71" SunFlex® Greenhouse™ Grow Tubes with 84" Trunk-Builder™ Stakes - Buck Shield - 71-inch Tube Height Stops Deer Browse from Small & Large Deer
Deer are unquestionably the number one threat to nearly all wild-land and many urban tree plantings. In fact, when you're planting in "deer country" SunFlex may be the only hope a young seedling has. White-tailed deer, with an average height of 36-40 inches at the shoulder plus its neck and head length, can easily browse most any unprotected tree below a height of about 4½ ft tall.
Trying to grow unprotected hardwood seedlings in deer country is usually futile. Unprotected seedlings stand no chance against hungry mouths - see image on right showing the all-too-familiar fate of an unprotected seedling repeatedly browsed and unable to grow-up to escape deer and other critters.
Using shorter tube shelters less than about 4½ ft tall is also of little use as these tube heights expose the emerging tree right at, or close to the feeding level for most North American deer species. Once deer munch the top of the emerging tree it's natural form is irreparably harmed. The tree usually responds by robbing its root system to replace lost growth in multiple stems in an often futile effort to grow past the deer. The solution needed here is a real grow tube that's up to the challenge of protecting and growing your trees safely above the browse line. Buck Shield gets the job done the first time, every time.
The before and after images below show how easy it is for deer to browse seedlings that emerge from the top of shorter tubes (35-in tube shown below). The lesson here is, don't waste money trying to save money on tubes too short for the animal threat in your area. Instead, choose a Plantra grow tube tall enough to get the job done right the first time you plant. Don't let deer make a meal out of your seedlings. Choose the SunFlex "Buck Shield" Grow Tubes with a whopping 71 inches of height and grow your trees past the deer!
What Is The SunFlex System?
SunFlex is the only integrated grow tube system ever designed to grow your seedlings taller, straighter, and bigger - all in record time the way professional nurseries do! Only SunFlex combines superior grow tube design which works like a mini-greenhouse with super strong, rot-proof Trunk-Builder™ stakes that support and flex to build stem strength. The SunFlex System is the "growers choice" to get hardwood seedlings Survive, Thrive and Succeed, the first time, every time.
Born in a greenhouse, SunFlex wins the battle for seedling establishment in your field, yard or open space! SunFlex combines superior seedling protection and greenhouse growth benefits with trunk-building flexibility of a rugged, reinforced fiberglass support stake. Together, they grow your seedlings "naturally" inside a mini-greenhouse that "moves" with the wind to promote accelerated but balanced growth both inside and outside the grow tube.
Why Should SunFlex Matter To You?
That's simple. Trees grown inside SunFlex have the highest survival rates and healthy, balanced growth from roots to shoots all to make your planting a success the first time, every time! The key to the SunFlex System is its unique ability to grow the seedling "naturally" inside its state-of-the-science greenhouse that "moves" with the wind to promote accelerated and balanced growth. Traditional tree tubes and tree-shelters do not optimize PAR sunlight and rely on old-tech, rigid staking systems (made of oak, wooden lath, metal and bamboo) that inhibit natural stem growth and strength. SunFlex, on the other hand, protects and grows! By promoting optimal growth inside and outside the grow tube you might say that SunFlex plays below and above the tube rim!
The SunFlex Seedling System works for you and your hardwood seedlings two growth-maximizing and money-saving ways:
1. Faster, balanced growth from advanced SunFlex greenhouse technology means bigger, healthier trees.....faster!
2. Trunk-Building strength, ease of use and long field life are engineered into every Trunk-Builder™ support stake.
SunFlex® Greenhouse™ Grow Tubes and Trunk-Builder™ Stakes are the ultimate seedling establishment system. Together, they'll grow your seedlings faster, bigger and healthier below and above the tube rim!
SunFlex Greenhouse Grow Tubes - Buck Shield
Trunk-Builder™ Fiberglass Support Stakes
Plantra Greenhouse Grow Tube Guidelines: SunFlex Grow Tubes for Trees
Sunlight Note: SunFlex is a greenhouse designed for a wide range of sunlight conditions which receive a minimum of 6-8 hours of uninterrupted sunlight per day during the growing season. The image at right illustrates where to plant your seedlings if using a grow tube. Avoid planting seedlings and using any grow tube, tree-tube or tree-shelter in deep shade. Plants, especially small seedlings, need sunlight and plenty of it. Planting under established and shady tree canopies increases root competition for young seedlings that would grow better in a space of their own.
