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  • Air Layer Container Options

    What's your favorite container to use for making air layers?
    Do you have a different one for small vs. medium vs. large caliper branches?
    Jim -- Central NJ, Zone 6b

  • #2
    Clam Shell Air Layer pots made from recycled plastic bottles, it can be made in less than one (1) minute with only 1 pair of heavy duty scissors. They can be installed and removed for re-positioning in minutes. It is modeled after The Rooter Pot and the Air Propagator.

    Materials to make air layer pot:
    Assorted Plastic bottles 1 pint to 1 Gallon.
    1 tin snip or heavy shear and or heavy duty scissors.

    Build Sequence:
    1. look for the mold lines (seams) in the side of the bottle, use them as guides to make the cuts.

    2. start the 2 cuts at the bottle neck, cut down one side across the bottom and up to the lower side of the hinge

    3. Cut down from the bottle neck to the top side of the hinge, leave as large a hinge as possible.

    4. Crimp the hinge in the open position then return the bottle to its original shape to "straighten the hinge". Cut two (2) V-notches or 1/2 rounds in the center bottom of the bottle.

    The build is complete, after the first few it will take less than a minute to make. You can also use a Vari-bit or hole saw to cut a round hole in the bottom of the bottle before you start the cuts.
    Click image for larger version

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    Materials to install:
    1 roll Electrical tape
    6 feet of thin gauge wire (Nylon Wire ties, Plastic Plant ties, Wire plant ties or String)
    1 piece of Plastic or Foil to cover air layer pot

    Install instructions:
    1. Fill the clam shell halves with moistened potting media, pack solid and smooth level with hands.

    2. Check that the halves are full by closing the clam shell, it should be solid with less than 1/8 inch extra media holding the halves apart.

    3. position the air pot in the desired prepared location with the bottle neck facing down then close over the branch centering it in the two openings. wire or tie the middle as tight as possible.

    4. wire or tie the bottle neck first, this will align the bottle, then place two ties on the body of the bottle. Use the electrical tape to tape the bottleneck to the branch. The attachment of the air layer pot to the branch can be varied, but electrical tape has been my simplest means of attachment.

    5. the air layer pot can be covered with plastic or foil if exposed to sunlight. The seams can also be taped closed with duct tape. Water can be added at the top opening if needed.
    Click image for larger version

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    Air Propagator and The Rooter Pot Info...

    Last edited by AscPete; 03-27-2015, 11:44 PM.
    Pete R - Hudson Valley, NY - zone 5b


    • #3
      Wonderful, comprehensive answer, as usual ;-)
      What do you use for the potting medium in the air layer container? Do you use the same potting medium that you plant your trees in (e.g. like a 5-1-1 or 5-1-1-1 mix?) Or do you use something like a Pro-mix potting medium? Or some combination (e.g. Pro-mix spiked with extra perlite)?

      The air layer containers on that VdB plant seem small (to the inexperienced eye.) Is that enough root mass to support the top growth shown in that picture? Or do you let even more roots form than shown in the last picture?
      Jim -- Central NJ, Zone 6b


      • #4
        The airlayer mix was just Peat and Perlite (85%-15%) I will be using Coir instead this season.
        The air layer is just to get some roots and was started late in the season. The air layers are separated and allowed to go dormant and then treated like a newly rooted cutting.

        If they were done earlier in the season then most of the lower leaves on the air layer would be removed several days before the air layer was separated from the mother tree. This would balance the roots to the leaves and reduce shock to the air layer.

