Friday, February 21, 2014

How to Get Trees to Survive Drought

It is rare for mature trees to die except in the most extreme of circumstances (from disease or drought).  Yet young, newly planted trees frequently don't make it through their first year.  There are several reasons that newly planted trees are so likely to die.

First, many store bought trees are dug up prior to sale, and much of their root mass is removed during this transplant process.  This can be so traumatic that the tree can have trouble pulling enough water and nutrients from the soil to sustain its trunk, branches, and leaves.  This then results in leaf loss, which means less energy available to grow deeper or wider roots.  If a tree does survive this downward spiral, it may be weak for years to come, and frequently doesn't exhibit strong growth for several years after planting.

More frequently, trees are acquired from a big box store in pots that they have been growing in for several years.  This presents an entirely different problem.  People usually select the tree based on a healthy appearing canopy, and only at planting do they realize how container bound and misshapen the roots have become.  This tree can be planted, but these disfigured roots will cause many problems for the tree.  First, the tree will be more likely to shift or blow over in high winds.  Secondly, as the tree now lacks its primary root, the roots will grow laterally and stay near the surface.  This means they can quickly absorb moisture when it rains, but are very prone to drought damage when there is no rain and the upper level of the soil dries out.

The only real way to combat these two problems with the roots of store bought trees is frequent watering.  Depending on the number and size of the trees, this usually involves bringing a hose or large watering can out to the trees at least twice weekly.  The hose must then be returned.  Most of the water given to the tree is of course wasted (as it evaporates or bypasses the roots upon entering the soil).  This approach is very time intensive, and can be very expensive depending upon water cost in the summer.

A smarter, more efficient, less expensive, less time consuming, and more natural way to plant trees is planting with the Groasis Waterboxx.  When planting with the Waterboxx, you purchase (or find) smaller trees referred to as saplings, which still have healthy, intact primary roots.  These trees can be purchased for much less (usually around 1/10 to 1/25th the cost of store bought trees) from arborday.org and other sites.  One to two of these trees are then planted with each Waterboxx in small holes.  The Waterboxx is filled with water one time only.  This water, as well as new water collected from dew and rain, is slowly released through a wick in the base of Waterboxx to the roots of the young tree.  This induces the tree's primary root to grow straight down (vertical) rather than out (lateral) like you would get with frequent hose watering.
Originally from Groasis.com


The Waterboxx planting method is so effective that when two trees were planted in each Waterboxx, 99% had one surviving after one year in a Sahara Desert planting trial  After the tree's root reach deeper underground water (usually around a year after planting), the tree experiences a growth spurt and becomes too large for the Waterboxx to remain in place.  At this time, the Waterboxx is carefully removed (being careful not to damage the tree's canopy), and reused for up to ten years.  The Waterboxx planted tree is then resistant to drought due to its deep roots away from the drier top layer of the soil.  The Waterboxx method also means much faster growth for the tree, as there is generally no period of die back and transplant shock from which to recover.  The Waterboxx never needs to be refilled, and only needs to be revisited when it is removed.
Originally from Groasis.com

The Groasis Waterboxx has an up front cost separate from the cost of the tree, while store bought trees only have one (albeit usually high) price.  For this reason, tree planters sometimes lean towards larger store bought trees without using the Waterboxx.  However, when all factors are considered (including the cost of labor and water, cost of potting soil, and other costs), the Waterboxx almost always pays for itself in the first year of use.  You can enter numbers yourself on our Waterboxx cost calculator, and see if the Waterboxx makes financial sense for you.

Regardless of the financial case for buying a Waterboxx, the Groasis Waterboxx will dramatically increase tree survival, and decrease work of planting new trees.  You can buy the Waterboxx from Dew Harvest in the United States.  .

Our Sources:
http://www.clemson.edu/extfor/urban_tree_care/forlf17.htm

Capillary Water

Capillary Water

Water is a fascinating substance, renowned for its chemical properties.  This is a reason scientists believe it is essential for life, and so much of our search for life elsewhere is based on finding water first.  Detailed here is one of the less understood but utterly essential properties of water - capillary action.

