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Tree staking, why do it and how?

When and why to stake a tree

In gardening, some actions might seem insignificant, yet they are crucial for the healthy growth of plants. Staking is one of them. Find out why it’s essential to stake a tree and how to do it with three simple techniques.

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Definition of staking

The principle of staking a tree is simple: it involves placing a support near a newly planted tree to aid its growth.

Why stake a tree?

The first answer that springs to mind is likely, “to make it grow straight.” That’s not wrong, but it’s not the only reason. In fact, it’s not even the most important one.

Indeed, when a tree is freshly planted, it’s exposed to the whims of weather, especially wind. The wind, as it sways the tree like a pendulum, prevents it from rooting properly. So, the role of the stake is to limit, or even stop this from happening, while the tree securely anchors itself in the ground.

Lastly, another reason to stake a tree is to provide support for grafting. In this case, the stake helps to easily hold graft and rootstock together while the graft takes hold.

Do all trees need staking?

Not necessarily. Only trees shaped as a long stem, large in size and/or exposed to winds need it. This could include fruit trees and some shrubs. On the other hand, small trees don’t require staking.

When to stake a tree?

When to stake the treeOne of the risks of staking is damaging the roots when installing the pole or post.

Therefore, experts recommend staking a tree when planting it.

At this point, the root system is visible, making it easier to position the stake.

Also: make and use root-dip for planting

How to stake a tree?

There are countless methods to stake a tree. However, some are easier and simpler than others, without losing effectiveness.

Despite the differences, there are two common points to all these techniques. Thus, to be effective, each stake must:

  • be planted at least 24 inches deep (60 cm);
  • not exceed a third of the tree’s height.

Technique no. 1: single stake

Stake a tree with one postThe simplest and most popular method to stake a tree, it involves positioning a stake on the side of the prevailing wind to keep the trunk away from the stake and thus, limit friction. The space between stake and tree should be between 0.8 and 1.2 inches (2 and 3 cm).

Technique no. 2: double staking with crossbar

Two post stake for treeWhen you want to stake a tree, it is sometimes complicated to position the stake close enough to the trunk. This is often the case with balled trees. In these conditions, the simplest is then to:

  • Plant two stakes on each side of the tree.
  • Then attach a crossbar (plank, pieces of stake, etc.) or wire (taking care to protect the trunk) to connect the two stakes.
  • Tie the trunk to the bar.

Technique no. 3: angled stake

Staking a tree on a slope can be a challenge. In this case, just install the stake at an angle of 45 degrees; the direction of inclination following the prevailing wind.

Staking tether and tie

Triple stake with crossbarWhile a simple rope may suffice to tie a tree to its stake, getting the right tie or tether system is very important if you do not want to damage the trunk, and therefore compromise the tree’s health.

The criteria to take into account when choosing are:

  • flexibility, for better flexibility to movements;
  • adaptability to follow the trunk’s growth.

Staking belts have the advantage of meeting these two conditions. As a bonus, when they are well installed in a figure “8”, they also prevent the trunk from rubbing on the stake.

Another solution is to position a pad between the trunk and the stake. The three elements are then held together using a strap with a loop, to adapt to the growth of the trunk.

Very important: whatever the method and material chosen to link the tree and its support, it is essential to monitor growth of the trunk and adjust the tether’s tightness. The risk, if every you forget, is injury to the tree, putting its health in danger.

Variations in tree staking

Of course, these three methods to stake a tree are not the only ones. There are many others like guying, three-stake method, etc. However, they are more laborious to implement, and typically reserved for professionals. Worth mentioning, if you are put off by the unaesthetic nature of the stake, there are ground anchoring systems for an invisible support.

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Images: dreamstime: Michal Paulus, Istvan Balogh, Paul Maguire, Sarah Marchant, Oleksandr Rado

Written by Christophe Dutertre | With a formal degree in landscaping and an informal love of gardens, Christophe will introduce you to this passion we all share. Novelty, down-to-earth tips and environment-friendly techniques are marked on the map, so let's get going!
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