Saturday, June 28, 2014

Planting Pecan Trees with the Groasis Waterboxx

Pecans are one of the few truly all American foods.  Pecan, so named in the Algonquin Indian language because it was a nut that was so hard it required a stone to crack, is native to North America.  Settlers ate wild pecans, and today ~90% of all pecans are grown in the U.S.  In the author's opinion, pecan pie, not apple pie, should be considered the quintessential American desert (as apples are originally from central Asia).

Pecan trees can grow in USDA zones 5-9, but generally do better in the southern states.  Pecan trees generally grow between 70-100 feet tall, but have grown taller.  They have a moderate growth rate once established, but are very slow to establish without help due to their root structure.

For those seeking to plant pecans mainly as a landscape tree, as always the Arbor Day Foundation is an excellent source of bare root trees.  For those looking to plant pecan trees for nut production, however, grafted trees are strongly recommended.  Grafted trees start nut production earlier and enable more reliable nut production.

New Mexico State University provides excellent information about buying grafted pecan trees.  They recommend root stock 3-4 years old and scion wood 1-2 years old, with a diameter (caliper) of 5/8 - 1 inch.

Pecan trees can be very difficult to establish, especially in the dry Southwest states.  Pecan trees have a true tap root initially, meaning they have one central root that grows straight down.  This is similar to many other nut trees and allows the trees to access deep soil capillary water during periods of drought.  However, it also makes the pecan trees very difficult to establish.  The roots need to be kept almost constantly wet until they establish lateral roots, and this can entail a huge water bill, many times the initial cost of the tree, not to mention the cost of the labor to install irrigation or move hoses between the bases of trees at least once weekly.  Is there a solution that eliminates the need for irrigation of the newly planted pecan?  Yes - and it is called the Groasis Waterboxx.

The Groasis Waterboxx is a self refilling water battery, and plant incubator which is placed around the newly planted pecan (or any other tree).  It is filled with 4 gallons of water, and the soil beneath the Waterboxx is saturated with up to 10 gallons of water.  The Waterboxx has a wick which allows water to be slowly released to the growing tap root of the pecan.  The Waterboxx is refilled from dew and rain.  The Waterboxx, although 10 inches high, can be completely refilled with 4 inches of rain.  With proper set up, the Waterboxx achieves water homeostasis, meaning it will not run dry even without refilling.  This is because it is able to fill with condensation most nights and utilize and store rarer rains.

The Waterboxx also prevents the soil beneath it from drying out (its UV resistant plastic is impermeable to water).  This both sustains the tap root of the pecan and induces it to grow to deep capillary water quickly.  The Waterboxx can be left around the base of the pecan tree until the caliper (diameter) of the trunk reaches almost 3 inches.  The mechanism of the Waterboxx is explained clearly below.

Of note the Waterboxx has been used for many other trees, including red oakGiant Sequoiapear and other fruit trees.  It can also be used for annual garden plants like pumpkins.

Be the first in your area to start growing pecans with the Groasis Waterboxx.  Buy the Groasis Waterboxx here (from Dew Harvest).  Pecan trees grown for nut production can be purchased from Stark Brothers Nursery. We would love to hear your comments below - to leave one, please click on "Comments".

For More Information:

http://extension.arizona.edu/sites/extension.arizona.edu/files/pubs/az1400.pdf

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Never Plant Bradford Pear Trees!!!

We are going to stray a little from the beaten path today and discuss a tree that I see planted everywhere - the Bradford Pear tree (Pyrus calleryana)

This tree is a disaster, and the fact that it is still planted anywhere is a travesty.  Let us examine the ways in which this tree is unworthy of planting.


First, it is invasive.  The Bradford Pear (actually known as Callery Pear elsewhere) was originally imported from China.  It is extremely fast growing, and of course this is one of the reasons for its popularity.  A single domesticated Bradford Pear cannot produce fertile offspring, but because these trees are planted so much in the suburbs, two trees within pollinating distance from each other can produce fertile seeds.  These seeds become easily established and take over bare fields.  The Bradford Pear is listed as invasive in Tennessee, Illinois, Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina.  


