After planting a young tree, physically supporting it by staking the tree may be needed in order to prevent the tree from growing up crooked or askew for the remainder of its life. This certainly applies for trees that are top heavy and liable to be toppled by strong winds or animals that rub or knock against it. Staking a tree ensures it has a greater chance of surviving the initial phase after planting.
The basic method of staking a young tree is to plant long stakes into the ground on either side of the tree and tie the tree to the stakes with a tie or cord. The cords should not be tied too firmly so as to allow the trunk to expand and sway in the wind. Although many people only use one stake, using 1 stake may be less flexible than 2 or more stakes, and result in damage to the tree.
Staking should only be carried out if you believe that the rootball/rootplate is unstable. In general, it is better not to stake a newly planted tree. Only stake when the root plate appears to be somewhat unstable, because wind movement prevents the roots from establishing themselves properly, and is highly detrimental to the young tree. But remember, a tree that doesn’t need staking would be harmed by the staking. Staking should only be considered as a last resort.
Staking a small tree is not difficult at all. 2 or 3 wooden poles are staked into the ground near the tree about a foot away from the trunk. A brace or crossbar can be added between the stakes, close to the ground to reinforce them. The tree is then tied to the stakes with a rope, cord or tree tie. A tether can also be used to prevent rope burn on the tree bark, caused by the friction. Make sure not to tie the tree up too tightly; allow it to move with the wind. The ties are best positioned before the branches begin; not too high up or too low.
Normal tree staking durations can last a 1-2 years; or until the tree is strong enough to stand on its own. It depends also on the soil in your area and the strength of the winds. Areas with poor, friable soil and frequent strong winds may need a longer staking period.
Staking is something that needs good judgment before you proceed. If necessary, you should get the advice of a tree expert to look at your tree first. Trees that do not need staking will be harmed by it, while trees that do need it may topple or keel over if not staked. The best compromise is not to stake too tightly, and allow ample room for the tree to sway. Try to choose a good location for the tree because once planted, it is more or less a permanent decision.
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