Please use care in choosing planting locations where your new seedlings receive enough sunlight and other resources for optimal growth. Plan for their needs the day of planting and for the seasons to come. If you are unsure how much sunlight your seedlings need or the best locations for planting, consult with your local nursery professional, preferably the nursery that supplies your trees.
Choosing the correct grow tube height - Any discussion of grow tube (and tree-shelter or tree tube) height needs to factor in two things from the get-go; deer browse and minimum desired branch height.
1. Protect against deer browse or damage from other animals - Deer are unquestionably the number one threat to nearly all wild land, and today, many urban tree plantings. White-tailed deer, with an average height of 36-40 inches at the shoulder plus its neck length, can easily browse any unprotected tree below about 4½ ft tall. That's why SunFlex 58-in Doe Shield Grow Tubes are the bare minimum, and 71-in tall Buck Shield Grow Tubes are the preferred heights to protect against deer browse. For severe deer pressure a 71-in height should be considered mandatory.
Planting a seedling in a grow tube (or tree-shelter or tree tube) height below 4½ ft in deer country is a recipe for failure because it puts the emerging tree top right at or close to the feeding level for all North American deer species. Once deer munch the tree top emerging from a shorter tube the tree's natural form is irreparably harmed. The tree almost always responds by pushing multiple leaders trying to replace what was lost to get at least one stem to grow past the deer.
As the tree matures, multiple leaders produce weakened main stems caused by narrow branch angles that become part of the trunk (provided that the tree ever does make it past the deer). Stems with incorporated narrow branch angles are prone to crack and snap under even moderate wind-loads as they mature. To fully protect your trees and their natural, healthy form, don't skimp on grow tube height if deer are in your area. See the chart below to match grow tube height to deer and other animal threats.
2. Determine the minimum branching height - Deer are the primary reason 58-in Doe Shield and 71-in Buck Shield Grow Tubes are necessary to protect young broad leaf (deciduous) trees. But these taller grow tubes have the added benefits of promoting taller and straighter stems and branch-free trunks below the height of the tube. This is important for both wild land and urban jungle plantings. Low branches are magnets for deer to browse on and raccoons to climb on to get higher into the tree. In urban plantings these same low branches can easily be damaged by landscape equipment or even by children climbing on young trees not strong enough to support their weight.
A good rule of thumb is, the taller the grow tube, the better the tree form. The exception to this rule involves dwarf trees that may not grow beyond 6ft or so. Dwarf variety fruit and nut trees have lower branch scaffold heights and require shorter grow tubes to allow lower side branching. Consult with your nursery about how tall your trees will grow to make the best choice for grow tube height. Generally speaking the guidelines below are good yardsticks for choosing grow tube height:
Note: If planting on hillsides, a taller grow tube may be necessary to protect on up-slope side.
Installing The SunFlex Grow Tube System
Step 1 - Plant seedling
Always follow your nursery supplier's guidelines on when, where & how best to plant your new seedlings.
Step 2 - Prepare the seedling for tubing.
If your seedlings have side (lateral) branches please remove them carefully using sharp pruning shears before installing the grow tube (see figure 1). Be sure to avoid cutting the terminal leader and when you are finished your seedling should have a single stem with only leaves or very tiny branches left on the side.
NOTE: Do NOT bend side branches to squeeze or otherwise force them into the grow tube. Doing so will encourage weak branching and other problems as the tree matures.
Step 3 - Install Grow Tube and Support Stake
A. Position stake 1.5 - 2 inches from the seedling with ground-line marker towards the ground. Use Plantra SunFlex Stake Driver for stakes 47in and taller (36in stakes can be driven with a soft mallet) and drive stake until ground-line marker reaches the soil surface (see figure 2).
B. Pop grow tube open by flattening tube its entire length in opposite direction as packed. Next, slide the grow tube over the top of the stake and down to the ground carefully guiding both the seedling and the SunFlex stake entirely inside the grow tube (see figure 2).
NOTE: This method of installing support stake inside the grow tube is recommended for SunFlex stakes only.
