A Stake a Stake, my kingdom for... a Stake?

People seem to think that every newly-planted ornamental tree needs a stake. They are sometimes (but not always) right as despite lots of writing to the contrary, staking is not always the best thing to do for your tree.

Here are a few reasons why.  Staked trees:

  • tend to have a smaller root system than unstaked ones
  • they also tend to grow taller and so are not as well anchored as unstaked ones.
  • do not like very close company and so they tend to grow away from their stake, so are less straight
  • break more easily in a storm as the tree tie can prevent the trunk acting as a shock absorber
  • can be injured by the tie and the stake if either are used incorrectly

So, when you plant a tree (remember the planting season runs until mid-March) about the first question  you should ask is "Will it need staking?"

And here are the reasons why it might.  Your tree:

  • is going to be planted in a windy spot
  • will be planted in loose or thin soil and will fall over unless it is steadied while its roots grow
  • is a 6/8 cm standard or larger which will make it relatively top heavy or tall when compared to its roots (this is often the case with bare root standards)
  • might be an obstruction to people, bicycles, vandals, whatever and so could get knocked over (before it knocks them over...)

If any of the above apply, then staking will help while your tree grows the rootsystem it needs to "stand on its own two feet". A stake has outlasted its purpose if it has been supporting the tree for more than two years, and 12-18 months is better.

So much for whether a tree needs a stake or not.  What about the tie?

Well, if you think about what a tree does when the wind blows hard, it bends, or sways.  The top is blown the furthest and the trunk bends from the ground up, acting as a shock absorber.  The tie must therefore NOT be three things.

It must not be:

  • too far up the trunk, otherwise the trunk can't do its shock absorber thing, and
  • too tight, otherwise the bark can be damaged, disease can enter through the wound, nutrients do not flow properly and so on.
  • made out of thin hard material - no wire, string or rope here. Use buckle and strap ties or elastic tie fabric only

Relax and watch you plants grow!

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