I use the hard clay hydroponic clay balls to fill the bottom half of the basket, put the plywood square down on top of the balls, then put a layer of bonsai soil, then the tree base, and then fill with more soil.

I get nice flat radial roots and the trees love the aeration their roots get from the air holes, plus it’s self root pruning.

Bob

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Thanks for this awesome bit of knowledge! Can’t wait to try this out. I was about plant some trees this weekend but the area I picked out gets too much sun for my liking. Summers in Utah are getting ridiculous.

I hope the technique works as well for you as it has for me.

Bob