Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Growing Giant Sequoia Trees From Seed

Giant sequoia trees (Sequoiadendron giganteum) are the largest living things on Earth.   They can live for thousands of years, reach almost three hundred feet in height, resist droughts and forest fires. The single largest sequoia tree now living, General Sherman, has sequestered over a lifetime of carbon emissions by the average American.   What is more, giant sequoias can grow throughout much of the world in temperate regions, including most of the continental United States, so long as they have sufficient water (around 30 inches or 762 mm each year).  Sequoias are common in Britain, but are also in mainland Europe, New Zealand, Australia, Japan, Canada, and almost every state in the U.S.

Establishing sequoias is very difficult, and with trial and error you can expect years of frustration, even if you buy saplings rather than seeds. Even with saplings we didn't have any success establishing sequoias outside in the Midwest until we started using the Waterboxx PlantCocoon to grow sequoias for the first few years.  Since starting to use the Waterboxx PlantCocoon, we have had 100% success, detailed here and here.

As sequoias proved such fun to plant and are so beneficial to the environment, we wanted to know if we could grow sequoia trees from seed.  We had tried this before, but had very poor germination rates (around ~1%), and many of our trees that did germinate soon died.  We were determined to try again, but to follow the best advice available for growing these seeds.

Sequoia seeds are tiny - here is an average sized one on a fingertip before planting.  It is hardly believable that these become the largest living things on Earth.
We bought 500 giant sequoia seeds from MySeeds.co, on Amazon.com here (or more cheaply from their website here).  Sequoia seeds need a very specific process mimicking their natural environment to germinate (including a wet "fall" and cold "winter"), so we tried to replicate that in as short a period as possible.  To start, we laid our seeds on a paper towel and moistened them with water (distilled water for best results as it doesn't contain mold).

Seeds on July 16, 2015, right after getting them in the mail.  Our biggest problem was having the patience to not plant before "hardening" for a month in the fridge.  
We covered these seeds with another moist paper towel, and them put them on a portion of a paper plate.  We then put these in a clean, sealed plastic bag.  This simulated our wet "fall", in order to reawaken the seeds.  For our winter, we placed this plastic bag in the vegetable crisper in the fridge for 30 days.


After 30 days, we removed our seeds.  We started with 500 seeds, but given our poor germination rate before, we didn't expect most to produce anything.  We took about half of these seeds to be planted.  We set up a Cone-tainer rack filled with 98 soil holding cone-tainers (both available here).  We filled these full of potting soil.  For about half of the cone-tainers, we also added some vermiculite, which is excellent at holding moisture.  We then took the very small seeds, and added them to the top of the soil mixture.  For half of the cone-tainers, we used only one seed, and for the other half we used three to four.  We pushed the seeds down slightly into the soil, but we did not bury the seeds.

Our 98 Cone-tainers in a tray, with our seeds just planted, on August 18, 2015.  The vermiculite containing Cone-tainers are white on top.
We waited about two weeks, but didn't see any of the promised germination.  We thought that perhaps nights were getting too cool (sometimes into the upper 50s Fahrenheit), so we put a cold frame we had previously built over the sequoias seeds.

The cone-tainers in our 2x4 foot cold frame.
Within two days, we started to see germination of our tiny trees.  We did our best to keep the tiny seedling moist without over watering.

Tiny sequoia trees, just growing from seed on August 31, 2015
We had about 25% germination in our first round. We wanted to have a giant Sequoia tree growing from each Cone-Tainer, so we planted more seeds in each Cone-Tainer that didn't have one germinate.

We did have a few Cone-Tainers with more than two sequoias germinate. We wanted didn't want competition to hurt both sequoias, so we removed the smaller sequoia seedling so the larger could continue to grow unabated.  When we removed the smaller sequoia, what we found was astounding (to us, at least).  Giant sequoias send down a true tap root!   This is incredible, as many trees just send out shallow, lateral, fibrous roots.  This true tap root means sequoias can tap deep sources or water (like water held in capillary channels) as well as underground aquifers.  This means that sequoias will be able to withstand droughts very well.  This only makes sense as many sequoias have lived for three millennia, through many droughts, in California.

