Tubestock plants: a guide to plant care and mass planting
Commercial landscapers and revegetation project managers have long understood the value in tubestock plants. Choosing to plant with tubestock removes the removes the risk associated with relying solely on direct seeding, they demonstrate a level of quality assurance for the product, and already appear more established, reducing the chance of trampling. Of course, purchasing trays of tubestock is also cost effective than buying more mature plants, and they can quickly catch up to given the right attention and care.
However, while tubestock plants are popular, there are also some popular misconceptions around proper care and how to plant tubestock.
Plant selection is arguably THE most important step in determining success for a project. For any revegetation project, this is fairly straightforward, however, the use of provenance-correct plants should be considered for best results.
For landscape projects, remember to consider the soil pH. With so much urban sprawl along the coastline, soils are often more alkaline than one might expect. Selecting the correct plants to suit the soil conditions is an important step in successful mass planting.
Order in advance. Availability of tubestock plants is seasonal as the majority of stock is produced for winter planting projects (and sells through rapidly). Consider having stock grown to order (at least 6 months in advance).
On quality, consider if the nursery you are buying from is a NIASA certified nursery. NIASA sets nursery standards and therefore ensures that best growing practices are followed.
The term “tubestock” is used widely within the industry, so it’s important to clarify what it is you are actually going to receive. Tubestock can refer to plant containers anywhere from 40mm in diameter up to about 70mm, usually round or square, so buyer beware!
Plantrite forestry tubes are an industry standard for professional landscape and revegetation projects.
o Our forestry tubes are square in shape with root trainers down each side (limits root spiralling inside the container, which is something common with small round tubes).
o 120mm deep, ensuring a nice, deep root system and extra water holding capacity – both of which are essential for establishment success
Cell trays also come in a variety of configurations, so it’s important that you take the time to understand what you will be receiving. Some tube stock nurseries may quote you ‘tubestock’ and supply plants in cell trays.
o 63 cell trays are currently one of the best trays on the market
o These are square cells with root trainers to limit root spiralling
o 90mm deep. Twice the depth of some other cell trays on the market
While plants in cell trays are usually a more affordable option for large scale projects, not all species will be available as cell trays due to their different growing methods or habits. Select plants which establish themselves quickly and are required in volume for purchasing in cell trays, (such as grasses like Juncus sp. and Ficinia).
If you are dry planting, plant tubestock between June and early September to maximise winter rains and in the cooler months to help establish robust plants for the upcoming year.
If irrigated, plants can be planted all year round. Tubestock will quickly establish in the warmer months with adequate watering.
Plant tubestock with a slow-release fertiliser under each plant for best results. Consider the benefits of ‘deep stem planting’ (particularly for dry planting jobs), however it’s worth researching the suitability based on your species selection and specific site/project.
Ensure the plant is ‘firmed in’ after planting; removing any air pockets from around the root ball
Do tubestock plants need tree guards?
Tree guards can be beneficial for protecting tubestock against pests such as rabbits, however, if you don’t have a rabbit problem, consider giving them a miss. Quite often landscapers use tree guards for aesthetic reasons to help communicate to people that they’re trying to grow new plants and not to damage them. However, we also must consider the environmental impact of plastic tree guards; are they actually worth it? Non plastic alternatives are now available and may offer a more sustainable result.
Soft plastic tree guards also often blow in on the plant and damage it and have been known to cook new plants to death. This can add a lot of unnecessary cost to the project. Consider planting more plants to compensate – it will be more economical.
What does success for the project look like?
Dry planting projects
The success of a project when dry planting tubestock should be established in the initial design process. Quite often we see specifications from landscape architects that require a success/establishment rate of 80% or more, which is a common broad approach.
Get specific. Set a target for a set number of plants to establish per square metre instead and work to that goal. Be prepared to follow up the following year with ‘in-fill planting’, if you don’t hit your target from plants becoming established over the first winter.
If tubestock plants are adequately irrigated throughout their establishment over summer they will thrive, and losses will be minimal.
Tubestock-sized plants will often establish quicker than those planted from larger containers. It’s certainly an option worth considering where immediate visual impact is not essential.
Plantrite’s recent Optus Stadium project is a prime example of a large scale planting project which was established with tube stock. The stock was supplied and installed over a 2 year period before its opening. The plants quickly established, giving the landscape a finished, full look prior to its opening.
If you would like to discuss your mass planting project with our team, feel free to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org