Capillary action is the ability of water to lift itself up the sides of narrow tubes.  Water does this by forming bonds (called hydrogen bonds) with the sides of the tube it resides in.  This property of water - oinding to another substance is called adhesion, while water's bonding to itself is called cohesion.  This is very evident in a glass rain gauge, where the water on the sides of the glass curves upward (making the water form a concave meniscus).  This effect is more pronounced the thinner the tube, lessening the depressing effects of gravity in the center of the meniscus.  A somewhat opposite effect is seen with mercury, which is more attracted to itself than to the glass walls of a tube.  

File:Capillarity.svg
From Wikipedia: See link below
Without water's capillary action, life would not be possible.  Trees and other plants rely on capillary action to "wick" up water from the soil in narrow tubes called xylem.  The water is released from the leaves in a process called transpiration.  Water, which is itself necessary to the plant, is also an excellent solvent and carries nutrients to where the plant needs without a pump.  

The soil is also dependent on capillary action, as it has many small pathways formed by microorganisms.  This is the way in water is able to spread both laterally throughout the soil, as well as from deeper (where aquifers are present) to higher up.  This water then evaporates from the top layer of the soil unless something blocks the sun.  This is clearly evident by lifting up a stepping stone on a hot sunny day, and feeling the soil beneath it versus the soil around it.  The ground underneath the stepping stone is moist, while the ground around it is dry.  

 Nature doesn't need to dig a well and insert an electric pump; it uses this capillary action.  We ignore Nature's wisdom when ignore this phenomenon.  Nature does rain, but this can be infrequent, and it doesn't need daily or even weekly watering of seeds to keep them alive because seedling can get water from the ground via capillary action.  

So consider the traditional tree planting method in light of what you learned above.  You buy a tree from a nursery in a pot.  You dig a large hole for that pot (with current recommendations being as deep and twice as wide as the root ball) - disturbing both the bottom and side capillary channels in the soil - essentially guaranteeing that the tree will quickly dry out without watering from above (namely, you or an irrigation system).  You then have two choices for preventing evaporation of the water from the soil around the tree.  Choice one is wood mulch, which works fair but allows weeds and grass to grow through, robbing the tree of water and space.  Also, mulch is made of wood, and wood is porous to water, so you still get considerable evaporation.  Your second choice is the rather expensive rubber tree mats make from old tires.  The good news is that these vulcanized rubber mats are almost completely impermeable to water, preventing evaporation of water from the soil.  The bad news is that the vulcanized rubber mats are almost completely impermeable to water, preventing almost all rainwater from reaching the roots beneath them.  All of this means that the tree will need to be watered by human intervention until the roots grow down to capillary water and the tree canopy becomes large enough to cast a shadow on the soil beneath it, preventing evaporation from the soil.  We will call the method just described the electric water pump method of tree planting because it uses a great deal of unnecessary energy and materials to replicate a system Nature already perfected.

From Groasis.com

Compare this to planting a seed or small bare root tree with the Groasis Waterboxx.  If planting a seed, it is placed directly on the existing soil and in contact with the capillary channels of the soil.  The primary root sprouts, and is sustained both by water coming up from the soil as well as water dripping down to it from the reservoir of the Waterboxx (the Waterboxx is refilled with dew and rain water, without human intervention).  The specialized UV resistant plastic of the Waterboxx prevents evaporation and drying out of the soil beneath it (like the rubber mat).  However, unlike the mat, it channels rainwater directly to the roots (like the wood mulch) with its lotus leaf inspired lid.  Unlike the wood mulch, the Waterboxx prevents grass and weed growth around the tree, will last for many years, and can be reused.  The Waterboxx combines the best features of both the synthetic and the natural.

If planting a small bare root tree, the principles are the same as planting a seed, but the primary root is inserted directly into a small hole in the soil beneath the Waterboxx.  The primary root (taproot) receives enough water from the Waterboxx to grow, but not as much as it needs for optimal growth, so its primary root pushes deeper until it reaches sufficient underground water. The Waterboxx is removed at this time (which is usually evidenced by a growth spurt). We will call this method the Natural Method, or perhaps the Efficient Method.

