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Can I grow 12-15' trees in bath tubs?  RSS feed

 
Posts: 125
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I want to plant 5 semi-dwarf trees on paving: almond, peach, mulberry, persimmon, maybe loquat.

Half wine barrel planters are expensive where I am: $100 each. But non-metal bathtubs are cheap to free from classifieds. I think a bathtub holds even more than a wine barrel, though it's longer and maybe not as high.

What do you think?
 
Posts: 559
Location: In the woods, West Coast USA
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Considering that tree roots underground pretty much mirror the height of the tree, they will be quite stunted in a bathtub.  A tree needs deep roots to stay upright, especially in storm winds.    A tub is really not big enough, even if you want a bonsai-type tree.  You'd need to take the soil out and replenish it each year because the roots cannot reach out to get nutrients for itse.f  If you are trying to grow fruit, the tree needs to reach out into rich soil to get enough nutrition for itself and put minerals and nutrients into the fruit.  Even though a bathtub has a drain hole, the soil in it can stay too wet.

You can do annuals and vegetable greens, but the soil in it would need to be taken out and improved each year. 

Wine barrels really aren't big enough, either, for the same reason.  Plus the wood sucks the moisture away from the roots, and they would need extra water way more often. 
 
pollinator
Posts: 1945
Location: Cincinnati, Ohio,Price Hill 45205
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The main drawback would be the trees getting rootbound.
Drilling holes might promote air pruning.
Are you on a patio or balcony? Is your soil poor?
Or are you trying to stunt the growth of the trees?
 
Cristo Balete
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I just saw some wine barrels for $50 at a DIY store.  You could do blackberries, blueberries, strawberries, a sweet currant.

The other sticky part about fruit trees, most of them need a pollinator, a different kind that blooms at exactly the same time, so that means two trees to get even one of them to work.

One more thing I've run into, all potted plants seem to get little "tunnels" in the pot that the water just flies right through and out the bottom, so the soil never really gets saturated enough unless there's a saucer under it.  Since there aren't saucers under a half barrel, it becomes a real challenge to really get all the soil in the half barrel equally wet.
 
pollinator
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Location: Nevada, Mo 64772
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There are some very dwarfed fruit tree varieties that would probably work.  Berry bushes should work, almost any kind.

I’ve been wondering if 2 cubic feet Earthboxes would work with blueberries. They have a water reservoir. They work great for strawberries.
 
William Bronson
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Im near a meat packer that sells the barrels that sausage casing and other ingredients come in for 2-5 bucks.
Split in half, that's two 27.5 gallon planters for 5 bucks.
As for watering, a SIP (Sub-Irrigated Planter) design is the way to go.
My favorite way to make one is to cut slits all over a 5 gallon bucket, flip it upside down in the bottom of a half barrel planter and cut slits in the side of the planter at an inch below the height of the bucket.
Fill with top soil, add water till it seems out the side slits.
For trees, use a whole barrel, just cut one end off.
Either way, cut some hand holds into the sides, the planters will be movable but very heavy.
 
Tim Kivi
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I've filled my yard with fruit trees but I still have empty space where the paving meets the home, which is why I need planters. It's the very spot that would create much needed shade for the rest of the yard, which is why I want trees there not plants.

I'd love to just remove some pavers and plant the trees 2' from the wall but it can cause structural damage, invalidate the insurance, and bring termites, so it's not really an option.
 
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I've seen trees that have established in accumulated humus/soil pockets on otherwise pure rock outcrops. They will grow to whatever extent their limited root zones allow. Yes of course it will work.

The best producing avocado tree I have ever seen was growing in rock at my in-laws old farm in Australia. It was a 'fuerte' cv., and had huge fruit that totally outnumbered the number of leaves. The physiological stress of  severe root restriction can result in super productive trees, the tree thinks it's dying and puts all it's vitality into reproduction. The secret will be to maintain them with enough stress to induce fruitfullness, without allowing them to die.  Compost teas and  liquid manures etc should be enough. These people who talk about replacing all the growing media are missing the fact that this kind of situation occurs in nature all the time, without any media replacement apart from what occurs naturally. 
 
pollinator
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I'd be curious to hear of your experiment and see how those trees do in 5 years.

My hunch is that maintaining them will be an ongoing labor.  Trees in the ground don't require much care, as the soil retains moisture and the tree roots spread a long distance in search of nutrition and moisture.  Whereas a tree grown in a bathtub will constantly need to be watered and fed.  Interaction with the roots from neighboring trees would be impossible, which in nature is a way of communication about fertility and threats --- the trees talk to one another. 

I think my biggest hangup would be the appearance: it would look pretty trashy.  Even planting trees in a big plastic barrel would look better.
 