A tiny sequoia sapling, a little over a month (9/26/15) after planting, with a taproot over three times the length of the trunk.  These tap roots enable sequoias to survive very long periods without rain.

We are growing these sequoias from seed in Central Indiana, which has harsh winters, so we decided to move our saplings inside to a window sill over the Fall and Winter and provide a little artificial light to speed up growth.  There is a chance this may disrupt the seasonal rhythm of the plant, but we judged this risk as lower than the risk from the freezing.

The sequoias inside (all moved close to get the most light) on October 3, 2015.  We have had about a 33% germination rate so far - not bad for this very difficult to start tree.
We are very impressed that the eventual structure (and beautiful red trunk) has already begun to become evident.
A sequoia about 5 weeks old - we hope this sequoia is 10 inches tall by spring to it can be planted outside with the Waterboxx PlantCocoon.
At this point (October 6, 2015), we still have about 70% of our Cone-tainers without any sequoia seedlings.  This means our germination and survival rate has been somewhere around 15% (because we planted about two seeds per Cone-tainer, on average).  We want each Cone-tainer to have one sequoia, so we planted the most of the remaining seeds into the empty Cone-tainers.  We did save a few seeds just in case none germinated in some Cone-tainers.  

A sequoia at about 10 weeks - again perhaps doubled in size over the past 5 weeks.

By late November, we have planted all 500 seeds and have 50 living sequoia seedlings, for a germination rate of 10%.  As this is our second planting, and we had a germination and early survival rate of 0% previously, we are well pleased.  We are supplementing sunlight with full spectrum CFL light (purchased before full spectrum LEDs were available), and see the smaller sequoias grow ~5% per day - a very healthy growth rate indeed.

Our sequoia seedlings 4 months and 11 days after planting.  We still have 48 living sequoias, with two more lost to damping off.  Our tallest tree is about 3.5 inches, which should put us in range of the desired 10 inches by April with our continued artificial light.
We hope to see these sequoias grow to the point they can be transplanted outdoors with the Waterboxx PlantCocoon®.  They will need to be about 10-12 inches tall at that time.  We are growing these sequoias for donation to a few growing partners in the South and Midwest - we will post those plantings online when pictures are available.

Our greater hope is to see giant sequoias planted on public and private property throughout the United States and rest of the world.  This tree grows so large, so fast, and lives so long, that it may be one of the few affordable ways to decrease carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, counteracting the problems caused by excessive carbon dioxide.

We will continue to update this post with our sequoia from seed progress.  We would love to hear your comments below.

If you would like to plant sequoias you already have outside, with the Waterboxx, you can buy a Waterboxx PlantCocoon here.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Plant Paw-Paw - Indiana Banana, America's First Fruit Tree

History can be capricious.  The phrase "American as apple pie" has entered the lexicon of most  Americans.  This is unfair.  The apple tree is derived from wild ancestors in Central Asia and Europe and is not truly an American fruit.  This is of course the American way - adopting and adapting ideas and foods from around the world.  However, most people in this country, who have tried everything from apple butter to apple pie, have never tried true American native fruit - the Paw Paw.

The Paw Paw tree, also known as 'Indiana Banana', Asiminia triloba, is the largest fruit native to the U.S.  It is rich in vitamin and energy content, good tasting, and grows in all or part of 26 states.  Paw paw is a valuable fruit in that it has all 20 essential amino acids or building blocks of protein.  Paw paw also has more vitamin C than banana (twice as much) or apples (three times as much).  It has more potassium than apples (3x) and orange (2x) and almost as much as bananas.  It also has markedly more calcium, magnesium, and iron than these other three fruits.