The SunFlex Stake has a rounded top to avoid stem abrasion and a small diameter to avoid crowding the seedling inside the grow tube. Other stake materials should not be installed inside grow tubes as their sharp edges could damage stems that come in contact with the stake top and have large diameters which will occupy important growing volume inside the tube the tree should have.
Steps 3C-3E (see figure 3)
C. Position the grow tube so a flat side of the stake is snug against the side of the tube and in line between the paired tie holes.
D. Firmly tap the top of the tube to seat the tube base into the soil. Mound additional soil around the tube base as needed to reduce entry by rodents. When completed, the tip of the SunFlex stake should be at least 1-2 inches above the top tie hole and below the top of the grow tube.
IMPORTANT: Firmly tap the top of the tube to seat the tube base into the soil. Mound additional soil around tube base as needed to reduce entry by rodents.
E. Attach the grow tube to the stake with 3 Twist Lock™ Soft Wire Ties included. Begin by inserting 1 Twist Lock™ tie through a top tie-hole from the outside, guiding it around the stake and back out the other paired tie hole. Twist both tie ends firmly so that the tube and stake are tight together to prevent the grow tube from sliding up from wind or contact by animals. Repeat steps for middle and bottom tie holes.
TIP: Bend the Twist Lock™ tie about 2 inches from one end to make a "curl." Use the curled end to thread the tie into one tie hole, around the stake and out the other tie hole.
Step 4 - Install bird exclusion mesh top (see figure 4)
All SunFlex Grow Tubes 4ft tall and taller come with exclusion mesh netting intended to discourage birds from entering the tubes.
A Word About Weed Control
Weeds and grasses steal light, water, and nutrients from your seedlings and provide cover for stem-girdling rodents. Every square foot of soil is capable of producing a limited amount of biomass growth. By controlling weeds, growth potential is maximized. Plantra Water Saver™ Weed Mats stop weeds in their tracks and provide a safe alternative to chemicals.
Grow Tube After-Care
SunFlex Grow Tubes are designed to last for years until your trees are big enough to make it on their own. In the first season or two, new leaves will form on the stem inside the tube as the seedling grows. Please do not remove these green leaves - they are important to fuel the tree early growth.
During the first season(s) be sure that the bird exclusion mesh tops remain in place on all tubes taller than 3ft. If any mesh tops are missing before seedlings grow within 6 inches of the tube tops please call our Grower Success Team at Plantra and we'll send you replacements free of charge. Once seedlings get to the top of the tube the mesh tops are no longer needed and should be removed.
To keep your trees fully protected beyond the first growing seasons, do not remove SunFlex Grow Tubes until the tree trunk has grown to the size of the tube diameter. If you're running behind checking on your trees, SunFlex Grow Tubes are perforated along two sides their entire length, allowing the tube to split open once the trunk diameter grows bigger than the diameter of the tube.
Waiting until the stem grows to the size of the tree tube diameter ensures that your tree is "wind-firm" and ready to support itself entirely. Doing so also allows the tube to help protect the main trunk against damage by antler rub, gnawing rodents or mechanical injury. Once your trees outgrow the tube diameter the tubes and support stakes should be removed from the field. SunFlex grow tubes can be recycled and SunFlex stakes can be reused again and again.
How SunFlex Works For Your Seedlings
The SunFlex System combines superior greenhouse technology with trunk building support in a one-of-a-kind seedling establishment method that works the first time, every time. Providing seedling and tree protection from the time of planting, nurturing rapid & sustained growth, and building a solid foundation for long-term success is a lot to ask but SunFlex alone gets this job done. Let's dig deeper to see how SunFlex succeeds where you need it most....in the field.
It All Starts With The Sun...
The SunFlex name says it best because, like a greenhouse, it all starts with the SUN! Everything we build into SunFlex respects what is most important to grow your plants healthy, safe and fast.
The image to the right is a basic overview of photosynthesis as it relates to SunFlex. The critical inputs are sunlight, CO2 and water and each impacts how and why SunFlex is the only true "Green-House Grow Tube" for trees and the best choice for your seedlings.
SunFlex Grows Your Seedlings Fast & Healthy.....Naturally!
The image to the left illustrates how SunFlex works in your field to deliver unmatched growth in a safe, seedling-friendly, grow tube design.
Proprietary greenhouse technology filters and diffuses sunlight for easier use by leaf photo-receptors to achieve efficient & superior plant growth. Managing sunlight in this way also helps keep temperatures from becoming too hot inside the tube.
