Tree Staking

Tree Staking Essentials

 Trees are the cornerstones of our landscapes, and staking can play an essential role in giving them their best start.  But all trees don’t need staking, and when staking is needed, certain guidelines must be followed to ensure the staking is done correctly to avoid detrimental effects to the tree.

    Upon planting, ALWAYS remove the nursery stake. Nursery stakes are bound too tightly to allow the trunk movement that is necessary for the development of trunk caliper and taper (thicker trunk at the base). Good taper and thick caliper translate to stronger, more stable trees.

    Decide whether staking is necessary. The purpose of staking is to provide support for the tree until the roots become established and can anchor the tree in the ground. A multi-trunk or low branching tree may not need staking, as well as larger boxed trees that are not at risk of being blown over. Staking a tree that does not need staking isn’t just a waste of time and money; it will slow the development of trunk caliper and taper.

    Two, 2” diameter stakes should be driven into firm ground outside the planting hole and root ball to a depth of 24” and opposite prevailing winds if possible.

    Use proper staking materials that will not dig into the tree trunk. Arbor tape, or plastic-coated guy wire with 5/8’ rubber hose to protect the trunk, should be used to secure the tree to the pole. Staple the wire or arbor tape to the pole to prevent slipping.

    Check wires and hoses or arbor tape around trunks to make sure there is plenty of room for the tree to move. If the wire and hose are too tight on the trunk, it can begin girdling the tree, preventing water and nutrient flow that can create a weak spot and can potentially snap off in strong winds, or worse, kill the tree.

    Stakes and tie materials should be checked routinely, and especially after storms or strong winds, to see if adjustments should be made.

    Remember that like using crutches, staking is a temporary aid. Leaving stakes on too long will actually weaken the tree. Stakes should be removed as soon as the tree exhibits stable root establishment, which can be tested by moving the trunk from side to side and checking the soil for movement of the root ball. If the root ball moves, the staking should stay on longer.

    Other ways to test readiness to remove stakes – remove after trunk equals ¾ the diameter of the lodge pole stake, or after 2 growing seasons at most have passed.  If staking is required after the first year, consider inspecting the tree to see if root defects are present, such as a girdling root, or if irrigation is appropriately placed at the drip line or outside of the original rootball.

    Contact your landscape contractor to perform staking assessments and adjustments, and to properly plant and stake (if necessary) your new trees.