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How To Stake A Tree
Knowing when to stake a tree and when not to stake is tree is as important as knowing how to stake a tree. Believe it or not, staking a tree can actually be worse for it than letting it naturally grow in its hole.
If a tree is staked incorrectly or left to long the staking process will damage the tree. Make sure the protective coating is wrapped around the tree and check your tree in about a year to see if the stakes can be removed. Check and see how the wraps around the tree or doing. If there is damage to the tree, remove them and adjust the wraps so they won’t hurt the tree.
Below is some basic information about staking a tree and knowing when and when not to stake a tree that I’ve learned over the years.
Why Stake a Tree
There are a few reasons to stake a tree and those are when its a sapling and the root ball is still developing. During this stage of tree growth, the top of the tree might me to much for the root ball. When this happens, the trunk may not be able support the weight and the root ball may not be able to hold the tree up right. The other reason is when the area where the new planting of any size tree is to windy and the area is unprotected. The wind can cause the tree to shift in the ground, damage the truck, push the soil away from the trunk, and even up root the tree.
When Not to Stake a Tree
Whenever possible do not stake a tree. Some movement of the trunk helps strengthen (kind of like weight lifting or working out. The correct amount of exercise strengthens the body) the turnk. The movement also helps stimulates root growth.
Studies have shown that staked trees grow faster and taller than an unstaked trees. But their trunks are weaker and their root systems tend to grow slower.
Staking You Live Oaks
Earlier this week Simon and I were requested by a client to dig up a couple dead trees and plant a 30 gallon Red Oak and a 30 gallon Live Oak. Onsite we decided very quickly we needed to stake the trees. The area was very windy and the trees would not be in a protected area.
After digging up the died trees and digging out a new hole for the trees we found that the area is full of heavy deposits of clay. We decided our newly dug holes would be filled with a mixture of compost blended with the ground up clay. Because of the size of the trees and the large holes, the trees would shift easily in the wind. Within five minutes of planting them, our trees had shifted before we even had the new stakes in place.
Simon and I aren’t big fans of the tree staking kits you get at the big box garden centers. They tend to have light weight stakes and light weight string/wire with some sort of protective coating that is designed to protect the trunk. But in reality the stakes are poorly made with limited tie down options and the ties are to lightweight to hold a tree during a windstorm. The protective coatings just don’t last long.
What You Need
I find that using a heavy tie down wire that is galvanized works the best. They hold their shape, they generally do not stretch over time, and they usually stay put once you set the wire in place. These wires can usually be found in the garden department of a hardware big box store. Some stores have these wires in the same area as the tree tie downs or near the t-post area. To protect the tree trunk, I like to use a black rubber hose or a cut down garden hose wrapped around the trunk.
When it comes to the stakes, we like t-posts. You can use rebar stakes or tree stakes but we like the t-post because they give you more tie off points and they have a solid build that is designed to last for years. For smaller trees less than 12ft tall, I wouldn’t use anything smaller or larger than 3ft stakes. Larger stakes are overkill and smaller ones won’t give you enough room to find the right tie off point.
Once you decide to stake your newly planted trees, you need to figure out what size stakes you need, how many stakes are needed and where to place the wire on the trunk. Most trees only need two to three stakes. Anymore is over kill.
How To Stake A Tree
For our project we had 12 foot trees placed in a windy area. We decided to use 3 foot stakes and three stakes per tree.
The first thing we did was figure out where the winds mostly blows in that area and placed the stakes on each side of the tree as the wind blows and then one opposite of the house. Since the trees are close to the house (requested by the client and HOA requirement) wind would not be as strong from that direction. But if the wind picked and blew in the direction of the house the trees need to be stabilized so they won’t shift in the wind.
You want to place your stake outside of the hole at an angle and drive the stake through the untouched soil into the root ball (only a few inches). Using this short of a stake makes it where you only have a foot or so above ground. Take a look at the picture below. Simon is pointing to how far he drove the stakes into the ground.
Once you have the stakes placed, you need take your wire and wrap it around the tree. Make sure you use a cut length of rubber hose or the rubber trunk protectors you can get at the garden center. Do not let the wires touch the trunk. The wire should be placed at least a quarter of the way up and the trunk still be solid enough that it won’t break the tree into two pieces during a storm. The placement is usually just past the first set of branches. The below picture shows one example of rubber hose wrapped around the trunk.
Next run the wire down to the stake and push it through the little wire hole on the stake or tie off on a downward facing wire hook. Pull it tight. Before tying off, check and see if the tree is still level and hasn’t shifted. After tying it off, complete the same process on each stake. Your tree can shift in the ground if you tie the wires down to tight. If you need to make slight adjustments, use the hammer and drive the stakes a little further into the ground.
One of our trees shifted enough that we had to drive the stakes down a little more. Check out the picture below, it shows how we did it. What you aren’t seeing is the wire tied down. Below the first picture is another picture of what the normal tie down would look like.
Once all the stakes are in place, make sure to mulch the newly planted trees. Even if the weather has turned cooler, the mulch will help prevent weeds from coming up around the tree, retain moisture, and add a little warmth during the cold winter months.
Final Thoughts on How to Stake a Tree
There are several ways to tie a tree down, some will say this method is wrong and others will agree with this one. With larger trees I tend to use larger stakes and tie off the tree parallel to the ground but with smaller trees we prefer the listed method. We only plan to leave this tree staked for about a year. We will check the tree and the ground around the trunk. If everything is good we will remove the ties and stakes so the tree still has a chance to strengthen its trunk. If the tree isn’t ready, then we might change to different staking system