grow boxes

mat

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I've noticed that when looking at pictures of trees in development, it's common to see them in (presumably) hand-made growboxes. Usually these seem to be shallow, rectangular wood frames. Can someone please lay out (or point me to) some specific instructions on how to put these together?

I'm sure I could throw something together that would work, but I'm also sure that some more experienced than I'll ever be have already figured it out pretty well.

thanks,

Mat
 

DaveV

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Mat. There are no specific instructions. You make them to whatever size you need. I would just make sure the base has some space between the boards so water can get out. I would NOT use green treated wood, use cedar wood. Personally, I use Anderson Flats.

DaveV
 

Brian Van Fleet

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Dave is right, a box is a box. I have used pressure-treated wood with no problems. A few pointers:
  • Use screws to assemble the boxes to make the box stronger.
  • Build a simple 4-sided square or rectangle using 1x4 or 1x6
  • The bottom can be plywood, but it will only last for 3-5 years, MDF lasts about 1 season.
  • you could use 1x4s as the bottom and leave a small gap between each for drainage.
  • Drill PLENTY of holes in the bottom for drainage if you use plywood...5/8" holes, about 1 1/2" apart.
  • Add "feet" of some kind so the bottom doesn't rest directly on the ground, unless you want the roots to escape.
  • Shallow and wide is best.
  • Add handles if the boxes get much bigger than 24"x24", because they will get heavy.
  • A few friends have stained boxes (outside only)...I'm not that sophisticated!

Have fun, wooden boxes are excellent for growing out material. You can make them any size you want, and they really keep water and temperature even.
 

jk_lewis

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I use 1x6 and aluminum window screen for a bottom. I set them on old bricks.

Or, I use old plastic tubs, round or rectangular, because I find myself with several old battered ones. I drill holes in the bottom and again set them on bricks or an old 2x4. These are available at any hardware store or HD/Lowes type store.
 

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Gene Deci

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Like Dave, I have had no problems with pressure treated wood but I have never used the new type which I think is copper based instead of arsenic. When I collect larger trees even mica pots that are big enough can be pretty expensive so I use wood until they shape-up enough to invest in a pot. So I like Dave's advice to build some big, strong and with handles.
 
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mcpesq817

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Try to find Anderson flats. They give amazing drainage and are a great size to substitute for hand-made grow boxes.
 

milehigh_7

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It depends on the size of what you are growing... I just built a 2'x2' box with 1/4" hardware cloth for the sides (yea for the new mitre saw!) for a Q. Ilex that I am trying to grow out.
 

mat

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Excellent information. Thanks guys.

I've seen the Anderson Flats before but never got around to ordering any. I think I'll get a few today. They're certainly reasonably priced and seem perfect for my current needs. I'll also keep 'build wooden grow boxes' on my list of projects for when I have a little free time some weekend.
 

mat

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Which Anderson flat/tray do you guys use? It seems like the smaller mesh of the Aflat4 and the Tflat would be the way to go.
 

Brian Van Fleet

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Usually the AFLAT4, the 17"x17"X4", the 15.75" TFLAT appears to be similar.
 

sfhellwig

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Those flats look great for the price, but I build my own because I am a woodworker and I can repair them, unlike a plastic flat that once cracked, you tie together with wire or throw away. I use 1x4s and 1x6s, untreated pine. If you have the money cedar will last longer but what our shop offers is thinner so pine works. I have a weather proofer I use on other stuff but have skipped it so far. I can pick my size, the miter saw makes short work of the cutting. I have moved up to galvanized screws and Gorilla glue (regular wood glue dissolves in weather). I do the base as a combination of boards including 1x2 until there are narrow gaps. I line the entire bottom with window screen. I use feet on each corner that are made of cedar so even if they sit on the ground all year, they aren't just going to rot there. I'll post pics if I can find one in my collection, don't have an empty one sitting around. Find a basic picture, know some basic woodworking and it is yours. By number three you will have figured out a few design advancements. This will be my third year on my first box, doesn't look like it's going to bust at the seams this year.

Avoid MDF and plywood at all costs. Plywood may last a year or two or be gone by the end of this season. MDF was never meant to see so much as a wet rag. I know what it does in soak tests, still would never even try to use it outdoors with full sealing.
 

pjkatich

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Hey Mat,

I see that you hail from Central Florida. From one Floridian to another, wooden boxes are pretty much a waste of time in our climate.

