One of the “knocks” on tree tubes you often read is that the seedlings grown inside them have spindly stems. Having worked with tree tubes continuously for more than 21 years, I have a great deal of perspective, and can address the many facets of that seemingly simple comment/concern.
1) In the early days of small diameter, unvented tree tubes secured to inflexible oak stakes, yes we did grow trees with thinner stems relative to their height. I would argue that this was less of a “problem” than a “side effect.” Better to have a thin stemmed tree (that would quickly thicken its stem after emerging from the tube) than to have no tree at all!
The bigger issue was that tree tube users tended to remove the tree tubes too soon, before they had fulfilled their secondary function of supporting the young tree until its stem had thickened and it had become self supporting. This was more a failure of instruction and information than a shortcoming with the product itself.
2) These days, with advances and improvements both in tree tube design and in tree tube stake materials, we’re growing trees that are much closer in growth allocation to open-grown trees. In other words, today’s large diameter, vented tree tubes are producing trees with much thicker, more tapered stems – especially when coupled to a flexible pvc stake.
Larger tube diameters allow leaves to fully expand for optimal light absorption. Ventilation allows air flow through the tubes, providing gentle leaf movement that “tricks” the tree into “thinking” it’s growing in the open. The swaying of the pvc tree tube stakes in the wind triggers “seismo stress” – shaking – that triggers ethylene production which in turn triggers the secondary growth responses (stem thickness, stem taper, root development) necessary for a tree to become self supporting in an open field.
In other words, with Wilson’s Vented Tubex Combitube Tree Tubes & pvc stakes for tree tubes, we’re now able to play “mind games” with trees – so they grow more like open grown trees than the old treeshelter trees… except a whole lot faster, with a lot less work, and without getting munched by deer!