How to Ground Grow the Telperion Way

I’ve learned a lot about ground growing. And by learning a lot, I mean I’ve killed a lot of trees (as I look over at my dying Scots pine…). 10 years in the ground for many of my trees now so a few are just looking like something worth digging since they were all planted as saplings.

Shout out to @GarryFrey who came out to see the field this past weekend and provided some great tips on larches. It’s great to meet another Mirai member from afar and make the connection.

Here’s my recent ground growing planting sequence inspired by Telperion with details below the photos:


Anyways, some small bits I’ve figured out:
-Growing directly in the ground, even if the soil is amended, produces fewer capillary roots and it’s a pain to dig up especially when doing even a couple of trees. It’s like collecting yamdori with yamadori success rates but in your yard. We do have partially clay like soil, but from asking around - doesn’t every yard?
-Planted in 40% Pumice, 30% manure compost, 30% pine bark (I believe this was the telperion recommendation.
-Telperion uses 10" bags from https://treebag.com/root-control-bag/
-I feel those are a touch small for saplings so I bought 12". If you have more established trees larger than saplings you may want to ground grow you may want 14", 16" or 18".
-They are sold in quantities of 10. The 10" were about $2-3 each. Each size up goes up in a price by a bit, but I forget how much.
-Ignore the online brochure that says you have to order by the case, they will sell and are VERY happy to sell in quantities of 10.
-When roots hit the edge of the bag only small feeder/capillary roots go through so grow isn’t impeded, but is actually helped.
-I also called Telperion and they said they plant on a root stopping disc within the bag to keep that flat bass. Anything works, weed mat, wood, dish, frisbee. I found 6" hexagon tiles at lowes for $2 each and put mine on those. So the initial rootball will be flat then it will expand outwards and eventually grown down into the rest of the bag that way.
-I put the tile about 4-6" below the rootball. I have no real basis for this other than 8" seems to deep and less than 4" might meant the tree dries out since I’m not around on this property year round to water after planting and during dry spells.
-I’ve grown on both wood and tile in my field with great success, but the rootbags (new for me this year) will be a welcome addition. Digging up non rootbagged trees can be a bit of work. I have 60 trees in the ground (and counting) so it’s a lot of work every year and I want to get it all switched over to rootbags in the coming years.
-I’m looking forward to popping up these rootballs with a simple shovel like these guys: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qslCfriF75M
-I intend to dig after about three years to check on rootage and potentially to go a size up for the root control bag (maybe 14"?)
-The fence is for the rabbits, who prune my conifers to death in the winter. Another lesson learned.
-I do mulch in mostly for looks, but does keep some moisture and regulate temperature.
-The back four trees were planted without a root control bag for comparison to what I used to do before.
-Telperion podcast here: https://soundcloud.com/asymmetry-podcast/telperion-farms-1

-Next on the agenda I want to learn this saw dust heeling in method mentioned in the Randy Knight podcast so I have higher digging success rates as my trees are maturing and I will be pulling a few each year.

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Nice post! Let me know when you have some larch ready. I’m gunna start this with a few bristlecones. My problem pest will be deer…

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Great read. I’m about to try the same.

Any updates on this post ?

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Listening to the telperion podcast for the 5th time lol. One thing has always puzzled me. They say that they do root work on their seedlings before putting it in a bag. Wouldn’t that involve bare-rooting the tree? However, Ryan says not to bare-root a pine because of the beneficial bacteria around the roots. :confused:

I’m going to be taking my seedling out of its pot and into a bag this spring, so I’d like to do it the telperion way as much as possible.

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You can bare root pine seedlings no problem. The Japanese do it and it’s highlighted in the Bonsai Today Master Series Pine book. Since it’s all juvenile foliage and fine feeder roots anyway, the plant bounces back rather quickly. I’ve done several years worth of these where I root prune as soon as the stem turns purple and have about 95% success rate.

I think Jonas has some blog posts on the topic at Bonsai Tonight and Mark Comstock also uses this technique for his pre-bonsai pines.

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Okay, sounds good. I think I’ll look into the ebihara technique for this one.

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When transplanting pine seedlings (2 - 5 or so years old), I more or less bare root to trim and arrange the roots, but don’t root wash. I also make sure to toss some of the old soil into the pot. As the trees age I am less aggressive with the root cleaning, but still do a fair bit of work on older trees. However, my oldest pines are probably 30 years old.

I think the root pruning once the stem turns purple is for brand new seedlings to make rooted cuttings.

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Any updates on this post? Also intend to start ground growing the telperion way in my small suburban garden this spring. Interested to know:
•what particle size pumice people have used
•Is the telperion mix suitable for deciduous or should I modify it?
•how you’re all doing almost 2years into your own efforts

I’m going for deciduous, mostly native European trees. Have read the ground growing links provided on other Mirai forum posts.

