Green Horizons

Volume 4, Number 2
Summer 1999

Good old duct tape

Dan Schmoker is an Illinois regional forester, Walnut Council board member and duct tape fancier. In a recent Illinois Chapter of the Walnut Council newsletter, Dan offers up some good uses for his favorite product.

Dan Schmoker

If you do corrective pruning on seedlings or saplings, you can add another use to your duct tape list, says Dan. Obtaining a central leader in a young tree is very important if your goal is timber products. Walnut, especially, needs some help.

1. Choose the best leader from the ungainly mass of branches at the top of the problem tree.

2. Straighten the best limb to within 5 inches from the vertical (plumb) using your hands. If this seems to work, go to step 3. If not, try again or go on to the next tree.

3. Pull up one, two or three other limbs to support the chosen branch. Various angles and points of attachment will make the new central leader more or less straight. Now, using your third hand, get out your 2-inch duct tape.

4. While still holding the branch arrangement in place, wrap the stems together using three wraps of tape (3 layers) at one or two strategic locations. If the side limbs are competing with the new central stem, cut back the side limbs 6 to 12 inches. Be careful, though, you have just begun to improve this tree. You will need to return for additional corrective pruning and many episodes of side branch pruning.

5. Step back, admire your duct tape job. If it didn't work well, go to step 6. If it looks okay, you are done.

6. Severely prune the tree at 1 inch above ground level. This is called coppicing which is best done from November through June. After several feet of new growth from sprouts has occurred, choose the best sprout and cut the others close to the stump. Now the leftover duct tape can be used for straightening the new sprout.

A word of caution on duct tape buying: Choose duct tape with high tack (gripping ability), good adhesive and with cotton cloth as the base. In other words, the bargain bin variety shouldn't be used. Avoid duct tape with nylon or polyester fiber since this may girdle or injure the tree when it doesn't deteriorate. The cotton tape should fall off within 12 months.