Second, it smells.  The Bradford Pear smell is frequently described as that of rotting fish, rotting flesh, chlorine, and other more unpleasant things.  When planted en masse this smell is quite noticeable.  Few other flowering trees have unpleasant odors, most being pleasing.


Third, Bradford Pears only live about 25 years.  This is shorter lived than many shrubs, and most home owners don't want to replace their main landscape tree with something new (and smaller) in just 25 years.  


Finally, the Bradford Pear is extremely prone to breaking in any inclement weather.  We have seen half of a Bradford Pear split off in a gentle rain (perhaps the raindrops were too heavy?) with no wind.  Wind, of course, will also break many branches.  The reason for this is the sharp (acute) angle the branch forms with the trunk of the tree.  As the Bradford Pear is almost always planted for its looks, a large segment missing from the tree after a few years is hardly ideal.

This Bradford Pear almost completely collapsed in a moderate rain

So what trees should be planted in place of the Bradford Pear?  Well, there is no simple answer, but we do have several suggestions.

The Yoshino Cherry, also imported from Asia, is a beautiful, pleasantly fragrant tree with a similar maximum height.  It grows in zones 5-8, and has a medium growth rate.  It also has a rounded canopy, but not quite to the extent of the Bradford Pear.  

For a fast growing but strong and long-lived shade tree, we recommend the Northern Red Oak.  This tree will grow in zones 3-8 and is much faster growing than most oaks (on par with silver maples, another terrible tree to plant).  It has a red fall color similar to the Bradford Pear.  While the Bradford Pear is famously weak-limbed and short lived, the Red Oak can live up to 500 years, adding beauty and value to your property.  


Won't planting different trees lead to slower growth?  Not necessarily.  When most homeowners purchase trees, they buy large, containerized trees from the local big box retailer.  They assume that since these trees are large now (at least in terms of a canopy) they will grow fast and remain larger.  This is not the case.  Roots and leaves determine the speed of growth of the tree, and when there is a mismatch between the two (like with trees bought in a container), these trees languish for years with barely any growth (if they survive).  A much better option is to buy small, bare root trees, purchased and shipped to you from ArborDay or another nursery like Stark Brothers.  Arbor Day is not for profit and trees there are especially affordable with a $15 membership.

When these smaller, bare root trees are planted with the Groasis Waterboxx, you never have to water them.  Not only does this conserve water, but the Waterboxx can be removed once the tree outgrows it (usually 1-2 years) and reused multiple times.  The Waterboxx planted tree has deeper roots than a store bought tree (see why on our website), and will be able to access deeper soil water held in capillaries. This deeper root structure supports the tree in time of drought.  Be the first in your area to start growing healthy shade trees with the Groasis Waterboxx.   Buy the Waterboxx here. We would love to hear your comments below - to leave one, please click on "Comments".
A seed grown oak tree planted with the Waterboxx

Friday, June 13, 2014

Mycorrhizae - Helpful Fungi for the Growing Plant

Fungi are organisms that rely on other living things to get their nutrients. Most people are familiar with fungi of two types - mushrooms which rely on dead or dying organic matter (like mulch or compost) and yeast used in cooking.  Most people are vaguely aware that fungi can be helpful (making alcohol or leavening bread).  Few people, however, how vital fungi can be to the roots of a growing plant.

Mycorrhizae, from myco - fungus and rhiza - root, are fungus that associate with the roots of a growing plant.  These fungi almost always have a mutually beneficial (symbiotic) relationship with the plants near them.  The fungus derive carbohydrates (sugars) from the roots of the plant, that has been produced by the plants leaves through photosynthesis.  The plant in exchange gains a huge water and nutrient absorption system with the mycorrhizae.  The mycorrhizae also may help with absorption of phosphorus, a nutrient absolutely essential to the development of the energy containing molecule (ATP) in plants.In fact, mycorrhizae can expand the water collecting ability of the plant several hundred times.  For this reason, plants with mycorrhizae are more drought resistant.

 In extremely poor soils where few plants survive, mycorrhizae sometimes need to be added.  In most soils, however, there are already sufficient spores to establish relationships with the roots of your plant.  Bill Gates, in his philanthropic ventures to feed the world, recently endorsed mycorrhizae.

