Tree Notes is about trees -- especially native trees, trees for wildlife, and trees in history.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Staking newly-planted trees

Should I support a new tree with stakes?

Staking is unnecessary for most newly planted trees.

An excellent publication (pdf), "Staking and Guying Newly Planted Trees"," by the Cooperative Extension Service of the College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources gives a few reasons why a tree may need stakes temporarily:

1. Planted in loose, sandy soil
2. Planted in an excessively windy location
3. Has a weak trunk because it's been grown inside a group of trees until now.
4. Tall and/or top-heavy
5. Overgrown in a container when purchased
6. In danger of being knocked over by pedestrian or mechanical traffic
7. In danger of vandalism

In these cases it may be necessary to stake a tree just until it grows enough roots to steady itself. The stakes should never be kept in place for more than a year, and usually they should be removed much earlier.

The ties that attach the tree to a stake can cause long-term damage or even kill the tree if they are too tight and are left in place too long. A tree that is kept staked for a long time will have a smaller trunk and a less extensive root system. In other words, it will be a weaker tree.

The tie fabric should be soft and broad, and ties should be loosely attached to minimize damage to the trunk and to allow room for growth. Avoid wire in any form, even wire that is threaded through a garden hose. The top of the tree should be able to flex with the wind, and the trunk should be able to move.

If a tree does need support, the need is greatest immediately after planting. Dig the planting hole and then drive the stakes into the ground before you put the tree in place. That way, you can avoid inadvertently damaging the tree's roots.

The image at right shows a method of protecting a young tree which will be much better for its health than long-term staking.

More suggested reading:
Staking and Guying Landscape Trees (pdf)
Staking Young Trees

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Enrich your life with the study of trees.

"The power to recognize trees at a glance without examining their leaves or flowers or fruit as they are seen, for example, from the car-window during a railroad journey, can only be acquired by studying them as they grow under all possible conditions over wide areas of territory. Such an attainment may not have much practical value, but once acquired it gives to the possessor a good deal of pleasure which is denied to less fortunate travelers."

Charles Sprague Sargent (1841-1927)

Print references I frequently consult

Benvie, Sam. Encyclopedia of North American Trees. Buffalo, NY: Firefly, 2000.

Brockman, C. Frank. Trees of North America: A Guide to Field Identification. Ed. Herbert S. Zim. New York: Golden, 1986.

Cliburn, Jerry, and Ginny Clomps. A Key to Missouri Trees in Winter: An Identification Guide. Conservation Commission of the State of Missouri, 1980.

Collingwood, G. H., Warren David Brush, and Devereux Butcher. Knowing Your Trees. Washington: American Forestry Association, 1978.

Dirr, Michael. Dirr's Hardy Trees and Shrubs: an Illustrated Encyclopedia. Portland, Or.: Timber, 1997.

Elias, Thomas S. The Complete Trees of North America; Field Guide and Natural History. New York: Book Division, Times Mirror Magazines, 1980.

Grimm, William Carey. The Book of Trees;. Harrisburg, PA: Stackpole, 1962.

Hightshoe, Gary L. Native Trees, Shrubs, and Vines for Urban and Rural America: a Planting Design Manual for Environmental Designers. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1988.

Little, Elbert L. National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Trees. New York: Chanticleer, 1996.

Martin, Alexander C., Herbert S. Zim, and Arnold L. Nelson. American Wildlife and Plants. New York: McGraw Hill, 1951.

Mitchell, Alan F., and David More. The Trees of North America. New York, NY: Facts On File Publications, 1987.

Randall, Charles E. Enjoying Our Trees. Washington: American Forestry Association, 1969.

Settergren, Carl D., and R. E. McDermott. Trees of Missouri. Columbia: University Extension, 1995.

Sternberg, Guy, and James W. Wilson. Native Trees for North American Landscapes: from the Atlantic to the Rockies. Portland: Timber, 2004.

Wharton, Mary E., and Roger W. Barbour. Trees and Shrubs of Kentucky. Lexington: University of Kentucky, 1973.

Wyman, Donald. Trees for American Gardens. New York: Macmillan, 1965.

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