Red Fern Farm
Page Last Updated: March 14, 2008
A Word about Tree Shelters
Tree shelters, seedling protector tubes (or whatever other name they may go by) have become very popular tools for managing tree plantings in recent years. Like any good tool, they must be used wisely to be effective.
Tree shelters come in three general types: solid plastic, coarse mesh, and fine mesh. Each type has its own advantages and disadvantages.
Solid tree shelters provide protection from browsing by deer and rabbits, conserve moisture, and accelerate tree growth by creating a "mini greenhouse effect" around the tree. In many cases they increase survival of tree plantings. Many trees, especially fast growing trees, respond well to these shelters. Persimmons, pawpaws and pecans do well in solid tree shelters. Small pawpaw seedlings need 2-foot tall solid tree shelters for at least two years. Chestnuts tend to do very poorly in solid tree shelters. Solid tree shelters usually kill chestnuts unless the trees are already growing rapidly before application.
If solid tree shelters are used on any grafted tree, the shelter needs to be raised
1 1/2 feet off the ground by the end of the growing season, and kept that way all winter using a chunk of wood to keep it from sliding back down. Another disadvantage of solid tree shelters is they are havens for mice and wasps, and death traps for small birds, all of which may be very damaging to the young seedling. Solid tree shelters are the most expensive, often prohibitively so.
Coarse mesh tree shelters are the least expensive, about 1/10th the price of the same sized solid shelter. They provide browse protection but no "greenhouse effect". Coarse mesh shelters work best for trees with strong apical dominance (tendency to maintain a central leader, growing straight and tall). Branches of spreading trees like heartnuts and Chinese chestnut grow out through the sides of these shelters and become vulnerable to browsing. They are also difficult to apply because the branches catch on the mesh.
Fine Mesh tree shelters have openings about 1/8th of an inch in diameter - too small for most trees to grow out the sides. The trees can only grow up and out the top. As with coarse mesh shelters, these provide only protection from browse, and no "greenhouse effect" or critter problems. I have found the use of fine mesh shelters 5 feet tall to be the only effective way to grow chestnuts in the presence of heavy deer pressure. I have had some chestnuts grow 7 feet the first season after application of a 5-foot tall fine mesh tree shelter. Fine mesh shelters must be solidly staked from top to bottom. They are 1/4 to 1/3 less expensive than solid shelters.
There are many suppliers of tree shelters. The most popular are:
Tubex & Fine mesh
2371 Waters Drive
Mendota Heights, MN 55120-1163
Forestry suppliers, Inc.
P.O. Box 8397
Jackson, MS 39284-8397
2508 Northland Dr.
Mendota Heights, MN 55120
3180 W. 250 N.
W. Lafayette, IN 47906