The Waterboxx was designed to be used with mycorrhizae.  Since the Waterboxx allows planting of trees and other plants in extremely dry soil, the mycorrhizae can further increase water absorption by the plant.  If planting in soil that currently doesn't support much plant life, you may want to consider purchasing high quality mycorrhizae.

Be the first in your area to begin growing plants with the Groasis Waterboxx.  The Waterboxx can be purchased in the United States from Dew Harvest. We would love to hear your comments below - to leave one, please click on "Comments".

Sources:

http://mycorrhizae.com/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mycorrhiza

http://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/faculty/davies/research/mycorrhizae.html

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/next/nature/more-food-with-microbes/#b06g17f20b14

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Planting Drought Resistant Deciduous (Broadleaf) Trees

We see far too many trees damaged or dying because of drought.  As tree lovers, this pains us greatly. Not only will these trees need to be removed and another planted, but several more years will be required for the tree to become large enough to provide significant shade or wildlife value.

When planting a tree in an area where drought is possible (most of the continental U.S. has experienced drought  over the last 5 years), two things are important.  First, the tree being planted must be carefully chosen.  Trees that are not well suited to an area are unlikely to survive.  Secondly, the tree needs to be planted correctly.

First, we have listed several trees that are well suited to drought conditions.  Trees are also sensitive to minimum temperatures, so USDA zones (see map here) are also included   Below our tree recommendations we discuss how to plant trees for maximum drought tolerance.

Drought Resistant Trees

The Thornless Honeylocust (Gleditsia triacanthos) is an amazing tree.  This tree is drought tolerant, salt tolerant, pollution tolerant, and fast growing.  You may have seen this tree without knowing, as it produces long, curved, leathery seed pods (that can be slightly annoying).  This tree grows essentially in the entire continental U.S., and grows well in parking lots and along streets (even if salt is sometimes used there).  Honeylocust is of value to wildlife, but also lets grass grow beneath.  For commercial properties owners in dry areas, these trees will survive drought, significant salt as well as pollution.  As these trees have deep taproots, they will grow very well with the Waterboxx and also will be less likely to buckle surrounding asphalt and concrete. The tree grows from zones 3-9, can grow 30-70 feet tall, and 50 feet wide.

Thornless Honeylocust is an excellent all around tree.  It is drought tolerant, has deep roots which don't buckle sidewalks or even brick streets (as seen here), and is easily established with the Waterboxx. 

The seed pod of the Thornless Honeylocust, just before maturity.  These can help you recognize these common trees.  The pods can be eaten by cattle.
The Common Hackberry (Celtis occidentalis) is another ornamental tree that grows throughout most of the continental U.S.  The trees are stated to need a minimum of 14 inches of rain annually, but the deep roots established with the Waterboxx may lessen that somewhat. The Hackberry produces small berries which attract many bird species (be forewarned if parking cars beneath it), and are also eaten by many mammals.  The Hackberry can reach 60 feet in height and spread and is well suited to urban conditions as well.  It grows in zones 3-9.

The Japanese Zelkova (Zelkova serrata) is a a beautiful street tree with excellent fall foliage.  It is resistant to Dutch elm disease, has excellent timber, and is pollution tolerant.  Although not native to the United States, it grows well here in zones 5-8.  It is drought tolerant once established and reaches 80 feet in height and spread.   The roots do tend to be shallow but this will be somewhat corrected with the Waterboxx.  Of note, the bark naturally peels and reveals a beautiful orange coloration beneath.

A beautiful, full sized Japanese zelkova tree, growing in the Orto Botanico in Florence, Italy.  

The Honey Mesquite (Prosopis glandulosa) grows well in the far south of the United States, and is best known for producing firewood using in barbecue.  It is extremely drought tolerant, but does have thorns so it is not a great sidewalk tree.  These trees grow about 35 feet high, and are very difficult to establish without watering.  Luckily, the Waterboxx will take care of that.

A long lived broad leaf option is the bur oak (Quercus marcocarpa).  This tree can survive for several centuries but is somewhat slow growing.  Its acorns and wide canopy are of course of significant value to wildlife.  The bur oak has a strong and deep tap root.  Tap roots have been measured 4.5 feet deep after only one growing season, even without the Waterboxx.   This tap root is likely the reason for the bur oak's drought tolerance.  This tree is a pioneer tree, meaning it is the first tree species to become established on the Great Plains prairie.  This tree can grow in zones 3-8.  It is very important if planting this tree to find a bare root specimen with an intact taproot.  Of note, if planting this tree from seed (a satisfying experience as oaks grow ~1 foot their first spring) be sure to follow the advice here to avoid planting a hollowed out seed.  You can buy this tree here.