The paw paw fruit on the vine, from USDA
Paw paw fruit does not transport well fresh, and is only a peak taste for a few days.  It is for this reason primarily that it has never been commercialized.  When eaten fresh off the tree, however, the paw paw has a flavor that is something of a cross between banana, pineapple and mango.  Paw paw fruit can be substituted for banana in most recipes.   

Range of the Paw Paw Tree - most of the Eastern United States (from USGS)
Paw paw is relatively disease and insect resistant.  It is recommended that you buy grafted trees if you want sooner fruit production - our preferred source is Stark Brothers.   According to Sheri Crabtree, a paw paw expert at Kentucky State University"Pawpaws do have a strong taproot and can be difficult to dig and transplant".  This tap root needs to be kept moist at almost all times, which requires near constant watering. This makes watering them almost daily essential right after planting.  This is not feasible for most home owners, however.  There is a device that may help, called the Groasis Waterboxx PlantCocoon or Waterboxx for short.

The Waterboxx collects dew and rain, stores it in a four gallon reservoir, and slowly releases it to the roots beneath the growing tree.  It also prevents evaporation of soil moisture - allowing a "water column" to form immediately beneath the Waterboxx.  Tap roots are induced to grow straight down in this water column until the tree is well established.  The Waterboxx can then be removed and reused again.  This is all explained in the video below:



We hope to see our natural botanic heritage more appreciated in the future.  We hope you will consider planting a paw paw tree or three.  If you want to try planting with the Waterboxx, it is available here.  

We would love to read your comments below.


Sunday, November 22, 2015

Gardening During Flood and Drought In Dallas/Fort Worth

The Dallas/Fort Worth Area has extremely unpredictable rainfall.  Months of flood are followed by months with almost no rain.  Just over the last 18 months, the lowest rainfall amount was 0.06 inches in the month of September 2014, but the highest was 16.96 inches in May of 2015, more than 280 times as much!  After that washout in May, July and August of 2015 received less than an inch of rain each!  This was followed by a wet October, with almost 10 inches of rain.  How can anyone garden in such an environment - where almost daily watering is required some months and root washout happens in others?

So, the Dallas/Forth Worth area has variable rain, sometimes with not enough rain and sometimes with floods.  Also, the time when trees and garden plants could benefit most from water (July and August) due to the increased sun, the least rainfall is available.  In scientific terms, water becomes the limiting factor in the height of the growing season.

Is there anything that can help prevent flooding of plants during heavy rains, but also supply water to plants during droughts?  Could this device or system be automatic, rather than relying on gardeners to take time out of their busy schedules to water plants during droughts and cover the soil during heavy rains?  Finally, could this device collect and save water during rainy periods for use during dry periods?  The answer to all three of these questions is yes - and the device is the Groasis Waterboxx PlantCocoon®, or Waterboxx for short.

The Waterboxx is a self refilling water battery for plants.  It is placed around a smaller plant (at least 6 inches tall and with a stalk less than 2 inches in diameter) right after planting.  The Waterboxx is then filled with 4 gallons of water.  This water slowly trickles out, about 50 mL or 10 teaspoons a day, to the roots of a growing plant, via a small wick.  The Waterboxx has a special lotus leaf inspired lid, which allows it to catch dew, transpiration moisture from the plant, as well as rainfall, and store it for later use.  The Waterboxx, although 10 inches tall, is filled with less than 4 inches of rain and has enough water stored (with average water outflow of 50 mL/day) for 300 days without any precipitation.

The Waterboxx also prevents plant over-watering by directing heavy rains away from the roots of the plant.  Once full, the Waterboxx funnels all excess water off to the side of the plant (10 inches away from the stalk).  This channeling away of excess water prevents root washout and also prevents the splitting of tomatoes and melons.

From Groasis - A cross section view of the Waterboxx - water is collected by the tan lid, funneled down the siphons (shown in red here), stored in the green reservoir (which holds 4 liters), and slowly released through the white wick to the roots below. 

