Elm Ground Layer

mholt

Mame
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A few weeks ago I posted an elm growing in my yard and was undecided with steps I should take. I decided to move forward.

A few weeks ago I decided to try an experiment. What you see in these images is a species of elm that naturalized within some of my massive privet hedges. I've seen a number of these growing and over the years they were ruthless hacked back and whacked with the weed whip and just keep coming back. This particular one has developed burls and an overall ugliness to the trunk that I find appealing. The base is about 5" wide.

This tree's trunk curves well below and behind the underside of a privet. It is non-intriguing beneath the surface when I dug a couple inches below. It also has reverse taper between the burls and trunk line and would make removal difficult having to remove the huge privet and elm together. I decided to try ground-layering this. Right below the burl at the dotted line is the old soil line which was dug out to prepare for wire and a new soil medium as indicated in (b). This is where I took a heavy gauge wire and wrapped it tight around the trunk and tightened the wire as hard as I can with pliers, biting into the bark as shown in red in figure (c). I then took plastic lathe that I had from a home remodel project and cut a strip of it and wrapped it around the trunk and wired the two ends of the strip of lathe together as shown in (d) to form a "pot". I filled this up with a mixture of sphagnum moss and Turface MVP covering up some of the burl as well as indicated in (e).

I do have some questions. The medium I used was sphagnum PEAT moss and Turface. I don't know how well the peat moss will do in this situation. I couldn't locate any strands of sphagnum moss. Does anyone know if this combination of medium along with the plastic lathe is an OK environment or will it dry out too quick? Do I literally dig around in the medium to see if new roots have colonized and how long typically for this to occur? Do I fertilize with layer on? Any input is welcomed. Thanks.
 

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DaveV

Shohin
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Hi Matt, I would NOT recommend digging around to see if the roots are growing. I made this mistake last year with an American elm that I air layered and broke off the roots from the truck. The roots are very fragile at this time. I would wait at least two - three months before you remove the growing apparatus. Otherwise, you could let the roots grow down into the soil below in the existing pot. I poked holes in my plastic at the bottom and the roots grew right through the holes in into the soil below. It worked out pretty well.

DaveV.
 

John Ruger

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Matt, I've never used Turface as a medium, yet one thing to bear in mind is that you want to avoid one that may have a tendency to compress and/or be too sharp, if this would occur it will more than likely damage the roots since they are too fragile. About the sphagnum peat moss, are you using that really fine/powdery material? As to avoid drying out why not consider wrapping a good sturdy plastic around the mesh?

Let us know how it turns out. Your ideas look great.
 

mholt

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John, unfortunately it is the powdery stuff. I'm hoping the turface will keep it from compacting too much. I've debated in my mind the idea of plastic wrapped around throughout the process but I was unsure of this as it is in direct contact with earth and hoping that the plastic mesh would serve as drainage as I water it. It's in a rather protected area buried within shrubs and out of direct light as well. Does anyone know if the tourniquet method takes longer than cutting a ring of bark to layer?
 

John Ruger

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Yeah, it's going to take a longer time than ring barking, but it's less drastic.
 

capnk

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Matt,
Your method is somewhat similar to one we use frequently at Telperion Farms. I think your soil mix should be adequate, and I would not bother wrapping with plastic. Just need to water frequently.

However, I suspect the elm will just grow over the wire. I would recommend going back and cutting a ring, if you can. Perhaps the placement of the tree prevents you from doing that. You can always make this first try with the wire, and try the ring cutting method next, if necessary. It's just a matter of odds.

For ongoing care, in order to stimulate new roots you need vigorous top growth. So, do fertilize. Don't prune the elm. Prune the other growth around the elm to open it up to the sunlight.

We usually let these go for a year before we open things up to take a look.

Good luck,
Chris Kirk
Telperion Farms
 

mholt

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Thank you Chris, for all the tips and words of wisdom! I appreciate it.
 
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