Burr oak, Quercus marcocarpa, in the Indiana University Arboretum.  This tree, although slow growing provides excellent shade while being drought tolerant.
Another tree that is renowned for its beautiful canopy, the maidenhair tree (Ginkgo biloba), is also very long lived.  It grows 50 to 80 feet tall with a 30-40 foot spread.  This tree is dioecious (meaning the tree is either male or female, not both like most trees) and the female tree produces seeds which can smell rancid, so it is very important to only plant male specimens.   This tree is a living fossil, imported from China and having no living relatives.  This tree is also remarkably hardy, some even surviving the Hiroshima atomic blast.  It is also, of course, moderately drought tolerant once established (and luckily you will have the Groasis Waterboxx to establish the tree).  This tree grows in Zones 3-8.  These trees are a little pricier than most of the other trees mentioned here, but can be bought here.

A very well established Ginkgo tree in Bloomington, IN.  

How To Increase Drought Resistance Through Proper Planting

The manner in which trees are usually bought and planted tends to encourage drought sensitivity, not resistance, and makes the tree more likely to die during drought.  For the best drought resistance, trees should be bought bare root, not potted.  Potted trees (usually purchased from big box stores) have very poorly formed roots, and usually after planting these roots spread sideways.  This means that during drought (when the upper few inches of soil dries out) these roots will as well.

The most drought tolerant trees are bare root (never potted) when planted.  The best place to buy these trees is from the Arbor Day Foundation, which ships only bare root trees (very affordably too, usually one tenth the price of potted trees).  These trees may not look impressive at first, but bare root trees have much faster growth when established and soon surpass almost all store bought potted trees.  They also don't need staking as the root structure keeps them upright.

Secondly, we recommend a device called the Groasis Waterboxx PlantCocoon.  This device, available here, both stores and collects dew and rainwater.  It slowly releases this water to the roots of a growing tree.  This allows (and actually causes) the tree to grow deeper roots, making it more resistant to drought.  The Waterboxx never needs to be refilled after planting, and can be reused up to ten times.

Regardless of what tree you plant and how you plant it, remember the old proverb:  "The best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago.  The second best time is today."

Planting Drought Resistant Evergreen Trees with the Groasis Waterboxx

The Groasis Waterboxx is the best tool for establishing trees in dry environments.  The Waterboxx funnels water collected as dew and rain to the roots of a growing plant.  When this plant is a tree, the roots can grow for up to two years straight down with the Waterboxx.  Once the roots reach underground moisture in the capillary structure of the soil, the Waterboxx can be removed and reused.  Because the trees roots have reached deeper capillary water, they will be able to utilize water from the rare but heavy rains that happen in the desert or other arid areas (like the Great Plains).  This is how already established trees are able to survive in deserts.  Also, because the Waterboxx only needs to be filled with water at planting, it is an excellent way to conserve water.

The Waterboxx can boast of incredible results with establishing trees, but the selection of tree species is also very important.  It would not be wise to plant a mangrove or willow in the desert, for example.  So what trees are drought tolerant and will grow well in dry environments?  Due to the large number of drought resistant trees in the U.S, only conifers will be covered in this post.  See drought resistant deciduous trees here.

Among conifers, pinyon pine is popular as a drought tolerant tree.  It is native to the Southwest, has edible nuts, and has a pleasant smell when burned.  It can grow well in areas of 9-15 inches of rain yearly, and of course will quickly become established with the Waterboxx.  To bear nuts, two or more pinyon pines will need to be planted near one another.  There is a pest called the Pinyon Ips beetle which will sometimes attack weak trees, so it is important that the tree become well established.  Of note, wildlife may be attracted to this tree.  The tree grows 20-40 feet at maturity.

