Staking a tree at planting is not always necessary. If it is done improperly, it can cause serious problems for the tree. Below are some dos and don’ts for staking a tree.
When is it Necessary to Stake a Tree?
Not every young tree needs to be staked. In the forest, young trees establish roots with little to no interference. Young trees are also protected from damaging winds and storms by mature trees.
Trees in urban areas do not have the same benefits as those growing in a forest. Therefore, staking might be necessary for newly planted trees. Factors that determine if a tree should be staked are:
- Soil type and conditions
- Room for roots to develop
- Wind exposure
- Size and condition of the root ball
Root Ball Condition and Staking
Staking is only recommended if there are conditions that make the tree unstable. A tree with a good root ball planted in a good location (not exposed to high winds) does not require staking.
In nature, wind-induced movement encourages a tree to develop anchoring roots and a healthy stem taper. The reason not to stake (in a good location) would be to allow the tree to grow and move naturally in response to winds.
Recommended Staking Practices
- Always use a broad strap or a soft hose around the tree trunk.
- Never use wire or rope around the trunk.
- Anchor the support lines securely to the ground.
- Don’t tighten the lines taught but leave a little slack for the tree to move. The tree needs to be able to move a little in the wind which encourages the growth of strong roots and stem.
- Place stake or stakes in the ground outside and away from the root ball. Lines should be at a 45 – 60-degree angle from the upright trunk of the tree.
- Use 2 stakes minimum, but normally three should be installed.
- T-Posts can be used instead of ground stakes. If these are used, attached the line horizontally from the T-post to the tree. The T-post will bend a little in the wind allowing the tree to move.
- Remove stakes and straps after the first growing season. If planted correctly and with the right care, the tree should be adequately established within a year or less.
- Do not leave any remnant of the straps on the trunk/stem. This will only cause problems in later years as the tree grows around the straps.
Best Course of Action
The purpose of staking is to stabilize the tree until it establishes a strong root system. A strong root system will allow the tree to anchor itself in high winds.
Staking that is done properly and removed within the first growing season, will help ensure the long-term health of a tree. Staking that is done improperly and left in place longer than the first growing season can lead to disease which can then cause poor growth and the early death of the tree.
The best course of action is to select trees with healthy root systems, ensure properly planting techniques and placement, and employ correct watering practices. If this is done, staking will not be necessary.