Thursday, September 17, 2015

Planting Trees in San Francisco

The headline of this post may strike some as ill-timed.  Isn't it a terrible time to plant trees in San Francisco and the surrounding area because of the historic drought?  Won't any trees planted simply die from drought?  If the trees don't die from drought, won't any newly planted trees require a great deal of watering, eating up scarce time and scarce water?

The answer to all three of the questions is a resounding "No".  It is an excellent time to plant trees in the San Francisco area, because of new technology.  Over the last decade, a new device called the Groasis Waterboxx PlantCocoon® (or Waterboxx for short) has been developed in Holland.  This device has been tested in the most extreme deserts on Earth (the Sahara, Ecuador, the Persian Gulf Arabian Desert), with incredible results.  When used as directed in these areas, 88-99% of Waterboxxes have a tree surviving after one year, with no further watering or work.  This Waterboxx planted tree is then resistant to further drought because of deep, Waterboxx induced roots.  The Waterboxx can then be reused on other trees.  This is all explained in the video below.

The Waterboxx is a simple appearing device that is actually quite complicated, using many ideas inspired by nature to collect, store, and distribute scarce water.  It's tan colored lid is actually modeled on a lotus leaf, and uses a special property called the lotus effect to prevent water from sticking to it.  This property allows dew and fog (famous in the San Francisco area) to be collected on by the surface of the Waterboxx and funneled into the green reservoir.  Once in the reservoir, the water can be contained for long periods, while being slowly released through a wick to the soil below.  This water percolates through the soil straight down into a column.  This column of water induces the tree's roots (which grow only where there is water, just like leaves grow only where there is sun) to grow straight down.   Once the tree's roots reach  deep into the ground, the tree will be far more resistant to drought because it has reached the capillary water stored in the soil.  See an explanation of capillary water here.

The Waterboxx can be used to plant one or two trees in the central "figure eight" opening of the Waterboxx.  If two trees are planted, the stronger of these trees is allowed to remain after 12-18 months, when the Waterboxx is removed and reused to plant other trees.  After planting, no other work is needed for that tree - no watering, no weeding, no mulching, until the Waterboxx is removed.  You can reuse the Waterboxx up to ten years.

You can see the incredible results of the Waterboxx around the world in the pictures below.

A beechwood tree's growth, in Ecuador, over just one year.  The Waterboxx allows all water to be used efficiently so sunlight and tree selection become the most important determinants of a trees growth.

You can hardly find a more arid place than the Sahara Desert, but the Waterboxx allowed these salt cedar trees to survive and thrive in an area almost nothing else did (in Morocco).

Growth of a giant sequoia (Sequoiadendron giganteum) in Indiana over 2 years with the Waterboxx.  This tree hasn't been watered once by since planting, but still thrives far from its native range due to the Waterboxx.  
The most important thing to remember when planting trees with the Waterboxx is to plant small trees initially - about 2 foot tall saplings that are shipped bare root.  Most online nurseries sell these trees for between 5-10 dollars.  The most inexpensive site we have found is

The Groasis Waterboxx PlantCocoon provides tree lovers a way to plant trees even during drought, without having to water.  It can allow land owners or community organizations to truly green areas that are suffering due to tree or other wildlife loss.  The Waterboxx works for up to 10 years and 10 tree plantings, and is surprisingly affordable.  You can learn more or buy the Waterboxx here.

If you would like to learn how to grow plants without watering with the Waterboxx, the best resource is the book The Waterboxx Gardener: How to Mimic Nature, Stop Watering, and Start Enjoying Your Garden available here on 

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