TREE SHELTERS HELP HARDWOOD TREES GROW FASTER
TREE SHELTERS HELP HARDWOOD TREES GROW FASTER Tree shelters improve the growth and survival of tree seedlings by protecting them from animal browsing and extreme temperatures. They are useful for re-establishing hardwood forests on abandoned agricultural land and other areas. This Extension Note provides information about some of the tree shelters that are available and how to use them effectively. Tree shelters are plastic tubes that are placed around tree seedlings when they are planted. They were recently introduced to Canada from Great Britain, where they have been widely used for establishing hardwood forests. Light passes through the translucent tube, creating a small greenhouse inside that traps carbon dioxide and moderates hot and cold temperatures. Used effectively, tree shelters can: • Protect trees from browsing by rodents, rabbits and deer • Allow quick location and inspection of trees • Reduce stress caused by transplanting Tree shelters protect trees for about seven years. They are designed to break down in sunlight as the trees outgrow them. Do not remove tree shelters before they break down because trees growing in shelters do not become stable until the tree has grown out of the tube. For large hardwood plantations, fencing may be a less expensive alternative to tree shelters for protecting trees from deer browse. TIPS FOR INSTALLING TREE SHELTERS A Tubex tree shelter protects a one-year-old red oak seedling. To get the best results from tree shelters, they must be installed correctly. Here are some tips to help you get started. PREPARING THE SITE Turn over the soil before planting. This makes it easier to push the tree shelters into the soil. If planting in sod, consider using a herbicide to kill perennial weeds, which might otherwise grow inside the tube. For more detailed information on site preparation, see Extension Note Clearing the Way: Preparing the Site for Tree Planting. WHEN TO INSTALL To reduce the shock of transplanting, tree shelters should be installed when the seedlings are planted. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for shelter assembly, if required, and installation. PLANTING STOCK Do not use shelters on poor quality hardwood stock or plants that have been planted improperly. Order 10 to 20 per cent more trees than you need so that the trees with the smallest root systems can be discarded. For more detailed information on planting, see Extension Note Careful Handling and Planting of Nursery Stock. HEIGHT OF TREE SHELTER Tree shelters should be higher than the level at which animals browse in your area. Smaller shelters will protect trees from rabbit clipping and rodent girdling, but if deer are abundant, shelters need to be at least 1.5 metres tall. STAKES Pointed wooden stakes, square in cross-section, are recommended for supporting the shelter and the tree. The length of the stake depends on the height of the tree shelter being used. Stakes should penetrate the ground to a depth of at least 20 centimetres and project about 10 centimetres above the upper tie, but remain below the rim of the shelter. The bottom 20 to 30 centimetres of the stake should be treated with a water-based wood preservative like CIL Dulex Woodcare Latex Stain. This will minimize replacement of stakes due to rotting and breakage. INSTALLING To reduce root damage, always plant trees after the stakes are placed in the ground. Drive the stakes into the ground with a mallet. On stony soil, use a small crowbar to start the hole. Place stakes on the windward side of the planting spot, and ensure they are upright. Plant trees. Place the tubes over the trees and push the tubes into the ground to a depth of five centimetres. Tie the tubes to the stakes with the attached fasteners. Do not tie them too tightly. Loosely fastened ties reduce the potential of damage to the tree caused by frost heaving of the tube. NETS Place a nylon mesh net on top of the tube to prevent perching birds from falling in. Remove the net before the tree grows to the top of the tube to prevent deformation of the stem. WEED CONTROL For best results, the area around the tree shelter should be kept free of weeds that compete with the tree for water and nutrients. For information on weed control, see Extension Note Mulches Help Beat Weed Competition and Extension Note Using a Backpack Herbicide Sprayer to Control Weeds. Several tree shelters are being evaluated by Ministry of Natural Resources in southern Ontario. The following two tree shelters have been tested for several years. The cost of all tree shelters varies with the quantity purchased. Check with the supplier for current prices.