I have been making and using grow boxes for twenty plus years and have tried all the above mentioned materials.

I have standardized on the gray composite material used for exterior decks. I started using this stuff about 7 years ago and it works great. I get the fascia boards, they are 5/8" thick, 9" wide and 12' long. I then cut these boards to size on a table saw and attach the pieces with deck screws. For drainage I staple in 1/8" galvanized hardware cloth.

Attached are a few photos of one of my boxes. This box is four years old and works just as good as the day it was made. The boxes I made seven years ago are just as sound. The only maintenance I do on them is to clean them with some bleach and a pressure washer between uses.

Cheers,
Paul
 

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Jason

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Hey thanks for this link. This place ended up being less than 1/2 hour from my place and they let me pick up all the flats I needed...no shipping. :D I didn't even know they existed. While I was there I got their whole story. They're a family business started in a shed 25-30 years ago. Started with delivering compost,etc. They're in a brand new facility....If you need to know any other random info let me know.
 

Mike423

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If you are looking for something more along the line of nursery pots you can try your local nursery. The other year I went to one of my local nursery, and by chance when I was leaving I noticed on the side of building they had a whole dumpster filled with nothing but discarded plastic nursery pots of various sizes. I went back and asked if they would be willing to sell them for cheap seeing as they were being discarded anyways and they said I could help myself for free. Needless to say I stocked up.
 

Brian Van Fleet

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Hey thanks for this link. This place ended up being less than 1/2 hour from my place and they let me pick up all the flats I needed...no shipping. :D I didn't even know they existed. While I was there I got their whole story. They're a family business started in a shed 25-30 years ago. Started with delivering compost,etc. They're in a brand new facility....If you need to know any other random info let me know.
That's a nice coincidence!
 
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Boxes are superior for training and should be built custom for each tree.

I use Redwood lumber for longevity and appearance. These are 3/4" thick / 8' / 6'.

The depth is 6" and can be shallower with a sawsall as needed.

After the box frame is built with screws (Screws are the way to go and makes it easy to re-use the box and open up a side to inspect the roots(use grabbers with the hexbit)) I screen the bottom with heavy duty pet screening stretched taught across the bottom and stapled with T-50's every 1/2 inch. I buy everything I need at Home Depot for around $300 a year.

Then I cut up a bunch of 1 or 2" by 3/4" thick boards to go along the bottom. I use enough to have it be strong but still have most of the bottom area open screen. The drainage is superior and the roots aireal root prune themselves. At the end of the season it looks like a carpet of white roots on the underside. Do not use a flat sheet of wood across the bottom, it will hold to much water and you will not get the aireal root pruning.

I can get 3 seasons out of them or more if the plant stays in it the whole time.

To transplant, take the screws out of the frame and open it up like a clam shell. Take a hand wood saw and saw the bottom 1/4 of the root mass off and lift the tree out. Then take a root rake and remove all the old roots embedded in the screen. Then screw the box back together, root trim your tree, blast with water and put it back in with fresh soil.

Whalla

As the tree gets closer to a bonsai pot you can transition by "downboxing" as gradually as you want.

Cheers
 

JayyVee

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Thank you - I'm late to the party, but this is just what I've been looking for to house some of my yamadori. Was thinking of building boxes as I see so many do but the thought of them falling apart in 2-3 years time.. Seems these flats (The TFlat looks best!) will work wonders w/o the sawing.
 

mcpesq817

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Thank you - I'm late to the party, but this is just what I've been looking for to house some of my yamadori. Was thinking of building boxes as I see so many do but the thought of them falling apart in 2-3 years time.. Seems these flats (The TFlat looks best!) will work wonders w/o the sawing.
I've gotten a few collected conifers from workshops, and anderson flats were used as the initial container. They were smaller trees, so the collector cut an anderson flat in half, and used a wooden board to create a side on the cut side.

You can't beat the drainage on anderson flats, and they are quite durable.
 
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What about a box that is a box. Here's a pict of a grow box I'm trying out for bonsai. Yes it's an old plastic milk box, I have a few more that I've cut even more shallow than this one, (its my first try). but I'll probably trim it down this year when re-potting the tree. Tell me your thoughts.
 

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