The Waterboxx can easily accommodate two tomato plants, two to four pepper plants. two zucchini plants, or one melon or winter squash.  You can see Waterboxx gardening results here.  With more than one plant, an extra wick can be inserted to give more water (which will decrease the length of time the Waterboxx has reserve water, halving it roughly for every doubling of the number of wicks).  

Has the Waterboxx been used in drought conditions before?  Yes.  The Waterboxx was used to grow tomatoes in the height of the California drought in 2015.  Tomatoes planted in Sacramento County, California received no water after planting, and got less than a quarter inch of rain for three months of summer, but still managed to produce over 40 fruits from one plant.  You can see the results of this below.

16 weeks' growth of a tomato plant in Sacramento County California - all with no water after planting.  

What about flood conditions?  How well does the Waterboxx work in flood conditions?  Well, in the same year (2015) that the Waterboxx was growing full sized tomatoes in California, it was growing Roma and cherry tomatoes in Indiana, which had one of the wettest springs and the wettest July on record.  Over 13 inches of rain fell around Indianapolis in July, which would have both washed out most tomato roots and caused most fruits to split.  With the Waterboxx, however, this did not happen. We see no tomatoes split and a bountiful harvest just beginning below. 

Roma (left) and cherry (right) tomatoes growing with the Waterboxx during an extremely wet July, with over 13 inches of rain.  This photo, taken July 21, shows no split tomatoes and an excellent crop - all because the Waterboxx prevents overwatering even in heavy rains.

The Waterboxx works great in a standard 4'x4' raised bed, but also works in traditional garden rows. The consistent water the Waterboxx provides allows the plant to reach their maximum height, while also sparing gardeners hot evenings of watering the garden.   The Waterboxx can also be used to grow trees without any watering after planting in difficult areas like Dallas/Fort Worth.  

The Waterboxx can help residents of the Dallas/Fort Worth area to stop spending hours in the hot summer sun watering their garden plants and just enjoy the fruits of their labor.  If you want to try gardening with the Waterboxx and stop worrying about too much or too little rain, you can find out more here or buy the Waterboxx here.  

We would love to read your comments below.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Water Tomatoes Only Once In Central California Drought

How much can a tomato plant grow if watered only once, at planting?  A great deal, if it is planted with the Groasis Waterboxx PlantCocoon®.  Tony Palumbo of Sacramento County, California planted a tomato with the Waterboxx in Folsom in the great drought of 2015.  He provided water for it and the Waterboxx (about 4 gallons) only at planting and then never watered it again.
Week 1 - the tiny tomato is barely visible - but the Waterboxx is designed to allow light to reach it.
The Waterboxx works by collecting occasional rain and more frequent dew, and actually makes condensation more likely as the plastic lid cools down at night.  It doesn't rely on electricity or running water, just nature's genius like the lotus leaf (which inspired the lid).

Week 2 - the tomato plant has more than doubled in size
Because the need for watering is greatly reduced or completely removed with the Waterboxx, the most important input for the plant's growth is now sun.  Central California had that in excess during the summer of 2015, with less than one quarter of one inch of rain during this time.

Week 3 - tomato plant more than doubled in size in one week - with the Waterboxx providing support for the base

The Waterboxx has a four gallon (15 liter)  reservoir, and releases only about 50 mL (10 teaspoons) of water a day through a small wick in the bottom of the reservoir.  This gives approximately 300 days of water to the average plant (although water loving plants may have faster water use).

Week 4 - the first small tomatoes are appearing, very quickly because of the consistent moisture and excellent sun exposure in Central California
It takes only 4 inches of rain total to completely refill the Waterboxx, an amount almost every location in the U.S. gets.  For this reason the Waterboxx was initially used to grow trees - but it works so well for the garden that it is now being used to grow many garden plants.

Week 6 - the single tomato plant already needs three supports because it has grown so large so quickly

The Waterboxx works great for full size tomatoes, but also for Roma and cherry tomatoes (other growers have grown almost 1000 Roma (Juliet) tomatoes and >1500 cherry tomatoes with the Waterboxx).  The Waterboxx can also be used for peppers, melons, eggplant, zucchini, winter squash, and pumpkins.

