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Plant production: container options David A. Bainbridge Alliant International University Author: A Guide for Desert and Dryland Restoration 2007 Why containers Container planting is desirable because direct seeding may succeed only once every ten years in the desert (Cox et al., 1982)

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plant production container options

Plant production: container options

David A. Bainbridge

Alliant International University

Author: A Guide for Desert and Dryland Restoration 2007

why containers
Why containers
  • Container planting is desirable because direct seeding may succeed only once every ten years in the desert (Cox et al., 1982)
  • Good seedling survival and growth from containers can be expected even in areas with less than 3 inches [75 mm] of rain per year if plants are well prepared
  • And provided with protection from grazing and minimal water
deep containers
Deep containers
  • The choice of container type is guided by ecological, physical and bureaucratic issues
  • Use local site adapted seed
  • Deeper (taller) containers have often been more successful
  • The more uncertain the climate and the bureaucratic environment - the bigger the containers should be
container goals
Container goals
  • A container that will produce an acceptable seedling at the highest practical growing density, in the shortest time, at the lowest cost
  • Easy to handle and plant
  • Suited to the project, site environment, and planting and maintenance program
root development wanted
Root development wanted
  • Small shoots and vigorous roots are wanted
  • The root/shoot ratio should favor roots
  • Fertilizer management and pruning may be used to get good root/shoot ratios
  • The ten cubic inch plastic cell fits in a rack
  • The plastic holders are relatively fragile
  • I like to transfer cells to 5 gallon plastic bucket with a rack
plant bands
Plant bands
  • Plant bands are square tubes made with folded and glued plastic or foil coated cardstock
  • Plant Bands with holes can lead to root tangles
  • Plant bands can be pulled up over the plant in some cases for minimal root disturbance
half high
Half high

Smoothwall PVC 6” x 16”

If drainpipe or less shiny plastic is used it can be hard to get the plants out without disturbing roots

  • The bottom can be closed with a crossed wire and wire mesh disk or shadecloth or screen taped onto the pipe
  • This summer I am trying Tubex shrub plant protectors as containers. Pulling it up after planting would give a secure and effective protector
container suppliers
Container suppliers
  • Listed in book - one good source is Stuewe and Sons
  • Plant bands can be custom made at any size
other options
Other options
  • Citrus pots and tall containers
  • It is often good to use tapered pots upside down - this minimizes root disturbance on planting
tall pots
Tall pots
  • The Center for Arid Lands Restoration at Joshua Tree National Monument (JTN Park) pioneered the development of the Tall Pot made with 32 inch tall, 6 inch diameter PVC pipe (Apache 2729)
jelly roll
Jelly Roll
  • For some situations and species the best container is no container
  • Plants are grown in a loose soil mix, then rolled bareroot in a roll of absorbent paper or Kimtex
  • A cooler can hold hundreds of plants
other challenges
Other challenges
  • Timing - what do you do if contracts are delayed?
  • This field of cholla was finally plowed down - it became too hard to handle after a long delay
soil mix
Soil Mix
  • Many desert species have limited defenses against root rots, damping off, and other pathogens
  • They may also have high oxygen demand
  • Well drained soil mix (washed plaster sand is often used)
  • Experimental trials recommended before big grow-outs are attempted
  • The soil mix must fit the container, plant species, irrigation, and nursery operation
  • VA mycorrhizal fungi (P) and rhizobia (N) may be important for some larger disturbances such as mines and borrow pits
  • But on most sites native species will colonize roots
  • If needed collect inoculum on site and put in planting holes
  • Efficient and gentle handing and staging is important to reduce the cost of planting and improve survival
  • Contract growing may be more efficient than starting a local “nursery” which can be labor intensive and 24/7
cost per survivor
Cost per survivor
  • It depends on the year, the site, the planter and the species
  • With water and plant protection
  • An average survival and cost per survivor might be something like
    • Supercell 40% $15
    • Plant band 60% $10
    • Tall pot 95% $30
the right choice
The right choice
  • There is no one container or production system suitable for all conditions and species
  • Deep containers generally result in higher survival and better growth
  • A combination of small through large containers is often best
  • This might include 10% tall pots, 20% half highs, 30% plant bands and 40% supercells
out of season
Out of season
  • Growing plants out of season never seems to be worth it
  • Even when contracts come at the wrong time it is better to wait
  • Build in sufficient time to collect seed, prepare sites and grow healthy plants
everything has to be right
Everything has to be right!
  • Neglect of any of the key factors may lead to complete failure or very low survival
  • Plant protection rarely receives sufficient attention
  • Irrigation is important and rainwater harvesting can help
  • With careful preparation, good protection and some water -- excellent survival and growth may be achieved with minimal water use, limited maintenance, and low cost
the toughest conditions
The toughest conditions
  • Off road vehicle damage A-BDSP
  • Far from the road, 4wd access only
  • Pitting, seeding and container planting
  • Low budget - or the road could have been filled in