Why We Use RootMaker®

Through extensive research, we’ve found RootMaker® containers to be the best system for cultivating healthy roots. And healthy roots are the surest way to healthy plants. We’ve been using RootMaker® at Hill Country Natives for ten years now. In the four color photos below, the plant on the left was grown in a conventional container, while the plant on the right was grown in a RootMaker®.

The RootMaker® containers that we use at Hill Country Natives were developed by Dr. Carl Whitcomb, Ph.D., who is a leading authority in commercial plant production and horticultural research, and is the nations’s (and maybe the world’s) leading expert on woody plant production.

Native “woodies” want to put a root or two deep into the soil, to assure sufficient moisture for top growth. In a standard container, this results in an inferior root systems, or even root circling, with long-term damage to the plant. Consequently, RootMaker® containers are essential to our efforts to produce a superior root system.

“Mother Nature Didn’t Provide for Transplanting”

Here’s what Dr. Whitcomb has to say on the subject of taproots and cultivating healthy secondary roots in container growing:

” A few years after son, Andy, returned to work with me here at Lacebark Research Farm, during a discussion about roots and transplanting, he remarked, ‘Mother Nature did not provide for transplanting!’ What an insightful statement: true, direct and to the point. …

“When a seed germinates in nature, the fundamental objective is to extend the primary or taproot as deep and as fast as possible in order to secure the young plant in place and access moisture, critical to survival. Every seed of every species has this same objective. With some species, the dominance of the taproot is short-lived. With trees and some other species, taproot dominance may continue for a number of years. As long as the tip of the taproot remains active, development of secondary branch root production is suppressed. However, in the long term anchorage of a tree and gathering of water and nutrients to support energy production in leaves —the secondary branch root system in the top 10 to 12 inches of soil is far more important.

“Most of this is generally known and accepted. But what is still mostly unknown or ignored is the practical and economical way to skip the multi-year dominance of a taproot and go directly to the much more supportive, multi-branched secondary root system.”

The quest for a practical, economical way to skip the multi-year stage of taproot dominance and go directly to the supportive root system is what led to the development of the RootMaker® method. Mother Nature didn’t provide for transplanting. Transplanting is a strictly human endeavor. Fortunately we have RootMaker® to help us!

RootMaker® is dedicated to creating fibrous root systems. The products are designed to promote root branching at every phase of production. The result is the ultimate fibrous root system. A more fibrous root system means a greater surface area and translates to greater efficiency in the absorption of water and nutrients; an increase in growth rate, establishment, and vigor; a higher transplant survivability; and ultimately, superior performance for the gardener.

RootMaker® containers are designed to direct roots toward an opening in the container. The first root to reach an opening is usually the tap root. Once the tap root reaches one of the bottom openings, the tip dehydrates and stops growing. When this occurs, secondary roots that are more horizontal in growth habit will form. These secondary roots soon reach the side openings, dehydrate the root tips, create tertiary branching, and so on, until the entire container is filled with very efficient feeder roots.

Dr. Whitcomb offers the following testimonial on our process of cultivating healthy tree root systems:

“What you are proposing, that is, taking bareroot trees and placing them in containers to recover and develop a superior root system, works. I have done this a variety of times in experiments with everything from dwarf pines, roses, to fruit trees to quite large bare root trees off the west coast. Because of the bareroot harvesting process, typically the root system is not very good, with only a few long roots. In several studies we cut the roots back from a little to a lot to see what would happen. … Using good containers, mix, watering practices, etc. if you plant bareroot trees in containers in late winter — and it is important to have this planting done well before bud swell — you should have excellent trees … by August or September. Then planting a tree with now a much improved root system in the field, will establish quickly and more likely perform.”

Photo shows root systems with RootMaker® (left), and without (right).

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