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My JBP is still chillin’ in the ground. I had my young apprentice, aka son :joy:, help me plant it. He bare rooted it lol. Luckily the soil was still all there and I was able to just pop it back in the bag.

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I’ve read that you can leave the grow bags above ground, instead of burying them (at least during non-winter months). Has anyone else heard this, or done this? Any issues that arose?

None that I know of. I’ve bought a few trees that were in bags that weren’t planted.

I think they grow slightly slower on vs. in but it’s probably minimal.

You can grow them above ground and they get air pruned, but in ground and the root bifurcates and continues growing creating a wider root network plus all the growth rate benefits of being in the ground while being easier to dig up. I was confused by root bags above ground, why not just a container? Maybe better airflow? In which case I’d prefer a harder container like a pond basket or better a wood box to prevent the container from flexing and bending which reduces root growth.

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@PutItInTheGround You said that in ground the root bifurcates? Based on what I have read on the various websites on air pots, rootmaker, grow bags, I thought the roots also bifurcate when they get air pruned. Did I misunderstand something?
As for why bags above ground, that’s for a couple of reasons. One, I have usually used pond baskets, but they are hard to come by around here now for some reason, and on Amazon, there isn’t a lot of choice in sizes (plus the price to ship to Canada is ridiculous). Two, I have a bad back and bending to dig pots or garden trees into the yard is difficult and painful. Lifting heavy trees is usually a two person job for me now.
A good variety of different size grow bags are readily available in our local garden centers. I am looking for Canadian based sellers of Rootmaker or Airpots, but most of the providers are Hydroponic stores, and they are mostly sold out because everyone is trying to grow pot (lol… a pun! :P) I found one supppier of Rootmaker, and he told me he cleaned out the Candian distributor when he had one of his clients buy 1500 of them! Thanks guys for the replies.

Digging a grow bag with a bonsai sized tree in it is as easy as making a quick couple moves with a shovel. It pops right out. I’ve witnessed it several times. (Citing: Telperion farms and my visit there to their field operation). Digging WITHOUT grow bags is, agreed, a nightmare. (cite: my operation, and HOURS to dig a single tree). I had back surgery three years ago and digging is never fun. That’s stuff for younger men with better backs.

Regarding keeping the rootcontrol/grow bag OR pond basket above or below ground, I think the issue is this:

  • Above Ground: If the root is airpruned in the pot or growbag the root bifurcates and grows back into the pot and is constrained in the same amount of medium as the size of the container.
  • In the ground: when the root is pruned by the grow bag it bifurcates and CONTINUES growing into the soil around the grow bag thereby increasing the size of the soil mass and increasing your growth rate (potentially by multiples) and ability for the plant to obtain water and nutrients outside the container. Plus the ground is more stable, less susceptible to wind, freeze and temperature swings.

Here’s videos that will help you see grow bags in action. Just be sure to downscale to bonsai sized trees. (No, I do NOT work for a grow bag company, I’ve just been ground growing for 12 years and have learned my lessons).

Harvesting Grow Bags: Harvesting Your Trees with Root Control Bags - YouTube
Roots growing outside of container in ground (I realize this is plastic pot, but same thing applies to grow bags. I’ve seen it with my own eyes.) Transplanting with Ease: RediRoot vs Solid Wall Comparison - YouTube
Root Control Bag: Root Control Bag | A.M. Leonard - YouTube
Root Control Bag 2: Planting in Root Control Bags - YouTube

Still skeptical? Plant the same variety of the same size. Put at least 3 in the ground, keep 3 above ground next to each other to get same lighting. Take pictures and let us know how it goes over a few years :slight_smile:

I’ve ordered directly from Rootmaker, can you not do this in Canada?

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Hi all. Can I ask for your opinion on what grade of pumice I should buy to ‘ground grow the Telperion way’?

My choice is between:
3-8mm
6-14mm

The composted bark product I’ll be using as a nominal particle size of 1-12mm. Thank you

@Amitdesai1978 thank you for your help and advice regarding UK pumice. I know you went for 6-14mm yourself and thought you might have gone for 3-8mm if you bought again, keen to get a second/third opinion before I order a pallet of pumice.

I’m totally guessing here but I think it depends on how big the container is and how big to tree is. The smaller sounds better to me, but that’s because I grow sticks into big trees. If you had some big trees you were putting back in the ground in larger grow bags you might consider the larger size. I have some bigger pumice now and I wish it were smaller. It’s just too chunky for the container and tree size that I’m working with.

Thank you PIITG and Amit who reached out, the larger particle size is much larger than expected, I’ll go for the smaller.

@PutItInTheGround Thanks for the detailed info. I knew the bags worked in the ground. They do make it easy to come out. I would still have to dig the hole since I don’t have a powered auger. I’ll have to see if I can rent one that would dig the right sized hole, and what the cost would be.

Thanks again for the Youtube links.

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