As much as I hate to admit it (and sometimes I don’t admit it at all) you CAN grow a tree without tree tubes. In fact, apparently there were trees long before there were tree tubes!
So, yes. Trees produce seeds. The seeds drop. Some find fertile soil and germinate. And some – a minute percentage of the original seeds that dropped – become mature trees.
The question is: Are they the trees you want, the ones that will fulfill your vision and management plan for your property? And are they where you want them?
The real issue isn’t can trees grow without tree tubes. The real issue is can you grow the trees you want, where you want them, when you want them, without tree tubes?
Again, the answer is yes. But at what cost of time and effort? There are three basic approaches to growing the trees you want where you want them:
1. Plant and hope. Fail. Plant and hope. Fail. Repeat until successful (or forever, whichever comes first).
If deer, rabbits, drought or competing vegetation wipe out your trees this year, some combination thereof will probably wipe them out again next year, and the year after that. Yes you could get the perfect confluence of events – a dip in the deer herd, just the right amount of rain, etc. – that one year you’ll be successful. Who has time to wait? Who has years to waste?
2. Plant and do everything necessary to provide deer browse protection and weed control without tree tubes.
This can work. You can cage your trees with wire mesh, or fence the entire area. You can lower a stovepipe over your seedlings and spray Roundup around each one. You can mark the location of your trees with stakes or flagging tape so you don’t accidentally mow them off. You can spray them with repellent.
You can do all of that and a) your trees will still be vulnerable to drought and moisture stress, b) they will still be exposed to rodent damage, and c) you’ll spend a lot more than if you used tree tubes.
3. Use Tree Tubes.
Browse protection. Moisture stress reduction. Location marking. Spray protection. Growth acceleration. The Tree Tube is the most all encompassing tool for tree establishment developed to date.
Philosophers ask the question: If a tree falls in a forest and no one’s there to hear it, does it make a noise?
Tree planters should ask: If a seed falls in the woods will it fulfill your management plan? Chances are it won’t. Or: If you plant a tree, will it fulfill your management plan? It will, but only if you give it everything it needs.
And the easiest, most cost effective (and, to my mind, most enjoyable) way to do that is to use tree tubes.