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  • Author or Editor: Wendy S. Klooster x
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Container production of landscape conifers, including pot-in-pot (PIP) production, is increasing relative to field production in the northern United States. Because much of the research on PIP has been performed in the southern United States, this study focused on characterizing the growth and physiological response of PIP-grown conifers to fertilizer and substrate to improve production for growers in northern climates. In May 2006, we potted 90 seedlings each of Abies fraseri, Picea glauca var. densata, P. pungens glauca, and Pinus strobus into 11.2-L containers. Substrate consisted of pine bark (B) and peatmoss (PM) in ratios of 90:10, 80:20 or 70:30 (vB:vPM). Trees were top-dressed with controlled-release fertilizer (15N–4P–10K) at rates of 0.25, 0.5, and 1.0 g of nitrogen per liter of container (g·L−1). After 2 years, growth response to substrate varied by species; however, all species grew as well or better in the 80:20 mix than in the other mixes. In response to fertilizer addition, adding 0.5 or 1 g N/L increased height growth compared with 0.25 g. Increasing the fertilizer rate from 0.5 g N/L to 1 g did not increase height growth. Foliar nitrogen increased with each fertilizer addition although height growth did not increase beyond 0.5 g·L−1, indicating possible luxury consumption. Furthermore, net photosynthesis rates of spruce trees declined with fertilization in the second year of the study, possibly as a result of increased water stress due to greater total leaf area per tree. Chlorophyll fluorescence was not consistently correlated with foliar nutrition. From a practical standpoint, results of the study indicate that 0.5 g N/L will provide adequate nutrition for these crops. A substrate mix of 80% bark:20% peatmoss produced maximal or near-maximal growth for all four species tested.

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