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Is planting fruit and trees in pots for later transport a good idea?  RSS feed

 
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I am considering planting a few dozen trees in pots in a sort of mobile orchard for later use on our small holding. We currently live in Cornwall England (usda zone 9)
The trees will be moved in 2 or 3 years to northern Ireland (also zone 9)
These zones are according to published map but from observation I know where we are currently is much more mild with few hard frosts compared to northern ireland where there are fewer hours of sunlight and more intense rain.
Does anyone have experience of growing trees in containers then eventually loading them into a moving van and trucking them on a 30 hour journey?
 
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Two thoughts.  First, the political/borders/regulatory situation in the British Isles is insanely complicated from an exterior perspective, and appears to be in somewhat of a state of hard-to-predict transition.  But that's the view from the wrong side of the ocean, so this is perhaps a stupid question.  Are there now, or will there be in in a few years, any border/customs/phytosanitary issues trucking trees from Cornwall to NI?  Here in the United States we have enough different agricultural regions that some of our states even have checkpoints where they prevent the passage of stuff like that.   I'm pretty sure the citrus cops would douse my trailer with Malathion and then set me on fire with napalm if I tried to haul a trailer full of fruit trees in buckets across the California line...

Second, you will hear people tell you that a bucket-grown tree is never "as good" as a tree planted in situ from seed.  Paul Wheaton famously believes that tap roots are massively important and do not survive transplantation, so his view is that a tree planted from seed has an advantage that will outweigh even a much-earlier-started bucket tree.  This is intuitively sensible and I am sure there's much truth in it, but I think it runs up hard against the old adage about the perfect being the enemy of the the good.  (It's also unclear to me how much science has really been done on tap roots; we know they are massively important on some species and don't regrow in some cases, but how general the principles of importance and non-regeneration are across and within species seems not to have been rigorously established, as it would be slow and difficult research to do.)  

Some factors that strike me as relevant:

-- tree species: tap roots are going to matter more to some species than others;
-- planting location: tap roots help a tree reach water, and give it stability against wind; these matter more in some places than others;
-- time in buckets: a robust transplant with several year's growth has many advantages over a new seedling that may outweigh lack of tap root
-- what else the orchardist will be doing: if you have time to fuss with tree starts now, but will not when you arrive in NI, having transplants ready to go will be everything.  New seedlings that don't get planted and cared for don't grow.

Having said all that, I grow a lot of bucket trees, planting them out when they are about an inch thick and very sturdy.  I've had good luck with the method, although I also plant a lot of tree seeds in my zones 4/5 areas where STUN (sheet total utter neglect) plantings are appropriate.   Bucket starts are very much what I would do in your shoes.  Good luck!
 
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I'd like to chime in on the relevance of tap roots. According to Robert Kourik in his book Understanding Roots (here's a link to a pdf download of it: https://permies.com/wiki/65072/Understanding-Roots-Robert-Kourik-pdf#554094 ) very few trees, less than 5% of all species of trees, actually have a tap root. A lot of common root stocks that familiar varieties of fruit trees are grafted onto do not have a tap root. I am unsure if certain fruit tree varieties planted from seed grow a tap root. Some, but not all, nut trees grow a tap root, like the chestnut and the filbert, but not the black walnut. Also according to Mr. Kourik, once a tap root is severed, it will not grow back, hence the truth in the notion that a tree (which grows a tap root) planted from seed in a permanent location will always be "better" than a tree that is bucket grown or transplanted. I personally believe that non-tap root growing trees can be started in a container and transplanted to live a long healthy life producing abundant fruit, but I also think there are variables in this such as the age of the tree being transplanted (i.e. how many years has it spent in a container being root-bound). I will agree with Paul that tap roots are massively important, for the trees that actually grow them.
 
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Fabric "buckets" might help by allievating the dread "root bound" condition that bucket grown plants suffer from.

 
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Dan Boone has a good point about legality issues. You might be fine, you might not, it's good to check. They do stop every car coming into California and ask about produce. Ah, Malathion, the joys of my childhood.

I do agree that potted trees have their limitations, but sometimes it helps to have at least a few things already started.

