Tree Staking

Tree staking is needed after planting, during the establishment period of a tree. This is generally three to five years. Proper tree staking aids in keeping the tree upright until the roots have grown out into the soil; having sufficient strength and mass to hold the tree upright on it’s own. A tree properly staked, will allow some movement, flexing of the tree trunk in wind; while protecting it from excessive movement, which could lead to breakage. The tree, including the trunk of the tree actually responds to this movement / flexing and becomes stronger over time. At which point, the tree no longer requires the stake for support.
Trees usually come from the nursery secured with one stake. The growing stake is meant, just to keep the trunk straight. It is usually firmly secured to the tree, allowing minimal movement. In most cases, this stake can and should be removed at the time of planting. As these ties / tape can girdle the trunk over time. This prevents any branches to form where the stake and tree are in contact, and can cause damage. Sometimes the tree trunks are so skinny and weak at the time of planting. In addition to installing new stake or stakes, it is a good idea to leave the grow stake in place for maybe in a year or so. Gradually remove some of the plastic tie tape then the stake to allow more and more trunk movement.
The majority of trees seen in landscapes are not staked properly. The areas of concern are: 1) Stakes not being driven into the ground deep enough 2) Use of too few stakes 3) Use of too small of diameter and/or length of stake 4) Not securing the ties adequately 5) Not cutting the tops of the stakes off below the tree canopy.
Generally, you want to try to install the stakes just outside of the root ball. Where only minor support is needed, one stake on the backside or upwind side may be all that is required.
When more support is needed, generally one stake on each side of the tree will be sufficient. Where severe wind conditions exist, three stakes positioned in a triangle pattern may be required.
Tree stakes should be of sufficient diameter (usually 2” to 3”), and of proper length to be driven deep into the ground (usually 24” to 36”). Rubber straps are usually used to wrap around the trunk, fastened to the stake; using either 1-3/4” roofing nails or screws. Four ties are usually required. Two lower on the tree trunk and two higher up but just below the tree canopy.
Ties should hold the tree upright, without excess tension on the strap. This allows for a fair amount of trunk flexing. It is important to cut the tree stakes off just below the canopy. This prevents the tree branches from rubbing on the stakes, causing minor to severe damage to the branches.
There are some exceptions to cutting the stakes below the tree canopy, such as Birch and Redwood trees. They may have branches starting lower on the trunk. In these cases, you want to try to position your stakes a good distance away from major limbs; reducing the likelihood of regular severe chafing of the branches.

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