Week 7 - The first tomatoes are almost ready to harvest
Gardeners can also put more than one vegetable plant per Waterboxx - but this will require extra wicks and some supplemental watering in very dry climates.

Week 16 for Waterboxx planted tomato (left) - 14 produced, 40 tomatoes - left  (traditional with DAILY watering) shows week 13 - 0 produced, 0 tomatoes but some buds
A traditional, non-Waterboxx tomato was planted next to the Waterboxx tomato but three weeks later.  This tomato required watering every single day - but still didn't come close to the Waterboxx tomato in terms of size or fruit produced.

The Waterboxx is transforming gardening in hot climates and during droughts.  You can see more examples of gardening with the Waterboxx - this time in southern California  - here.  You can buy the Waterboxx here or learn more about the Waterboxx here.

16 weeks growth of the Waterboxx tomato plant - all without any water after planting in the Great California Drought - the Waterboxx is truly changing gardening


Thursday, November 12, 2015

Growing Pecan Trees Without Watering In Texas

The pecan tree, Carya Illinoinensis,  is of course the Texas state tree.  This tree is large, stately, and can be very prolific in its nut production.  There are varieties of pecan that are well suited for every part of Texas, seen below.


Varieties of pecan for different regions of Texas - from Aggie Extension Service - an excellent source of information about pecan growing, found here

 The pecan tree, once established, is drought tolerant. Unfortunately, the pecan tree can be very slow growing due to its need to develop a significant root system.  The pecan's tap root, actually, is what makes it so resistant to drought, but also what makes it so hard to become established.

There is a device that will help in establishing pecan trees, provided the purchased trees are not yet too large.  (Note: always buy grafted pecan trees if you want nuts in your lifetime - our recommended sources are Willis Orchard and Stark Brothers).  A device called the Groasis Waterboxx PlantCocoon (hereafter just "the Waterboxx"), provides consistent moisture to the long tap root of the growing pecan tree, all without irrigation or electricity.  The Waterboxx works as explained in the video below.



Pecan trees can be planted with the Waterboxx as follows.  A deep, narrow hole is dug for the pecan roots - just as deep as the pecan roots and no deeper.  It is easiest to use an auger if doing this with many trees.  If an auger is used, be sure to scrape the sides of the hole with a serrated edge (a soil knife is best) to loosen the dirt there and prevent root spiraling.  Nearer to the surface, a wider but shallower hole, 20 inches across and approximately 5 inches deep, is dug.  Approximately 10 gallons of water with any desired fertilizer is then added to the hole.  This was is allowed to trickle down over the next few hours so no water is left in the hole when the plant is inserted.  Once all water has percolated into the soil, the pecan with its large taproot is inserted into the deep central hole.  This is then filled with soil - either native or potting soil.  You can also insert mycorrhizae (helpful fungus to absorb water and nutrients) in this soil if you like. The assembled Waterboxx is then inserted over the pecan - the central 'Figure 8' opening allowing space for the trunk of the pecan tree.

A schematic view of the Waterboxx

The Waterboxx is then filled with about 4 gallons of water.  This water, stored in the green reservoir, will be replenished with morning dew, transpiration moisture from the tree, as well as occasional rainfall.  In fact, it takes only 4 inches of rain to completely refill the Waterboxx (even though the Waterboxx is 10 inches tall).

The pecan tree will now be completely self-sufficient regarding water for at least the next year.  You only need to visit the tree to make sure it is not growing too fast (as you will need to eventually remove the Waterboxx).  You want to remove the Waterboxx (by pulling it straight up over the tree) before the tree crown gets too large to fit through the figure 8 central opening - usually about one year after planting.  The pecan tree by then should have a deep tap root, resistant to almost all drought. The pecan tree potentially may not need manually watered ever again.  If you are growing for commercial reasons, a irrigation system may eventually be required to get the best nut harvest depending on your part of Texas and average rainfall amounts.