It is small wonder that the Waterboxx both increases tree survival rate and increases the rate of tree growth.  The Groasis Waterboxx took seven years and 7.1 million dollars to develop, with every possible consideration given.  It has successfully been used to grow trees in the Sahara desert with 88% success rate.  The Waterboxx can be purchased here.

For more information about capillary action, please see our sources: 

http://science.jrank.org/pages/1182/Capillary-Action.html
http://www.ec.gc.ca/eau-water/default.asp?lang=En&n=BCCCF74B-1#tension
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capillary_action
http://www.madsci.org/posts/archives/1998-02/887637827.Ch.r.html
http://www.biologylessons.sdsu.edu/classes/lab1/semnet/hydrogen_bonding.htm

http://ga.water.usgs.gov/edu/capillaryaction.html



Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Root Growth with the Groasis Waterboxx

Root Growth with the Groasis Waterboxx

      Roots are not something many people consider when thinking about plants and their health, but they truly are very important.  Like an iceberg with much of its mass hidden beneath the surface of the ocean, the roots of a plant or tree, although invisible, can determine whether that plant is able to make it through a drought or strong wind.  Deep roots are necessary for these two main reasons.  
       Skyscrapers must have excellent foundations, which extend well beneath ground level to prevent toppling over in high winds.  Similarly, for trees to remain upright in gales they need a well developed root system.  When large trees are bought from nurseries they are almost always in small pots, because consumers generally want a large canopy and forget about the hidden root system.  You frequently bring the tree home to find that the roots have been circling at the outside of the pot for years.  These roots are a mangled mess, and the tree will have difficulty reorienting them downward as many are now facing sideways.  This means that, once the tree is planted, the roots will stay near the soil.  This is bad for two reasons: First, a shallow root system makes the tree prone to collapse in wind. Of more consequence recently, however, shallow roots virtually guarantee that the tree will not make it through periods of drought, when the top layers of the soil have all of their water evaporate.  A tree with deeper roots, penetrating down farther into the soil, can tap the moisture at those deeper levels and bring it to the growing tree.  It is for this reason that well developed trees can grow in the desert, but new trees are hardly ever established there.
This tree almost certainly has very deep roots that can tap deep water between rains. Roots will only grow where there is water, so a device like the Waterboxx develops a water column beneath the tree and encourages the roots to grow straight down to deeper water.  The Waterboxx can then be removed.  
      The Groasis Waterboxx was designed with root structure in mind.  It is designed to be used on smaller trees (less than 2 inches in diameter, of the type grown from seed or available from www.arborday.org) that don't already have deformed root systems.  The Waterboxx slowly releases stored water, about 50 mL (10 teaspoons) a day, directly beneath the tree in a vertical water column.  This vertical water column induces the tree to grow its primary root straight down, providing stability and eventually reaching ground water.
Originally from Groasis.com


Once the root reaches ground water, it will experience a burst of growth from greater water availability and the Waterboxx can be removed and reused up to 10 more times.  This incredible, fast root growth is seen in the following video (not in English but the pictures speak for themselves).  






 This growth was seen in 200 days - a single planting season!  This tree is now resistant to drought and wind for the rest of its life.  Even in very dry areas, there is usually enough rain for the trees to grow if good root systems are developed.  If you are interested, you can buy the Groasis Waterboxx here or learn more about the Groasis Waterboxx here.