        The air layer containers just look small, the container in the middle is a 32 oz Gator Aid bottle. IMO, concentration on healthy root growth should be the the goal for first leaf air layers and cuttings, even at the expense of leaves.
        Pete R - Hudson Valley, NY - zone 5b


        • #5
          I used the one in your link from Lee Valley. I highly DO NOT recommend it. The roots in 2 air layers grew through the tiny holes and gaps at the bottom making it impossible to even open the container. I ended up cutting it piece by piece trying to liberate the gentle roots. It took me an hour and the containers were lost too.
          USDA z 10a, SoCal. WL: Boysenberry Blush


          • #6
            Do you girdle the branches before putting on the bottles?
            USDA z 10a, SoCal. WL: Boysenberry Blush


            • AscPete
              AscPete commented
              Editing a comment
              Yes. I've gotten very good results with girdling the branches.
              I'm currently testing a simpler girdling procedure by creating a scored girdle, by "crimping" the branch with a pair of pliers.

          • #7
            I have used various sized plastic containers (mostly 1/2 gallon and 1 quart) like Pete and also followed the instructions Pete documented and most of my air layers have been successful. I've only done early season air layers though. I tend to put the containers on before the figs come out of dormancy. I also girdle the branches as well.

            I hope you have good success with your air layers.
            Kevin (Eastern MA - Zone 5b/6a)


            • #8
              Pete thanks for the info and pictures.
              i do the same thing but this time i need to be sure about the mix because i will not be able to rewater the airlayer until i remove it. i was thinking an airtight seal with strech wrap on the final wrap... will that hold enough moisture for 1.5-2 months?
              any advise is welcome.
              thank you all for your help.
              andreas-patras Peloponnisos Greece zone 9a


              • AscPete
                AscPete commented
                Editing a comment
                You're welcome.
                The mix can be almost anything that will retain moisture. I used the Peat moss for its water retentive properties and they were not watered after they were installed ~2 - 2-1/2 months, but my zone is much cooler than yours. Good Luck.

            • #9
              all the airlayers i have done are open at the top and i water them like a poted plant.
              this time i would like to airlayer a caprifig that is not easy to revisit and water.
              this is the first year i have ordered coir and was thinking about useing that, but i am unsure if that is the best way to go. i am open to any and all suggestions from the forum members.
              thanks for the help!!!
              andreas-patras Peloponnisos Greece zone 9a


              • #10
                The plastic bottle air layer pots can be sealed tightly, electrical tape at one end to attach the pot to the branch and the correctly sized hole at the other end, possible stuffed with a "plug" for a tighter seal. I've also done several with Duct tape on the cut seams, but in my zone they only need to be protected from sunlight, they have remained moist for the duration without the additional sealing.
                For drier zones, larger containers will hold moisture longer. Attached is a 1 gallon that was left unattended for almost 2 months.
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                1 gallon Nursery Pots used as air layer containers, they were split into the "clamshell", cut down one (1) side to center (1/2) of bottom in an "L", for installation on the branches and stems, but they had to be watered weekly.
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                Last edited by AscPete; 04-25-2015, 04:42 PM. Reason: added 1 gallon nursery pots used as air layer containers
                Pete R - Hudson Valley, NY - zone 5b


                • #11
                  Narrative with photos.
                  You may only view thumbnails in this gallery. This gallery has 4 photos.
                  Littleton, CO (zone 5b) - In Containers
                  N.E. of Austin, TX (zone 8b)- In Ground.


                  • #12
                    Thanks for the GREAT pics and info, Pete.
                    Is there a limit on how many air layers a tree can handle at one time? I see the VdB had 4 at one time. I plan to do something similar on some of my potted trees but wasn't sure if it too many air layers at once was bad.
                    Frank ~ zone 7a VA


                    • AscPete
                      AscPete commented
                      Editing a comment
                      The VDB had 10...
                      I don't know if there is a "limit", IMO as long as the tree is growing healthy there shouldn't be a problem. I've harvested figs from larger air layers on in ground trees, but On smaller potted trees I wouldn't expect the air layers to also produce figs.

                    • drphil69
                      drphil69 commented
                      Editing a comment
                      Some of the energy created by leaves (sugars) would need to get to the roots or the roots would die or push new branches. I doubt there is any limit, figs are survivors.

