Plant life: Trees are staked for two reasons - East Valley Tribune: At Home

Plant life: Trees are staked for two reasons

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Posted: Friday, July 6, 2007 12:22 pm | Updated: 5:33 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

Q: When should I remove the stakes from my transplanted trees? A: It’s a myth that all transplanted trees must be staked. There are two reasons for staking:

Q: When should I remove the stakes from my transplanted trees?

A: It’s a myth that all transplanted trees must be staked. There are two reasons for staking:

• To stabilize the root ball until new roots can do it.

• To hold the trunk upright if the trunk is not strong enough to grow straight by itself.

All stakes should be removed after one year if the tree has been allowed to develop its own strength.

Be sure to move back the irrigation 6 to 12 inches every six months so that the roots will be encouraged to grow outward. The roots are the tree’s anchors and supports; the farther out they grow, the greater the stability of the tree.

Remove the nursery stake after planting; it is there to stabilize the trunk until it is planted.

Landscapers stake new trees as insurance that they won’t have to come back if the tree can’t stand by itself, but no provision is made to remove the stakes when the tree no longer needs the help. I’ve seen trees that have been in the same location for several years and so large they seem to be holding up the stakes. Homeowners who plant their own trees may not need to stake at all. The purpose of staking trees is similar to casting or splinting an arm or leg with a broken bone: to stabilize it until it has enough rigidity to function without external support.

If you leave the nursery stake in place, the tree tries to grow away from the nursery stake because the tissue cells next to the stake are shaded by it and elongate to get more sunlight. The rest of the cells in direct sunlight are shorter, so the skin or tissue in the sunny side of the tree is actually shorter than the skin on the side shaded by the nursery stake. When you remove the stake, the trunk tends to fall away from the nursery stake in an arch. Compared with a tree that stands alone and is free to move, a staked tree will develop a smaller root system and produce a decreased or even a reversed trunk taper.

If the trunk is so willowy it has no strength, then add two stakes perpendicular to the prevailing winds in undisturbed ground outside the root ball but put the ties only as high as absolutely necessary to keep the trunk straight. If you use wire as a tie, put a sleeve of poly tubing or garden hose over the wire to protect the wire from cutting into or rubbing the trunk tissue. Do not tie the supports tight. Make a loop in the wire tie large enough to allow some slop so the tree can actually move around in a breeze to develop strength. Even though you add supports, if you don’t allow for the loose movement of the trunk in the loop, the trunk may still not have enough strength to stand by itself after several years. The idea here is not to keep the tree upright by staking, but to assist the young tree in standing by itself, and the word is assist or aid.

After the tree has been in the ground for about six months, loosen the ties some more to allow more movement.

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