Sunday, February 16, 2014

Dew Point and Condensation - Planting Trees with the Groasis Waterboxx

     Dew Point is an interesting and often misunderstood concept, and one that is entirely relevant to planting trees with the Groasis Waterboxx.  Dew Point is the temperature that air must reach (decrease to) in order for condensation to take place - the Point on the thermometer at which Dew forms.  We frequently see this with glasses of ice water.  Imagine two identical glasses - one full of room temperature water and one full of a mixture of ice and water.  Which one will develop condensation (popularly known as 'sweat' although this is a very misleading term)?  Experience has probably taught you that only the glass of ice water will induce condensation, sometimes in significant amounts.  The author has even had a cellphone ruined when it was placed next to a glass of ice water in a humid room overnight.  The condensation produced by the glass created a puddle that destroyed the cellphone without the water ever being spilled. Why does this condensation happen?
     Air can hold water in the form of vapor - and warmer air can hold more water vapor.  When you fill a glass (and a glass works better than a plastic cup as glass is a poor insulator) with ice, it cools the air immediately around it.  This local air is cooled below the Dew Point, and the water vapor from the air condenses.
This cola with ice is lower the air temperature immediately around the cup, and this causes the water in the air to deposit on the cup (as the colder air can hold less water).  This principle is used by the Waterboxx to cause deposition of dew which is then funneled to the roots of a growing plant.
    The Groasis Waterboxx acts by exploiting this condensation.  The Waterboxx has a reservoir of several gallons of water that is resistant to swings in temperature due to the high specific heat capacity of water.  There is a small air pocket above the water reservoir and immediately below the Waterboxx lid.  The water tends to be cooler than outside air during the day and warmer than the outside air at night.  When the sun sets and the outside air temperature cools, the air pocket between the water reservoir and the Waterboxx lid is cooler than the outside lid (just like a glass of ice water is cooler than the ambient temperature) causing condensation to form faster and in greater amounts.
Originally from Groasis.com

    The Groasis Waterboxx lid is specially designed with a microscopic pyramids on top of a funneled, corrugated form.  This design mimics the lotus leaf, and funnels as much dew as possible to the central siphons.  These siphons direct the water collected as dew into the reservoir, and prevent the water from evaporating during the day.  This water is then slowly released to the roots of the growing plant below by a small wick.  This whole process can be seen in the video below.
 
     The Groasis Waterboxx will collect dew every night, so long as the temperature of the air both rises above and below Dew Point (allowing condensation to form).  It will take up to a year without any rain to empty the reservoir if it is refilled with condensation.  Dry, arid climates that are most in need of the Waterboxx generally have the biggest swings in temperature between day and night due to lack of insulating cloud cover.  These swings mean the temperature is more likely to go both above and below Dew Point, causing condensation.  The Waterboxx works so well in the desert that when used in the Sahara, 88% of single trees (99% of double tree plantings) planted with the Waterboxx survived even though they were never watered again after first planting while only 11% of the weekly watered control trees survived.    You can check Dew Point here if you have relative humidity and temperature handy (available here).  As always, you can buy one, five, or ten  Waterboxxes with shipping included from our parent website, Dew Harvest.



Saturday, February 15, 2014

Planting Trees for Home Energy Savings

Most people know that trees improve property value, but did you also know that properly planted trees can cut energy bills?  Planting the right tree in the right place can blunt winter winds, block summer sun, and slow grass growth (saving on lawn mowing costs). According to the Arbor Day Foundation, proper tree planting can cut energy costs 35%.

First, we are fortunate to be blessed with two types of trees - those that only block sun during summer (deciduous trees) and those that block wind all year round (most coniferous trees).

Areas outside the home contribute to heating and cooling costs.  Driveways are a great source of heat.  If you have a dark (asphalt or sealed) driveway, the heat absorption from the sun without tree shading is significant (just watch heat radiate away from it during the middle of the day).  This is one of the reasons cities are significantly warmer than the surrounding countryside.  If your property is warmer as a whole, it is more difficult to cool your house.  For this reason, you will want to plant a deciduous trees with a high arching canopy near enough to the driveway to block the sun.  I recommend Northern Red Oak (Quercus rubra) in most of the United States as it grows quickly with a strong, straight trunk.  Light colored driveways can reflect heat up towards the house, so these should be shaded as well with a similar tree.

Photo from Arborday.org: An excellent source of bare root trees
The air conditioner should be shaded as well during the first part of the day (especially if it is on the south or west of the house).  Do not use shrubs or hedges around the air conditioner as it needs air flow to work effectively.  Trees with high arching canopies (deciduous trees again) will shade your air conditioner but you must make an effort to clean up fall foliage.