Ken W Wilson
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If you have much wind, you might need to tie them to something to keep them from tipping over.

Appearance is an issue, especially if you have code enforcement there. I think I’d have a red flag in my yard in less than a week.
 
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Cristo Balete wrote:I just saw some wine barrels for $50 at a DIY store.  You could do blackberries, blueberries, strawberries, a sweet currant.

The other sticky part about fruit trees, most of them need a pollinator, a different kind that blooms at exactly the same time, so that means two trees to get even one of them to work.

One more thing I've run into, all potted plants seem to get little "tunnels" in the pot that the water just flies right through and out the bottom, so the soil never really gets saturated enough unless there's a saucer under it.  Since there aren't saucers under a half barrel, it becomes a real challenge to really get all the soil in the half barrel equally wet.



Tunnel effect: when I scald chickens and ducks for plucking, I put a little squirt of dish soap in the hot water to break the surface tension on the feathers, and they soak through instantly. I wonder (I hypothesize) that you could make a weak soap solution in a bucket, and plunge the whole bugger in there for minute or two. I ain't no scientist--but I really feel like this might do the work.
 
William Bronson
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Could you stack blocks on the paver surface?
Dry stacked standard concrete block,the first course lined with doubled or tripled  6 mil plastic,held in place by the next course.
The second and third courses,knock out the inner wall of each block, leaving you with "E" shaped blocks.
Line the whole thing with nylon window screen.
Cut 4 buckets down to 8" high, cut slots in them,and place them,inverted at the bottom of the bed.
Fill with potting soil.
As the soil level rises, fill the courses of block around it with coarse gravel.
Where the window screen overlaps the top course, secure it by capping the walls with pavers.
Trim the excess screen.
Finish the exterior with surface bonded cement,mostly for looks.

The coarse gravel/window screen/ potting soil allows root growth to be curtailed by air pruning, without exposed screen or mesh.
The first course lined with plastic and filled  with inverted buckets and soil, forms the wicking beds reservoir.

Or,you could use a plastic barrel, dressed up with wooden slats.
Hold them in place vertically around the circumference of the barrrel with screws into the barrel wall(above the water line)and galvinized steel plumber's tape strapping, at the top and bottom.

 
pollinator
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I would be wary of the slick surface of the porcelain in high winds during a storm. If shallow rooted trees can be pulled out of the ground by winds, I would think the root ball would simply rotate right out of the tub with there being little to no friction holding it in place.
 
Michael Sohocki
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A nonmetal bathtub will be plastic (that deteriorates into crystals in the sun) or fiberglass (that deteriorates into crystals in the sun). I don't know what the long term health impacts of either of those results would be, but probably not for the better. Leaning on a previous suggestion (and this might get very involved) you could make a whole grove of stuff on a parking lot. Use blocks (or stabilized rammed earth, which would be cheaper but much more labor intensive) to make a new "earth" on top of the pavement, deep as you got money for. Then using the walls as structure, you can erect a frame of poles (4x4s, hewn tree trunks, retired telephone poles you can get for next to nothing if you can haul them), say ten feet high. So then you've got this sort of grid, and you can stretch crossbeams wherever you feel like it--to truss any small trees, fruiting vines, briars, etc from above--which would shore up your stuff in the case of a storm. This seems pretty okay protection against the root depth problem--but it does have its limitations.

Life gives you a shallow substrate, it pays to pick plants with shallow roots. "Happy little tree" thoughts.
 
Tim Kivi
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I've since found blue plastic barrels at recycling centres. They're as high as a wine barrel but narrower. So opposite problem of bathtubs: very deep but narrow.

What do you think?
 
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Just a thought since shade is your goal but space is the problem. What about building trellises and growing a vine up them? Could still get shade without needing the same amount of space for the roots. Plus I would think the vine roots would not be likely to cause damage if you removed the pavers and planted them in the ground. The trellises could be done as large arches which could look nice and be a nice place to walk.

Just a thought...

As far as the blue barrels go it seems to me that keeping the trees from blowing over would be a big concern. I would think you would need some way to anchor the barrels.
 
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William Bronson wrote:
My favorite way to make one is to cut slits all over a 5 gallon bucket, flip it upside down in the bottom of a half barrel planter and cut slits in the side of the planter at an inch below the height of the bucket.
Fill with top soil, add water till it seems out the side slits.
For trees, use a whole barrel, just cut one end off.
Either way, cut some hand holds into the sides, the planters will be movable but very heavy.



Wow, your sub-irrigated planter sounds great! Have you posted instructions? Please give us a link, or if you haven't yet, please do, with pictures!
 
Oh, sure, you could do that. Or you could eat some pie. While reading this tiny ad:
What would you cook first in a rocket oven?
https://permies.com/t/89866/cook-rocket-oven
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