                  • #13
                    Pete, where should the layer container be placed in relation to the girdle? Should the container be positioned with the girdle at the top, middle or bottom of the container?

                    I am thinking about what happens with the amount of branch between the girdle and the cut once the layer is removed?
                    Jerry, Canyon Lake TX 8b


                  • #14
                    Thanks. Just what i needed. I did my 1st layer 16 days ago on this years brown wood using a length of plastic heat seal vac material slipped over the limb closed with zip ties then covered with foil. I have my eye on some older wood and wanted to know about positioning the girdle.

                    I am thinking layers without girdles would produce roots along the entire length of stem within the layer which would be a plus for not girdling.
                    Jerry, Canyon Lake TX 8b


                    • #15
                      For the record I never girdle and the rate of success is 95% + I just see no advantage to it other than speed and even then it is just maybe a week faster? I did probably 300 airlayers this spring/summer I would guess.
                      Cutting sales will start Tuesday Nov 1 at 9:00 eastern


                      • #16
                        I've never girdled branches either, now I only did about 20-30 this season and only 3 I am still waiting on to root which probably won't now since it's getting so hot and these 3 little trees are in full sun.
                        Ryan- CenLa, zone 8a/b


                        • #17

                          They should still root. Think the key is to keep them growing quickly and when you get a lot of rain you need to use more fertilizer. At least that is what works here as this sand while good for root growth and root health holds on to fertilizer about like a politician and money.
                          Cutting sales will start Tuesday Nov 1 at 9:00 eastern


                          • #18
                            I went by what I read of the success with not cutting the bark, so I have over a dozen set up trusting it will work just fine.
                            The easier the better for me.



                            • #19
                              6 weeks no girdle. Now if it is older wood, 2 year old wood I probably would girdle or damage the bark. I sometimes do extras and if I decide I don't want to take that air layer off I just pull it and let the roots dry and fall off.

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                              Cutting sales will start Tuesday Nov 1 at 9:00 eastern


                              • #20
                                They look great Wills, I pulled my one gallon air layer off of my Sweet George today. The pot was jam packed with roots.
                                Scott - Colorado Springs, CO - Zone 4/5 (Depending on the year) - Elevation 6266ft

                                “Though the problems of the world are increasingly complex, the solutions remain embarrassingly simple.” – Bill Mollison


                                • #21
                                  I score the part I'm going to cut off until green shows and use clonex. It works well.
                                  Bob C.
                                  Kansas City, MO Z6


                                  • #22
                                    It's possible to still airlayer this late in the season? I know spring is best.
                                    Zone 6a Orange County NY


                                    • #23
                                      Originally posted by sal View Post
                                      It's possible to still airlayer this late in the season? I know spring is best.

                                      Well figure 4-6 weeks. I would say yes and give them a shot of N if it isn't too late for that in your area.
                                      Cutting sales will start Tuesday Nov 1 at 9:00 eastern


                                      • #24
                                        I hope it is not to late. I started some on Saturday. I might have overdone this tree. tree went up about 2 feet into a single fork. I place one above the one fork branch another right below fork so branch on the right will become the 2nd tree. Then the larger lower container had a couple buds above for tree three and there is at least one bud below bottom layer, so hopefully 4 for 1 on a small tree. I half expect the base and larger lower likely not to put forth leaf until the above removed, but if I get good roots with a viable bud I think all will take. Supported with sticks to support the weight.
                                        You may only view thumbnails in this gallery. This gallery has 1 photos.
                                        Last edited by strudeldog; 07-27-2015, 02:31 PM.
                                        Phil North Georgia Zone 7 Looking for: All of them, and on and on,


                                        • #25
                                          WillsC i see you cut the tops from your air layers. Why is that? Do you root the tops?
                                          Zone 10b, Coastal. Wish List: Aurora, Deos Negra, Siggiu Russo, Mendeza, Ischia Black, Boreal, Sodus Sicilian, Sangue Dolce, Col Lit BC; Long Yellow