The fabric bucket idea can help, or just slicing off the root bound section when transplanting.
 
natasha todd
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Dan Boone wrote:Two thoughts.  First, the political/borders/regulatory situation in the British Isles is insanely complicated from an exterior perspective, and appears to be in somewhat of a state of hard-to-predict transition.  But that's the view from the wrong side of the ocean, so this is perhaps a stupid question.  Are there now, or will there be in in a few years, any border/customs/phytosanitary issues trucking trees from Cornwall to NI?  

Very very good point. The situation is in fact so unpredictable that we are delaying buying land! I am from NI and so have dual citizenship of the UK and Ireland so I can always be an EU citizen and british  but my partner is just  British. The plan to mitigate the Brexit disaster is to live in NI where I could freely travel to whatever side of the border is cheaper or better quialty to buy goods and services. The biosecurity laws are a worry but as I see it in the very worst situation is sell/trade/gift trees in Cornwall in exchange for tools and other useful items? Also we could gift them to my mother in law who would be very happy...


-- tree species: tap roots are going to matter more to some species than others;

Looks like I need to read up more on this

-- planting location: tap roots help a tree reach water, and give it stability against wind; these matter more in some places than others;

Stability can be an issue on some exposed slopes  but where we are surface water is abundant and the water table is usually high.

 
natasha todd
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James,
I will have to get reading that link!  I wasn't aware it was only 5% of trees! That's actually given me a lot of hope
 
natasha todd
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William Bronson wrote: Fabric "buckets" might help by allievating the dread "root bound" condition that bucket grown plants suffer from.



I'll have a look in my area for cheap ones of those. I have few shops near me but I can get a bucket about the right size for £4ish. I wonder how much extra value the fabricsl ones would be worth to me long term?
 
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natasha todd wrote:Does anyone have experience of growing trees in containers then eventually loading them into a moving van and trucking them on a 30 hour journey?


Yes! We hauled our trees in buckets (a mixture of fruit and indigenous trees) on a trailer 1400km across the country. The journey took us 3 days as we had furniture and animals too. But everything survived including the trees
I had planted all the trees as container guilds using a variety of beneficial plants - comfrey, wild garlic, yarrow, marigolds, thyme, rosemary, lemon balm - which all flourished and had no negative effects on the trees as far as I can tell. In fact we are about to finally plant out all the trees and they are all looking amazing. If you didn't have all the legal red tape to get through I would say go for it.
 
natasha todd
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Joe
That's encouraging!
What size container where they started in and for how long?
Did you do anything to prevent root bound plants?
 
Joe Black
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They were in 20 litre cooking oil buckets that I scrounged from a chicken shop for next to nothing. I just drilled holes in the bottom for drainage but did not do anything to prevent the roots getting bound. Some of them are seriously root bound but are fine.
 
natasha todd
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Joe
Do you mean the food grade plastic buckets or metal ones?
 
Joe Black
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Plastic ones. They have value here as people use them to carry water but they only cost the equivalent of 50p each. Some of my trees have been in these containers for much longer than they should have - over a year in some cases, but no casualties yet.
 
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natasha todd wrote:I am considering planting a few dozen trees in pots in a sort of mobile orchard for later use on our small holding. We currently live in Cornwall England (usda zone 9)
The trees will be moved in 2 or 3 years to northern Ireland (also zone 9)
These zones are according to published map but from observation I know where we are currently is much more mild with few hard frosts compared to northern ireland where there are fewer hours of sunlight and more intense rain.
Does anyone have experience of growing trees in containers then eventually loading them into a moving van and trucking them on a 30 hour journey?



First question; are you wanting to move these trees because you don't yet own the Eire property?
If you already own the property it would be better to simply plant trees where you want the orchard to be when you do make the move. Not only will they be set in their permanent home from the earliest possible time but they will be well established when you arrive.
When you grow a tree in any container, you are setting that tree up for two periods of stress, one is when you put it into the container and the second is when you place it in a permanent in the ground home.
You can prevent root bound conditions by lifting the root ball and trimming it once each year while it is in the container (this is a bonsai technique that works very well since the tree can grow and will form new branches after every root pruning).