Plantra's exclusive Cross-Flow™ venting achieves two important goals. First, it boosts CO2 recharge for optimal growth. CO2 is easily limited inside unvented, traditional or older style "tree tubes" and "tree-shelters." Limiting CO2 causes a bottle-neck for growth. Cross-Flow venting also encourages cold air movement inside the tube during the fall to encourage proper dormancy. Unvented tubes can inhibit proper dormancy and cause what is commonly referred to as winter "die-back."
SunFlex Shock Prevention Zone (right) blocks 100% of drying winds that can kill seedlings before they ever get going.
SunFlex's twin-wall construction and proprietary pigment system also filters and diffuses sunlight to reduce leaf stress and increase photosynthetic efficiency. Diffused light through the tube walls blankets the leaf at all angles. Studies show diffuse light increases photosynthesis by 20% over direct beam light.
The reddish tube walls stimulate the plant's phytochrome pigments to trigger sun-adapted shoot growth with strong roots. Together, these greenhouse benefits help seedlings survive the transition from the nursery to full establishment in the field.
SunFlex Acclimation Zone (left) gently prepares the plant for conditions outside the tube with a combination of dappled shade, limited direct beam sunlight and controlled air movement to stimulate leaf and stem thickening.
Plantra's exclusive Cross-Flow™ ventilation increases growth by replenishing vital CO2 consumed in photosynthesis and prevents excess moisture build-up to avoid fungal development and encourage proper dormancy in the fall.
SunFlex Transition Zone (right) helps accomplish two things. First, your tree's natural phototropism responds to the combination of our proprietary color pigments in the tube side walls and to blue light streaming in from the tube top. This response channels stem growth up and out of the tube while suppressing large, undesirable lateral branches down inside the tube.
Second, this zone, provides safe trunk support your sapling needs to grow into a straight and strong tree. The key to growing the strongest trunks begins with SunFlex Trunk-Builder support stakes which flex in the wind naturally. This movement triggers thigmomorphogenesis responses that promote stem thickening and stronger root growth. The result is stronger, wind-firm stems and trunks in record time.
The engineering and benefits described above make SunFlex Grow Tubes the "grower's greenhouse choice" when it comes to rapid seedling establishment, the first time, every time. To optimize the SunFlex advantage that begins in the grow tube you'll need Trunk Builder support stakes to finish the job.
Trunk Builder™ Stakes Are The Backbone Of The SunFlex System
We've said it before but it's worth repeating......."Your grow tube installation or tree training project is only as good as the stake you choose for the job!" That's why we engineered Trunk Builder stakes to stand-up straight on the toughest sites from wild lands and commercial ag fields to high traffic boulevards and serious home gardens. Trunk Builder is a game changer when it comes to growing stronger, healthier tree stems with superior strength all with a stake that lasts until your trees are on their own. But Trunk Builder doesn't stop there. It's rugged construction is super easy to use whether your planting crews are professionals or weekend warriors. Engineered strong but lightweight and with the only ground line offered for grow tube stakes, Trunk Builder slashes time and labor costs so you get the job done fast, right and within budget. And when your trees are on their own Trunk Builder can be used again and again.Still not convinced? Let's "dig deeper" to see why SunFlex Trunk Builder stands above the rest.Rule #1 - Stake Flexibility + Memory = Stronger stems and trunks! Plant biologists have long understood the role that stem movement contributes to strength and stem caliper. Stem movement caused by mechanical influences from wind or pushing and bumping by animals or people triggers chemical responses in the plant including "thigmomorphogenesis." Thigmomorphogenesis (Thigma meaning to "touch") alters growth patterns to respond to wind and mechanical influences that cause the growing tree to move back and forth. The result is growth leading to stockier and stronger stems.To get stockier, stronger and natural stem growth you need a support stake that moves with the tree. That's where Trunk Builder stands alone in a forest of rigid stakes made of wood, bamboo and metal that were once the only options to support grow tubes, tree tubes and tree-shelters. The image to the right illustrates how Trunk Builder "flexes" above ground to move with your trees as they grow and promote stronger stems....naturally! And unlike hollow plastic plumbing pipe which can bend and stay bent, Trunk Builder's fiber-reinforced design bends when the wind blows and snaps back straight when it stops.Rule #2 - Rigid wood and bamboo stakes don't flex and don't last.Wood and bamboo are strong building materials important to construction. However, when driven into the ground and subjected wind or soil moisture these stakes are poor choices to support grow tubes, tree tubes and tree shelters or to train trees with the strongest stems. It's no secret that these materials do not flex which, as we've discussed, inhibits optimal growth necessary for strong stems and trunks. What might not be known is how short-lived wood and bamboo are in the field. Natural materials like and bamboo degrade when exposed to rain, microbial activity, and temperatures conducive to freezing and cracking or conditions that promote decay and rot.Many wood and bamboo materials have been used in the past with disappointing results. One of the most often used materials, because of its low cost, is Pine lath. Unfortunately lath stakes (often used by surveyors for temporary marking) are one of the poorest choices because it often rots in the first 12 months (see image below of rotted and broken lath stake). Even mighty oak stakes rot-off, break or warp (see image on to right) in the first several seasons often within just two years. And it's worse for bamboo. Even stout 1-inch diameter bamboo splinters when driven into the ground and often fails to last into the second season before rotting and breaking off. Considering grow tubes need to remain in place for 7 years (or even longer in many cases) wood or bamboo is clearly no match for job.