The Waterboxx can be reused after the first year (for up to ten years) so many successive plantings of pecans or other trees can be done.  You can buy the Waterboxx here.

We would love to read your comments below.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

The Impossibility Of Cutting Greenhouse Emissions

The news media has been abuzz recently with a new genre of news story - carbon fraud.  The German automaker Volkswagen has admitted to purposely designing software to make its engines appear less polluting, both for diesel and for gasoline engines.  Now it turns out that China, either intentionally or not, has dramatically understated how much coal it has burned over the last 15 years.  The European Union has a "renewable" energy mandate that is causing it to cut down American forests for fuel - producing more carbon emissions than if European coal was burned!  The stories of carbon fraud are becoming more numerous as the incentive to lie about emissions become stronger.  Unlike something like deforestation of the rainforest, there is no satellite or other system capable of monitoring carbon emissions.  We can measure carbon in the atmosphere (see below), but we can't really tell its source with any real accuracy.

Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere as measured by the NOAA, increasing steadily for the last 50 years with the sawtoothed shape because of absorption by plants.
What are we to make of this carbon cheating?  Well, there is an economic parable called 'Tragedy of the Commons' that might be illustrative.  In medieval England, many small landowners of a village, all of whom owned livestock, owned land surrounding a large grassy area called a commons.  These small landowners were of course allowed to graze their livestock on their own land, but were also allowed to have their animals graze without restriction on the commons.  What happened with this arrangement?  The obvious - the villagers all grazed their livestock on the commons before letting their livestock on their own private land.  Because of this, the commons was soon ruined, turned to a grass-less mud filled wasteland as grass was pulled up by the roots, while the privately owned land remained pristine.

Say that everyone in the village realized the problem and came to an agreement - you can only graze your livestock one day a month on the unfenced, unguarded commons.  Some villagers would be responsible and abide by the agreement, but some would invariably cheat - perhaps taking their livestock to graze at night or when others were away.  The result would be the same - a muddy, ruined commons.  The only way to stop the cheating would a large wall around the commons (not practical) or an incredible police state monitoring the villages and their flocks at all time.

The utility of this parable to greenhouse emissions is obvious.  The Earth's atmosphere is in every sense a 'commons' - every nation and every person has access to it.  We cannot restrict a country from it for abuse or deceit.  Eventually, regardless of how little in greenhouse gases we emit as individuals or even as a nation, our work can be completely undone by others.  What good would it have done in the above parable for one landowner, seeing the ultimate fate of the commons, to only graze his animals there once a month? None - his sacrifice would have been meaningless in the context of everyone else's abuse.

So, what can be done?  Is the world doomed to much higher greenhouse gas concentrations because the atmosphere is a common area, with no real restrictions or controls?  No!  While the atmosphere is a commons, land is not and is frequently privately owned.  Is there anything that can be done on land to pull carbon out of the air?  Yes - we can plant giant, long lived trees - we can plant sequoias..

Giant sequoias, Sequoiadendron giganteum, the largest tree and the largest living thing on earth, once covered much of the world.  They thrived on the higher carbon dioxide concentrations available then as well as warmer temperatures, two conditions we are likely to see replicated soon..  These trees are very fast growing and can still, if planted correctly, be grown in almost all temperate areas.

What is more, the largest of these trees, called General Sherman, is so large that is has sequestered over an average American's lifetime of carbon emissions - over 2.2 million pounds of carbon.  Sequoias also live for thousands of years, with many now alive growing at the time of Christ.  This longevity means they will to continue to store as well as continuously sequester carbon for centuries.


We tried to plant these trees many times here in the Midwest without success before discovering a device that could water, nurture, and protect the tree without our intervention.  This device, the Groasis Waterboxx PlantCocoon, is shown with a sequoia tree below.