If looking for a drought resistant windbreak, the Arizona Cypress is a wise and attractive choice.  Grown in zones 7-9, it grows 40-50 feet at maturity and with fast growth (3 feet per year) with good water conditions, like those established by the Waterboxx.    The Arizona Cypress generally needs 10-12 inches of rain yearly after establishment.  This tree can be vulnerable to fire and has a 30 foot spread, so proper spacing is vital, and hedges planted for windbreaks should be planted in a offset (or Z formation) double hedge with dead brush removed from the base. See how to plant trees to avoid wildfire here.

For slightly wetter areas or for those seeking a challenge in drier climates, the Loblolly pine is an extremely valuable tree grown in zones 6-9 from the Carolinas to East Texas.  If well established with deep roots and capillary water access with the Waterboxx, this tree may be able to survive and indeed prosper farther west, but no Waterboxx trials have yet been done there.  This tree is fast growing, has 35 foot spread, and can reach up to 100 feet in height.  This is one of the most important trees for timber in the United States.  This tree does begin life with a taproot which will develop much better with the Waterboxx.

As with all trees planted with the Waterboxx, it is imperative to plant young, small, bare root trees.   Not only are these trees inexpensive, but they also do not have malformed root systems seen with larger trees, nor do they have poor canopy to root ratios that cause transplant stress.  You will be amazed how much faster bare root trees grow than larger, potted, nursery bought trees.  Two trees can be planted per Waterboxx and the weaker removed after one year. Be the first in your area to begin planting trees with the Groasis Waterboxx. The Waterboxx is available for purchase from Dew Harvest in the United States. We would love to hear your comments below - to leave one, please click on "Comments".
Sources not linked above:

http://blog.arborday.org/drought-tolerant-trees-in-hot-summer-months/

http://www.treeutah.org/articles_droughttolerant.htm

Sunday, June 8, 2014

How the Waterboxx Reduces Stress on the Plant

Land and home demand (and therefore price) on the coasts of the United States is generally higher than prices in the interior of the country. Partly this is due to the desire to be near the ocean for recreation, but mostly this is due to the more temperate climate on the coast.  Since water warms and cools much slower than air, coastal areas have much less variation in their temperature and humidity in their air.  This is desirable to people.

For example, Seattle, Washington at 47 degrees North latitude has a record low temperature of 11 degrees Fahrenheit and a record high of 96 degrees Fahrenheit.  Great Falls, Montana is also at 47 degrees North latitude but far away from the moderating influence of the ocean.  The record low temperature for Great Falls is -49 degrees Fahrenheit, while the record high is 107 degrees.  The recorded possible range for Seattle's temperature is 85 degrees Fahrenheit, while for Great Falls it is nearly twice that at 154 degrees Fahrenheit.  This is all due to the amazing ability of water to resist changes in temperature.  Due to its stable climate Seattle is known as a gardener's paradise, while Montana is famously harsh and difficult for agriculture.

Wouldn't it be wonderful for gardeners and tree planters if this ocean effect of moderating temperature could be captured on a much smaller scale when growing plants?  Then, plants wouldn't have to endure the huge stresses associated with rapid and severe swings in temperature.  Luckily, such a technology has been invented - and it is called the Groasis Waterboxx.

The Groasis Waterboxx is a self refilling water battery, storing water gathered from rain and dew in a reservoir, a type of doughnut with a central opening.  In this central opening the plant (tree or fruit or vegetable plant) is planted.  The plants roots slowly receive this water and it is replenished.  While the plant grows inside the Waterboxx, it is protected from rapid swings in temperature that would affect all plants outside the Waterboxx.  The results of temperature measurements both within and outside the Waterboxx are recorded in the video from Groasis below.



This decrease in temperature swings and decrease in overall temperature is also evident in the infrared images below.  Warmer areas are evident in brighter colors, while cooler are darker.  The Waterboxx does an excellent job cooling the soil immediately beneath it, decreasing stress of the plant.

From Groasis and Thermolab Investigation: Read Full Report Here



As you can see, the Waterboxx will lead to less temperature stress on the plant.  Also noted is the decreased change in humidity.  This, in combination with the consistent delivery of water to the roots of the plant, allows the plant to grow significantly faster.  In fact, the Waterboxx has allowed the author to establish two Sequoias in Indiana when all Sequoias previously planted had died due to winter cold or summer drought and heat.

