The things people do to trees sometimes horrify me. Topped trees or those with hacked instead of pruned limbs; trees planted under power lines; and trees left without water in long ago removed lawns are a few of my pet peeves. Improper staking is another.
People think that trees must be staked at planting. This is a myth. Rarely do properly grown trees need staking. Some might argue this point, saying “what about the wind?” I live in Washoe Valley and have only had to stake three trees out of the dozens I have planted. Notice I said, “properly grown trees.” The trees I did stake had supports so tightly attached to them when I bought them that they couldn’t stand on their own. The stakes allowed no swaying of the trees. Movement is important to a tree’s development for a strong, flexible, trunk that is wider at the bottom than at the top.
Staking abuse actually damages trees, with the stakes creating wounds by rubbing against limbs or trunk. Or, if stake ties are left on too long, they can strangle or girdle the trunk, which may then snap in a strong wind. Stakes left on for two or more years cause trees to have small, weak trunks and roots. The trees are more susceptible to wind damage.
Sometimes trees do need to be staked. On windy sites with heavy clay soils, tall trees out of proportion to the root ball may need to be staked for a season or two while the roots establish, because root balls can move around in wet clay soil. The idea behind proper staking is to anchor the root ball rather than to try to hold up the tree. I’m sure you have seen staking jobs where you couldn’t tell if the tree was holding up the stake or the other way around.
There are correct ways to stake a deciduous tree. Anchor the root ball by driving a stake into the ground outside the root ball at a 45-degree angle with the top of the stake resting alongside the main trunk one foot above the ground. The top of the stake should be facing downwind. Or, use two stakes outside the root ball at right angles to the wind.
For specific instructions on staking trees, contact me at 775-887-2252 or email@example.com for a copy of the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension publication “The Mistake in Staking Trees.”
JoAnne Skelly is the Carson City/Storey County Extension educator for University of Nevada Cooperative Extension and may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 887-2252.