Two years' growth of a sequoia with the Groasis Waterboxx PlantCocoon.  No water was manually added to the Waterboxx or the tree after planting - not once - and the tree has thrived after the Waterboxx was removed.  
We have had a one hundred percent success rate planting sequoias with the Waterboxx here in Indiana, and plan to continue planting elsewhere.  Can our success be replicated?  Yes!  If every set of grandparents came together and planted one sequoia tree each for every new child in their family (for a total of two trees per new child), we could one day see all carbon emissions offset by growing trees.  If more than two trees were planted per new child, we could see America's net carbon emissions decrease, even if we couldn't directly measure it.  What's more, sequoias tend to grow faster as they age.  Sequoias are well adapted to survive common threats like forest fires and have few pests.  Sequoias can do what no other tree can - pull carbon reliably from the atmosphere at an increasing rate, and store it for thousands of years.

Companies, countries, and even continents will continue to lie and mislead about their carbon emissions.  Future "climate agreements" will just make this mendacity more likely as the incentive to cheat increases.  As this happens, a  person's individual carbon emissions will become meaningless in the face of widespread cheating.  We can decrease total carbon dioxide in the atmosphere only by removing it from the atmosphere - and the best way to do this is by planting long lived and massive trees like sequoias.

If you want to buy a small sequoia tree, we recommend Giant-Sequoia.com.  If you want to take the effort and try to plant from seed, we recommend this site.  To purchase a Waterboxx to grow a sequoia here in the United States, visit Dew Harvest at www.dewharvest.com.

We would love to read your comments below.  

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Don't Buy Trees From Big Box Stores

"Out of sight, out of mind" is a well worn saying, but very accurate.  This aphorism is especially true when it comes to purchasing and planting trees.  Landowners frequently purchase trees, usually at large nurseries or home improvement stores, based almost solely on the branches and leaves of the tree (the crown).  These trees are usually grown in containers - it is only when the tree is brought home that the root system of the tree is evaluated.  What is seen is frequently roots that completely pack the container, as shown below.

A young arbor vitae with a fairly dense root ball - this root system will prevent the tree from getting established for many years, and will make it slower growing after that.
Root bound trees are more likely to shift after planting (requiring staking), more likely to need excessive watering, more likely to be drought stressed (as all their roots are shallow), and more likely to die than trees with deeper roots.

A landowner's relationship with a tree will last many years and have a significant impact on yard work and property values - in essence it is a marriage between the land and the trees that will grace (or disfigure) it.  Because of this long term relationship, you should consider the whole tree, roots included.  Choosing a tree based on the above ground portion is like getting married on the first date.

What alternatives are there to root bound, store bought trees?  Aren't these the only trees that will grow fast enough to make planting them worthwhile?  Smaller, bare root trees (available online from many nurseries throughout the country) offer smaller, more affordable, but much better quality trees with good (downward pointing) root systems.  Because these trees have intact root systems, they are established much faster, grow much faster, and have better long term survival.

A recent invention has made planting and growing bare root trees easier.  The Groasis Waterboxx PlantCocoon, or Waterboxx for short, is a dew and rain harvesting device that doesn't rely on running water or electricity.

A schematic view of the Waterboxx, with the corner removed to show function.  Water in the form of dew and rain is collected by the lid, funneled down the siphon shown in red, stored in the green reservoir, and slowly released to the roots of the growing plant by the white wick.  
It is placed around a new, bare root tree (or even a tree grown from seed) at planting.  The tree's roots are kept moist and at a near constant temperature by the Waterboxx, preventing stress.  Water is slowly released straight down by a wick, forming a vertical water column.  This water column induces the roots of the tree to grow straight down to underground capillary water, protecting them from future drought.  This is explained in the video below.


Bare root trees tend to be only a few dollars for shade trees (our preferred source is arborday.org), or a little bit more expensive for fruit and nut trees (our preferred source is Stark Brothers).  The Waterboxx can be used up to 10 times so is also only a few dollars per tree, and saves a great deal of time and money on not watering your newly planted tree.  You can find out more about the Waterboxx at www.dewharvest.com.

We would love to see your questions or comments below.