For shading in the warm months, you should plant tall (at least 25 feet mature height) trees to the south, east, and west of your home, approximately 10-20 feet away from the home.  There may be some limb growth over the house, so gutter guards may eventually be necessary.  I would again recommend Red Oak, but Bald Cypress (Taxodium distichum) is also an interesting choice - a conifer that loses its needles in the winter (hence the name bald).  Ensuring leaf losing trees are planted to the south, east and west allow winter sun to reach your home since these trees will all be defoliated, providing a nice complement to your heater.
Photo from Arborday.org: An excellent source of bare root trees
Evergreen trees (not Bald Cypress but those that will hold their needles year round) should be planted to the west and north of your home, but at a greater distance than the deciduous trees meant to provide shade.  These conifers will block cooling winter winds.  If interested in a hedge, I recommend arborvitae for small plots and spruce or cypress for large plots.


Photo from Arborday.org: An excellent source of bare root trees
The impulse with planting trees for energy savings is to buy the biggest tree possible from the nursery, thinking it is much closer to being mature.  However, these trees have terrible root systems that are completely confined to the size of their container.  This root ball is composed almost entirely of laterally directed secondary roots, which will stay near the surface and dry out quickly after planting.  Young, bare root trees still have a primary (tap) root.  This primary root, when planted with the Groasis Waterboxx, will continue to dive deeper, accessing capillary water in the soil, making the tree more stable in high winds and much more resistant to drought, even after the Waterboxx is removed and reused.  The Waterboxx will ensure that you don't need to water the tree during the dry summer months, and Waterboxx trees grow much faster than trees planted without the Waterboxx due to the Waterboxx's constant water supply, blocking evaporation from soil, and blocking growth of weeds.

Utility bills can be a significant part of the cost of a house in many areas.  If you are seeking to sell your well planted house, you may want to save a year's worth of utility (heating and cooling bills) to show to any prospective buyers.

There is a great deal of interest in rooftop solar panels, which capture a tiny percentage of the sun's energy and cost far more than the money they save.  Planting trees in the manner described above can save a great deal on electricity and gas costs, cut greenhouse emissions in two ways (both through conservation of energy and sequestration of carbon in wood), and improve property value due to the aesthetic value of trees- all while costing only a small fraction of the cost of solar panels, (or for that matter new windows or replacement insulation).  Nature has already designed given us solar panels - called leaves and needles, and it has perfected them through millions of years of development.  The Waterboxx is the best way we know of to grow trees large quickly.  If you are interested in buying the Waterboxx, please visit our parent website, Dew Harvest.

For more information, please visit our sources:

http://www.arborday.org/globalwarming/summerShade.cfm
http://forestry.usu.edu/htm/city-and-town/tree-selection/planting-trees-for-energy-conservation-the-right-tree-in-the-right-place

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Water's Near Miraculous High Specific Heat Capacity

Which is easier to warm up 100 degrees on the stove: a one pound copper pot or one pound of water in that pot?  It is an interesting question, and one with profound implications for life on Earth.  The answer - copper is much easier to warm than water, because water has a very high specific heat capacity.

Specific heat capacity is a mouthful, but it is just a way of saying that for a given amount of a substance (like water), it takes a certain amount of energy to increase temperature.  Metals like copper have a very low specific heat capacity (copper's is 0.385 J/g to raise the temperature 1°C).   In other words, metals are very easy to heat.  

Water, however, has a very high specific heat capacity (4.184 J/g to raise temperature 1°C).  It resists temperature changes even with large amounts of energy.  This is why on sunny summer day at the beach, the temperature of the air can be quite hot while that water can remain chilly.  This is also why lakes remain warmer than the surrounding air well into the winter.  Because of this delay in the cooling of the Great Lakes, for example, cities from Chicago to Cleveland to Buffalo get a great deal of snow, as precipitation evaporates from the lakes in the beginning of the winter and is then deposited as snow.  


This graphic shows the hydrologic cycle and how the coastal areas have more temperate (and wetter) climates due to the high specific heat of water.  
This high specific heat capacity of water has profound effects (along with ice's decreased density relative to liquid water) on life on earth.  Because water doesn't quickly change temperature, fish don't have to worry about being boiled during a hot day in a river in the desert, and then frozen at night.  

