Best way to develop/thicken trunks ... Besides planting in the ground.

eeeealmo

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Everyone knows that planting trees in the ground is the best way to get them to thicken and develop as fast as possible. Unfortunately, not everyone has the space or land to do this. Given that, what's the very next best option?

Specific things I'd be curious about :
  • Pot size and shape (deep vs shallow)
  • Substrate
  • Fertilization
  • Amount of sunlight
Very interested to hear what people say. Thanks!
 

leatherback

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Commercial growers want their plants to grow as big as fast as possible.

They plant their plants in a pot one size up from the next and repeat this whenever the plant has created a solid rootball in that pot, sometimes multiple times a season. Good organic potting soil it used.
 

MrWunderful

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Trunk size is equal to foliar mass. Do whatever you can do to get as much foliage as you can.

Pot size- as big as possible, but sometimes “too big” can be a setback because ultimately a pot will still constrict the roots, and the water column doesnt act the same.

Sunlight-as much as the species allows.

Fertilization- as much as the tree can take

Substrate- whatever is proper for your watering habit and location.

There is no substitute for ground growing. Growing in a pot will give you more character, just getting pure trunk size will take a lot longer.
 

Anthony

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Two tests -

[1] a top branch to 3 feet.

[2] a side branch to 3 feet.

See if the tree responds with trunk thickening.

Do on separate trees, not the mothers.
Say for example on cuttings.
Good Day
Anthony
 

James W.

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What @leatherback says.
The tree growing industry has standard sizes and they go from one to the next as fast as the root balls fill the pot. Rule of thumb: no more than 4" increase in pot size. They use the cheapest potting mix available that will drain quickly. The more often the tree can be watered without waterlogging it, the faster it will grow. They use deeper pots because drainage is better and they can water more often.
 

Wires_Guy_wires

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We have communal gardens in our township where people can rent a small patch of dirt. They pay 15 bucks a year or so.
I contacted a few of those people renting, and I'm allowed to grow a couple of trees there for pennies a year.

As for the rest, I agree with leatherback. Repot when the root tips hit the plastic and keep doing so.
 

TN_Jim

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How big?
Bigger will increasingly match ground growing.

Here’s a .5’ bald cypress in a 17 gallon pot
454662B8-192F-4D8F-A5D2-EA4372E6D495.jpeg

Substrate?
If tree is healthy in what presently in, do best to match that soil exactly

Fill new pot to level where you can set your potted tree (left in old pot) in new pot and soil surface is 2” from top of pot. Fill all around with matching soil. Pull tree/pot out disturbing the roots as least as possible (unless presently pot bound—messing with roots otherwise will only set you back), remove from old pot, place in hole that old pot formed in new pot.

Fertilizer and water as needed...let the rain take the wheel unless drying out.
 

sorce

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Just want to note the EXTREME difference between ....

FAST and BEST.

Fast sucks donkey IMO. There's a few exceptions.

Best doesn't know one human, or 2. It's Multi generational.

Sorce
 

Ohmy222

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I don't like ground growing for the most part. Only use it now in 1 year bursts or for small/slow growing species. It seems ground growing some of the conifers works pretty good because they don't have a lot of chunky growth. I do use it for azaleas and grafted maples I plan to layer anyway. For typical deciduous I found ground growing to suck as I either had to continuous check on the roots or deal with a mess later. I prefer to focus on nebari over speed.

To answer your question, I don't know if there is a best practice but I prefer wooden boxes with an open bottom for drainage. I use screen and chicken wire for the bottom. If they are small then I prefer pond baskets which in my opinion are the best. Some people only use them for conifers but I actually think they are better for deciduous trees. I keeps the fibrous roots from circling and give a solid root base. You will water more. Anderson flats are another alternative. I use them but they are one size (15x15) which is often too large for some material and actually too small for others. Nice containers though. I also thinks the wood just looks better. Last method I have used and is not bad is the escape method. That is simply put a large nursery pot on the ground. Cut drainage holes around the side of the pot and cover the one on the bottom. The tree will grow in the pot and the roots will escape out of your side holes. You monitor those roots and cut back any that get too large for balance. When time to pull then just cut the roots and your done.
 

River's Edge

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Everyone knows that planting trees in the ground is the best way to get them to thicken and develop as fast as possible. Unfortunately, not everyone has the space or land to do this. Given that, what's the very next best option?

