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How Not to Stake a Tree

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Not sure how to stake a tree in your garden?

The reality is you may not need to know how to stake a tree. That’s because not every tree you plant should be staked. In fact, most times trees probably should not be staked at all. So before you invest in any stakes and ties, begin by learning if staking is actually the right thing to do or not.

Psst – Usually when you plant a tree, you shouldn’t stake it at all!

Of course, planting the tree into the ground properly is also important to your tree’s long term success.

Don’t I need to stake it so it stands up straight?

The short answer is usually “no.”

That’s because a stake that holds the tree upright is basically a crutch. And if your tree leans on a crutch from day one, it may not grow in ways that allow it to stand up on its own. Plus it might get banged up rubbing on that crutch. So if you stake a tree, you might do it more harm than good.

So, what happens after you plant a tree without a stake?

How to stake a tree is not like this!

This is an example of how not to stake a tree. Someone tied this tight with tape high in the canopy. And, the tree is growing over the tape.

When you plant a tree, breezes blow the top of the plant. When that happens, the crown (or top of the tree) will sway. And, this is a good thing. That’s because the movement in the canopy encourages the roots to grab hold of the earth. And, when the roots grab hold, the tree learns to support itself. No crutch required!

But, if you stake your tree and tie it tight, the tree doesn’t have a lot of need or incentive to root in well.

There are times when you do need to know how to stake a tree.

Sometimes we plant trees in a high wind area. And, that heavy bluster may be more than a young tree can manage. So, in these situations, you may want to temporarily stake and tie you tree.

But, it’s important to use the right materials. And, adding ties in the ideal positions is also key. Plus, you’ll need to monitor your stakes and ties to avoid long-term damage to your tree.

Step-by-step how to stake a tree guideline:

Firstly, use flexible tie material. That’s because stiff and binding wraps will rub the bark and likely damage the critical nutrient and water transport system that resides just below the bark layer.

Secondly, install your ties low on the tree. This is important to allow the canopy to sway in the breeze, which will trigger the tree to grab hold with its roots. Plus, if you install stake ties high on the tree and the wind catches the canopy, your tree top is more likely to snap off.

Don't stake a tree this way

Here a tree was strapped tightly with duct tape. The tape was peeling away bark & the tree was growing over the tape. After we removed the tape, this two year old tree fell over. The ties had held it so tight, it had barely rooted.

Thirdly, affix your plant tie material in a figure eight. That’s because this formation will allow the tree to move with the winds, but it will help support it. And, again, do this as low as possible on the tree trunk.

Fourthly, add a second tie only if the first isn’t quite enough.

In conclusion, be sure to check your ties frequently.

Your healthy trees will grow. And part of tree growth includes trunks expanding. So it’s important to check your stakes and ties. That’s because the trunk may grow over the ties. And, that will girdle and then likely kill the tree.

Or, even small wounds can happen if the stake rubs the tree or the ties bind small areas. And, this can start happening months or years after you plant your tree.

So, check the status of your ties soon after planting. And, adjust their location regularly so they do not negatively impact the growing trunk.

Then, remove them as soon as the tree has rooted in.

If you leave them in place and the tree grows into or over these supports, you may never be able to remove them without further damaging your tree.

If you bought a tree with a stake attached to it…

When you bring home a new tree from the nursery, and the tree trunk is tied to a growing stake, remove the growing stake and ties. That’s because these are called growing stakes. And they’re used to keep the tree growing upright in a pot in crowded nursery rows. However, if they’re left on your tree in your garden, they will likely negatively impact your plant.

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