To Stake or Not to Stake a Tree – That is the Question

Staking a tree is one of the most misunderstood practices when planting a new tree. Far too often a young tree is dropped in a hole, the root ball buried with a stick jammed into it, and a bare wire tied from the stick to the trunk of the tree where it is left for years. Improper staking can lead to a myriad of problems for the tree which can cause the tree to become a hazard to people and property. Fortunately, staking a tree the right way isn’t that hard and following a few steps can provide a tree the support it needs meanwhile letting the roots successfully establish themselves.

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How to Properly Stake a New Tree

  1. Does the tree even need to be staked? In short, most do not. If the tree has a full canopy and small root ball then it would benefit from the added stability, but a tree needs to be able to move in order to grow a thick, strong trunk and root system. Young trees that have no leaves and few branches will generally be better off left to their own devices.
  2. Keep the stake out of the root ball! If you’ve determined that your new little tree will in fact need some help getting established, be sure the stake is “planted” at the same time as the tree. Set the stake in the hole and bury it instead of pounding it into the ground next to the tree where you might wind up damaging the roots.
  3. Allow the tree to move, but not too much.  As mentioned, a tree needs to move to grow strong but too much movement at the base of the tree can create what is called a crowbar hole. This is a place where water can pool up and cause rot and mold which can severely damage the tree. The best way to allow the top to move but keep the base stable is to tie low, no more than ⅓ up the tree with a flexible tie such as an old bicycle tube. A flexible tie won’t dig into the tree trunk which leads us to…
  4. Whatever you do – don’t use bare wire! Bare wires grind away at young bark leaving open wounds and inviting infection. If you are using wire, run it through a piece of an old garden hose so that the wire doesn’t rub against the trunk of the tree.
  5. When ready – take the stake out and ties off. Leaving a tree staked for too long can do much more harm than good. Trees only need to be staked until the roots have a chance to spread out and become established. Generally,one growing season is plenty of time. Even flexible ties will only expand so far before the tree becomes girdled, cutting off the much needed nutrient supply.

If you are planning on adding trees to your landscape the ArborPro Tree experts can help formulate a planting plan that best suits your needs. Feel free to give us a call and schedule a free estimate for your project.

Photo By Virginia State Parks staff (SH-9/11 Tree plantingUploaded by AlbertHerring) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

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