If Eire laws prevent you from getting the trees to their new home for 30 days or more, who is going to water them during this time?
What happens if the laws prevent you from bringing trees in country at all?

As mentioned by others, not many trees have tap roots, that can be good but if your nut trees do have tap roots, they will be at risk of wind blow down for several years while they are spreading roots to hold them against those wind forces. (winds in Eire are similar to winds in Scotland).

Growing trees in containers is not hard to do but usually these are either nursery trees, waiting for a permanent home or they are dwarf trees that will live their entire lives in containers so they can be protected from harsh winter weather.
If you can, placing your orchard where it will end up at the beginning is always going to be their best bet for becoming the healthy tree they want to be.

Redhawk
 
natasha todd
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Redhawk,

We don't yet own the land in Ireland but we have a lot of community there and offers of land so we know what area it will be in and yes it's very similar to Scotland but has the advantage of having most drystone walls and many hedgerows still in tact so there are many opertunities for wind protection.

In cornwall (where our orchard nursery is) my partners family live on a small plot within an organic beef farm. We take care of their garden/dogs/rabbits/chickens for them when they are away so they would water our trees.

If the law changes the whole of Erin's Isle prevents import of trees then we gift an orchard to my mother in law and Henry who owns the beef farm. Henry has given us a vegetable patch, a pitch for our caravan, honey and help all for free over the past few years so adding to his tree collection would be nice anyway.

Do you think we should plan to move onto the land in winter when the trees are dormant?

The reason we aren't moving yet is because I'm doing my masters degree so I am tethered by that at the minute but I don't want to use all my current space just for annuals
 
Bryant RedHawk
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hau Natasha, first I want to wish you well on your masters degree, it's a great achievement.

If you can find the nursery tree bags (usually nurseries have these) They will last quite well for around 5 years, most are made from a non-woven nylon material.
If you go with "standard" nursery pots, try to get the largest that you can handle when loaded with soil and a tree, no sense in wishing later that you had done so.
It sounds like you will have a very nice place in Eire (are you going Republic or North?) some plant laws are different in each I'm told.

Plant import laws of Eire You might want to do some looking here, if you aren't up on Eire laws of importation of plants

I would definitely try to make a move with trees during the dormant season, that way you can get them in the ground so they wake up in their new home.

Redhawk
 
natasha todd
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Redhawk,
Thank you, I'm happy to be progressing to my masters and hope to do a PhD one day.

If I can't get the cloth bags to grow in I am considering those semi flexible plastic trugs with handles that come in about 10 sizes and colours.  I know people who have grown in them for years but unsure about how they would hold up to being moved. But I think the handles on those trugs would be useful.

We will be in the North of Ireland, Co.Down.  Currently it is part of the UK so I should have no trouble getting trees there from Cornwall but after Brexit who knows what will happen with the customs laws.

 
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natasha todd wrote:

William Bronson wrote: Fabric "buckets" might help by allievating the dread "root bound" condition that bucket grown plants suffer from.



I'll have a look in my area for cheap ones of those. I have few shops near me but I can get a bucket about the right size for £4ish. I wonder how much extra value the fabricsl ones would be worth to me long term?



I have bought the fabric bags from Walmart which are $0.50 each, they last a year or two of use, and even tried Larry Hall's rain gutter grow system with them. Here's a video showing him using the bags, but you can also air prune with plastic buckets by drilling holes throughout, and inserting landscape fabric to hold the potting mix in: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wyGp9KMzS9Q

His method involves a net cup sticking out of the bottom of the bag/bucket, sitting in a pipe or rain gutter that has a fixed height of water that's maintained by a float valve attached to a water source. So the water wicks upwards, which works best with potting mix. I hooked mine to 3 gravity fed rain barrels, so I could fill those up and then the plants are watered for a couple weeks without needing to refill right away. You could even attach a hose that is left on, but I would be concerned with any leaks using pressurized city water.
 
natasha todd
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Mark,
Just watched a few of his videos and I think I'll be binge watching them when I get home.
I actually do something similar with food grade buckets from my old work but I don't have them connected to a flow valve, I just pour grey water into the waterways,  his way seems much more controlled and would work even when I'm away
 
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