Specific things I'd be curious about :
  • Pot size and shape (deep vs shallow)
  • Substrate
  • Fertilization
  • Amount of sunlight
Very interested to hear what people say. Thanks!
Match container shape and depth to size and species requirements!
Use the substrate that works for your species and watering routines.
Ensure fertilization matches plants needs and is readily available in a form that can be used by the plant.
Provide the sunlight suitable for the species.
Use species that suit your climate and facilities.
* Manage the foliage for desired results. ie: selective pruning for extension if thickening is the goal.
Forget about looking for one answer, learn the details that make a difference for the trees you are working with.
Apply required techniques with appropriate timing to minimize the setback that occurs with required repotting, pruning etc.
 

Jorgens86

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First of all what kind of species is it. Some trees grow fast and some slower anywere you pot them.???
 

Gary McCarthy

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Commercial growers want their plants to grow as big as fast as possible.

They plant their plants in a pot one size up from the next and repeat this whenever the plant has created a solid rootball in that pot, sometimes multiple times a season. Good organic potting soil it used.
AGREED!!!
 

eeeealmo

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First of all what kind of species is it. Some trees grow fast and some slower anywere you pot them.???
I have 2 Japanese maples, a zelkova, and a crab apple I got from evergreen gardenworks. Started this thread to see what my options were to increase their size as efficiently as possible.
 

Brad in GR

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I have trees in a grow bed, raised grow bed, homemade wood grow boxes, Anderson flats, and wash basins purchased online. I’ll let you know in a year or two which environments produce the quickest growth 😆

In all seriousness, I saw a 1 inch trident double it’s trunk thickness over one season after being planted in the ground. So the ground appears to have won, as you’ve noted. However the escape method mentioned here earlier also works well - had another trident that put on a ton of growth and was in a 3 gallon nursery container. Roots escaped out the bottom to aid in its growth.
 

augustine

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Cut holes in bottom and place the container inside another container so roots will escape. Grow sacrifice branches like Anthony suggested
 

Forsoothe!

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I grow a few in the ground continuously, but I have limited space, and I do it only to mature trees for a few years. The pot is whatever size and shape I want for the finished tree. They grow for two continuous growing seasons, but never for three. Ideally, I repot them, sink the pot and let it grow for two summers and repot in the following spring. The first summer gets good growth and some roots find their way out the drain holes. The second summer has explosive growth and most of the root growth is outside the pot, but the pot remains full of roots, too. It is easy to repot the following spring and all the roots outside the pot are the big kind you'd cut off anyway, so that works fine. The roots inside the pot have the right mix of sizes, so you cut off anchor roots in favor of feeder roots and what's left over are the right shape, mix and size for what I want. Repeat the cycle, ad infinitum. Never let them go the third year. All the growth is outside the pot and the pot is jammed with heavy roots. All the feeders will be outside the pot, so you have to undo that damage and that takes time, too. I don't believe in grow, chop, grow, chop. I monitor their growth just the same as if they were on a shelf. Failure to do so just means they return to type which always means apical dominance and empty bottoms. I don't have to grow that for myself, I can buy it at any nursery. Whenever I see references to quick growth, I shudder.
 

kale

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I grow a few in the ground continuously, but I have limited space, and I do it only to mature trees for a few years. The pot is whatever size and shape I want for the finished tree. They grow for two continuous growing seasons, but never for three. Ideally, I repot them, sink the pot and let it grow for two summers and repot in the following spring. The first summer gets good growth and some roots find their way out the drain holes. The second summer has explosive growth and most of the root growth is outside the pot, but the pot remains full of roots, too. It is easy to repot the following spring and all the roots outside the pot are the big kind you'd cut off anyway, so that works fine. The roots inside the pot have the right mix of sizes, so you cut off anchor roots in favor of feeder roots and what's left over are the right shape, mix and size for what I want. Repeat the cycle, ad infinitum. Never let them go the third year. All the growth is outside the pot and the pot is jammed with heavy roots. All the feeders will be outside the pot, so you have to undo that damage and that takes time, too. I don't believe in grow, chop, grow, chop. I monitor their growth just the same as if they were on a shelf. Failure to do so just means they return to type which always means apical dominance and empty bottoms. I don't have to grow that for myself, I can buy it at any nursery. Whenever I see references to quick growth, I shudder.
@Forsoothe! I've seen a few people lately say they don't like trunk chopping but I can't wrap my head around how else could you miniaturize the tree? Can you just keep it short and trimmed and the base still thickens over decades?
 
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