The image sequence below illustrates what can happen when wood and bamboo stakes are subjected to soil moisture, wind or contact by animals. Because wood and bamboo are rigid, two outcomes are the most common. The first, shown in the image on the left, is for the stake to "scallop" the soil below ground as the stake moves back and forth. This result is common with soft soils and often leads to the stake base creating a hole that grows. Over time, the displaced soil can no longer anchor the stake and eventually (often very quickly) the stake fails and the tube and tree often end up on the ground where the tree dies. In the second outcome, shown in image on right, the stake simply rots and snaps off completely causing the tube and the tree to end up on the ground. Rigid Stake "Scalloping" In Soil Rigid Stake Breaking
Rule #3 - Engineering on purpose, for a purpose is the way to go!If your trees are worth planting, they're worth Planting Like You Mean It and this means using tools designed to do the work. Say good-bye to materials that don't work or were never intended to be a part of your planting. SunFlex Trunk Builder is engineered and "purpose-built" for the job of supporting grow tubes and training tree trunks. Designed to be 110% the strength of 1/2 inch round fiberglass rod Trunk Builder is the new benchmark for field performance. Unlike Trunk Builder, rigid materials like wood, bamboo, metal rebar, t-posts and electrical conduit were designed for very different uses none of which involved supporting grow tubes and growing healthy, stouter stems and trunks.....naturally. The same goes for flimsy, hollow plastic tubes and PVC pipe. These plastic materials were deigned for much different uses and while they can bend, they have little or no "flex memory" and can stay bent.
The backbone of SunFlex Trunk Builder was born in geometry and reinforced with super strong e-glass fibers. The 3-sided delta profile (see image above and on left) was engineered to deliver tremendous strength to weight ratio with rapid "flex-memory" that bends with the wind and returns to straight when the wind stops. Trunk Builder won't rot and is virtually unbreakable. Tired of of everything from wind to animals snapping off your oak and bamboo stakes at ground level? So were we. That's why we engineered Trunk Builder tough enough to stand up to the toughest winds to even to ole' mossy-back when fall buck antler rub season is in full swing. And unlike pencil rod or flimsy hollow plastic stakes which can bend under a load and stay bent, Trunk Builder returns upright to keep growing your trees up straight and strong.Rule #4 - Ease of use matters!Grow tube stake installation should be fast, easy, and accurate. That's why we engineered Trunk Builder with grower in mind. Trunk Builder was designed with it's own stake driver to help the narrow profile slice through tough ground that can stop wood and hollow plastic stakes in their tracks. Whether you're planting 5 trees or 5,000, Trunk Builder stakes drive like a dream saving you time and money getting the stake into the ground fast. Trunk Builder is also matched to SunFlex Grow Tube heights and comes complete with the only ground line indicator on the market which means no more guessing about how deep to drive the stake (see image below).As you can see, SunFlex is more than just a "tree tube" or "tree-shelter" with a stake. SunFlex is a "System" with state-of-the-art green-house grow tube technology with a trunk building backbone. Put SunFlex to work in your next seedling tree planting and get growing the way the pros do.