Fall is a perfect time for planting trees, but with that comes the care and feeding of those new trees. One thing most people don’t know, is the chance they run of staking their trees to death.
Incorrect staking – especially staking too rigidly – can weaken a tree. As trees develop, swaying in the wind helps strengthen their trunks.
Overly tight staking, or leaving ties to the stakes for too long, prevents a tree from moving and developing trunk strength. If the ties are not removed after the first year, trees begin to grow around them. Those ties can become embedded in the tree and block the transport of water and nutrients taking place just below the bark. Overly tight ties will stress the tree and create a weakened point on the trunk where it’s more likely to break.
Save time and money by staking trees only if necessary. Trees with balled and burlapped roots have heavier root systems so they generally remain stable without staking. However, container and bare root trees do often require stakes to hold them firm. When trees must be staked, do so for a short period only and place the ties as low as possible on the trunk, no higher up than two-thirds of the tree’s height. The materials used to tie the tree to the stake should be flexible and allow for movement all the way down to the ground-so that trunk taper develops correctly.
If you do stake trees, make sure to remove the support ties after the first growing season. Keep a close eye on the tree as it grows, and loosen the ties when needed. Sometimes stakes are left in the ground to deter vandalism or protect the tree from mower damage. If you need that extra protection, the straps should be significantly loosened or removed entirely.
There are several innovative ways to stake trees.
Washington State Urban and Community Forestry Program
The Washington State Urban and Community Forestry (UCF) Program provides technical, educational and financial assistance to Washington’s cities and towns, counties, tribal governments, non-profit organizations, and educational institutions. Explore the webpage to learn more: http://www.dnr.wa.gov/urbanforestry.