Quantity and quality

Supplement - 2019 problem solvers // containers

RootMaker containers improve root health and increase success rates of tough to root plants.

April 5, 2019

Brian Decker, president of Decker’s Nursery, believes in the power of the RootMaker system. On Feb. 25, he posted a video to his Ohio nursery’s Facebook page in which he showed the strength of the root system these containers create. In the video, Brian removes an Inkarho rhododendron from its 1-gallon RootMaker pot and swings it over his head several times. Despite the windmill motion, the plant’s thick, fibrous roots held the potting mix together and he was able to re-pot it easily. We spoke to him about how these containers help him solve problems.

One-year-old rhododendrons grafted on Inkarho understocks at Decker’s Nursery.

Which products do you use at Decker’s Nursery and how do you use them?

We’ve had a lot of experience with the 32-cell tray for propagation. We use 1-gallon RootMaker pots for grafted Inkarho rhododendron liner production and some other root-sensitive plants. The pots plus excellent genetics have eliminated the need for chemical application to prevent root diseases. We use 3-gallon pots for some tree liner production such as Japanese maple liners. We are trialing the 15-gallon pots this spring for container tree production.

How does the RootMaker tray help with propagation problems?

The RootMaker tray gives us an added tool in our arsenal when it comes to difficult-to-root plants. For a hardwood evergreen cutting of a notoriously difficult arborvitae, increased oxygen levels and higher rooting percentages in RootMaker trays basically took an unprofitable crop and made it profitable. That successfully solved the problem of getting the plants to physically exist. It doesn't matter how cheap you can get the cuttings if you don't get any of them to live.

15 gallon

How can RootMaker containers help improve health in root-disease-prone plants?

The combination of air circulation holes in the side of the pots plus the design to route the plant root tips toward these air pruning ports accomplishes these goals. Whether it's those Inkarho rhododendrons or azaleas or other kinds of Ericaceous plants, or varieties that are not as strong rooted, those plants definitely have a decrease in root disease because of the oxygen concentration. We have dramatically decreased that in the case of rhododendrons. We simply don't put anything like Subdue (Maxx, a fungicide) or other things on there to prevent root diseases, because we think between better genetics and better pot engineering, we can do this. If you can eliminate the expression of Phytophora out of a rhododendron crop without having to spray, that oftentimes can help offset the cost of the containers.

How can RootMaker products improve root quality in container tree growing operations?

I'm no longer a big shade tree grower, but if you're not getting your liners and establishing them or growing them in a container like RootMaker, you should be. If you brought in an Autumn Blaze maple and you buy them in in these types of containers and start the root systems off correctly, you take plants that are genetically prone to girdling roots and you not only make them grow faster, but you also greatly reduce the chances that they can develop these root problems later on in life.

There's no sense growing a Little Princess spirea in a RootMaker container, but there sure is a good reason for growing a Northern red oak or an Autumn Blaze maple or variety of honey locust in those kinds of containers so that when you do line them out in the field, you have 300 feeder roots moving out away from that root crown instead of 10.

When you go to dig that plant ball-and-burlap as a caliper tree down the road, as a two or three-inch or four-inch tree, if you've given that tree that kind of start, you're going to greatly improve its transplant success. Say you're digging 5,000 ball-and-burlap trees and you increase transplant success by 10 percent. It's not brain surgery to figure out whether or not it was better to spend up front on the science of the root system if you have that kind of improvement on the back end.

For more: www.rootmaker.com