The Groasis Waterboxx is literally a world changing invention, used all around the world.  It is now available in the United States from Dew Harvest.  Be the first in your area to begin growing plants with the Groasis Waterboxx.  Buy the Waterboxx here. We would love to hear your comments below - to leave one, please click on "Comments".


Thursday, June 5, 2014

Conserving Water with the Groasis Waterboxx

Fresh potable water is becoming increasingly scare in the United States, prompting many to find ways to conserve water.  The reasons for this scarcity are many, but chief among them are depletion of aquifers, growth in the number and physical size of houses and yards, drought, and waste.

Depletion of aquifers is a profoundly under reported and unrecognized threat to our future well being.  The Ogallala Aquifer, the giant water table underlying much of the Great Plains, has decreased 300 feet in some areas, and gone completely dry in others.  Once empty, it is estimated that it will take 100,000 years for rainfall to refill.  Water pumped from this aquifer is used in central pivot irrigation over large swaths of the western and southern Great Plains, like the area seen here outside Garden City, Kansas.

Central Pivot Irrigation (when viewed from space)- From Wikipedia/NASA
Drought is increasingly making the news as well.  Drought is part of human history, with seven fat years followed by seven lean known even in ancient Egypt.  But as we now have more competing uses for water than just agriculture and human use (water is released in California for aquatic wildlife preservation to much controversy).

The growth is the number of houses, especially in dry climates, is also contributing to water shortages.  The desert Southwest was one of the fasting growing housing markets before the recession, and homeowners there frequently wanted to replicate their green lawns and landscapes from their previous home.  This is the reason that up to 60% of all water used by households is used on the lawn and garden.

Water waste is also an issue, with ~15% of our indoor use being lost to leaks alone.  Outdoor water usage is notorious for waste, with some water being lost at hose to faucet attachment, to each hose attachment, at spray nozzle or sprinkler attachment, and then of course to evaporation and runoff.

Some have advocated draconian restrictions on water usage.  There are other ways to conserve water from ground sources than top down solutions.  We can access new sources of water, specifically the water in the air.  Even the driest air has some water, and places we think of as the desert frequently have high humidity, especially in urban areas.  At the time of this writing, the relative humidity in Los Angeles is 78%.

What technology allows the water in the air to be harvested?  The Groasis Waterboxx 

The Groasis Waterboxx is a self recharging water battery, collecting daily dew and occasional rainwater and channeling it into a reservoir using its lotus leaf inspired lid.  This reservoir, which will never become depleted so long as the Waterboxx is left outside and intact, releases about 50 mL of water each day to the roots of a growing plant.  These plants can be annuals (like vegetables or vine fruits) or perennials like trees.  For trees, the Waterboxx is removed after the first 1-2 years, and reused.  The tree's roots will orient downward to capillary water during their time under the Waterboxx, and the tree will be permanently drought resistant.  The principles of the Waterboxx are explained in the video below (from Groasis.com).


Because the Waterboxx does not need to be refilled after set up, waste from hose or watering can is eliminated.  Since the Waterboxx only releases water in a column immediately beneath itself, waste from runoff is erased.  As a result of the Waterboxx being a self contained water battery which acts as its own mulch, waste from evaporation is erased.  And finally, because the Waterboxx collects dew almost daily, water from a new source is harnessed and made useful to living things.  As a result of all these mechanism, water is conserved and money is saved.

The Groasis Waterboxx cannot be used to water all outdoor plants (for example it doesn't work with ground cover like grass or creeping phlox), but it will work with almost all vegetables and all trees.  We document its use to successfully grow red oak, Giant Sequoia, pear trees, and pumpkins (among other garden plants) elsewhere on this site.   The Waterboxx is available for purchase from Dew Harvest.  The Waterboxx can dramatically assist in your efforts to conserve water and save money, in addition to establishing long lived healthy trees and growing succulent fruits and vegetables.

How much water can be saved using the Waterboxx?  For large scale commercial applications like vineyards, Mr. Hoff believes 175,000 can be saved per acre every year by switching from drip irrigation.  In terms of relative reduction in water use, experiments in Ecuador suggest 99% of water use can be conserved with the Waterboxx.  We would love to hear your comments below - to leave one, please click on "Comments".