This high specific heat capacity of water is also why areas near coastline have less extremes in their temperatures than areas farther inland.  Water resists changes in temperature, and imparts this resistance to nearby land through slow release of heat and evaporation.

Why is this relevant to planting trees with the Groasis Waterboxx?  The Waterboxx has a large basin which holds around four gallons of water.  This basin surrounds the trunk of the young tree, and prevents the tree from undergoing large swings in temperature between the day and the night.  This can prevent freezing on cold nights, and heat damage during hot days.  This allows trees to spend more time in a temperature range where they can grow.  The Waterboxx basin essentially forms a little coastline right next to the tree, preventing rapid swings in temperature.  

In winter, even though the water inside the Waterboxx may freeze, the Waterboxx's up-sloping design prevents it from cracking.  Once the temperature again reaches above freezing, the Waterboxx begins releasing water to the plant's growing roots.  

The Waterboxx has many more design features garnered from a better understanding of nature (search this blog for some).  It allows you to grow trees where no one thought possible, with no electricity and no irrigation.  It helped 88% of trees (99% when using two trees) survive in a Sahara Desert planting trial, vs. 11% for traditional planting. In the United States, the Waterboxx can be purchased from Dew Harvest.  


Our sources:

http://ga.water.usgs.gov/edu/heat-capacity.html

http://floridakeys.noaa.gov/ocean/weather.html


Save Money Planting Trees with the Groasis Waterboxx

The Groasis Waterboxx was designed to help grow trees in very dry and inhospitable environments.  It allows inexpensive (or free) young saplings to be planted in areas where they wouldn't initially survive without human intervention.  The Waterboxx's unique design then funnels collected dew and rain water into a storage basin, where water is stored for slow release to the roots below.  The slow but steady trickle of water to the tree (or other plant's) roots allows a deep taproot to be developed, which eventually will reach underground water, allowing the Waterboxx to be removed and used again.  The Waterboxx was is so effective, that when tested in the Sahara Desert in Morocco, it had an 88% (with one tree) to 99% (with two trees) tree survival rate after one year.  The Waterboxx is resistant to UV degradation (due to special additives) and recyclable after several (around ten) years of use.  The Waterboxx doesn't need any human intervention between planting and removal of the Waterboxx approximately one year later (no more watering required - the Waterboxx does it automatically).



While the Groasis Waterboxx can be an excellent value, people are sometimes frightened off by the initial price.  The cost of the Waterboxx cannot be considered in isolation, but only compared to the cost of a new large nursery tree and the expense of planting these trees.  Nursery trees in pots are always more expensive than small bare root trees, grow slower, require a larger hole, potting soil, watering for months (and sometimes years) after planting, as well as staking later.  Large store bought nursery trees also have a lower first year survival rate.  All of these variables can lead to a significantly higher cost for a store bought tree planted in the traditional way.

Below, you will find our cost savings calculator for planting with the Groasis Waterboxx compared to the traditional method in the first year.  The reader can alter any variables to better reflect local conditions.  Boxes highlighted in blue are inputs the reader is invited to change to better reflect local conditions.  White highlighted boxes are constants or calculated for the reader.  The cheaper of the two options (traditional vs. Waterboxx planted) will be highlighted in green, while the more expensive will be highlighted in red.
Under almost all circumstances, you will find that the Groasis Waterboxx more than pays for itself within the first year.  However, the Groasis Waterboxx is expected to last ten years with proper use.  If a large number of trees need to be planted, the Waterboxx can be purchased more cheaply in bulk, and the savings will be even greater.

The Groasis Waterboxx is an incredible invention, earning the Popular Science Innovation of the Year.  Proper use of the Waterboxx will allow forests and orchards to be established where only scrubland was present before.  Like any investment, the Waterboxx has an initial cost, but this is more than compensated by benefits in only the first year, while the investment itself lasts for years.

The Groasis Waterboxx can be purchased from Dew Harvest in the United States.