HOW TO: Staking & Guying Trees

Staking & Guying Trees

Staking your tree ensures stability until the tree is able to support itself. Read on for some helpful tips on how to support your tree's growth!
Is Staking Required For Every Tree?
More often then not, trees will establish and thrive without the help of staking or guying. However, we recommend that you take these steps if:

There is excessive bending of the trunk

The tree has unusually small root systems that cannot support any of the above-ground growth

Planting site has a lot of wind exposure
Proper Staking Technique

If the staking period is prolonged or done improperly, you may run the risk of causing stem breakage on your tree!
  • Staking materials depend on the situation and size of your tree. For small to average-sized trees (up to 12 feet in height), wooden stakes are sufficient. They should be at least 2" x 2" x 5' long. For larger/heavier trees or those planted in windy areas, metal fence stakes are recommended.
  • Guying anchors are typically shorter and stronger, since they are driven deep into the ground and exposed only a few inches above the soil's surface. Stout wooden stakes (at least 3" x 3" x 24"), duck-billed soil anchors, or reinforcing rods (minimum of 5/8" in diameter) are most often used. 

As a general rule of thumb, use as few of these as possible. In most cases with smaller trees, one stake is enough to keep the tree both vertical and stable. It's important to place your stake upwind from the direction of prevailing winds. Drive the stake into the outer edge of the planting hole, safely away from the root system.

If one stake isn't sufficient, place two that run parallel to the prevailing winds.
For guying straightened, wind thrown trees, use 3 stakes or anchors equally spaced around the tree.

Always remember to attach the stem to stakes or anchors loosely! Leave room for some flexibility at each point of attachment. Trees need to be able to move a little during windy periods in order to develop flexible strength and stem diameter. With only rigid support, this will result in tall trees with weak trunks.
Wind-thrown Trees
On occasion, windthrown trees can in fact be straightened out and saved! The success of this technique depends on several key factors:

-It must be a true wind throw, meaning the roots are pushing up through heaved soil. If the tree is leaving/horizontal but the roots aren't pushed up, then unfortunately the tree stem has likely broken off in the ground.

-This technique works best on trees that are relatively small (15-20' high with a stem diameter of 6" or less). Larger trees can in fact be straightened, it just takes a tree care company with special equipment to get the job done.

-Roots must be alive- if they have been exposed for more than a couple of days, the roots have likely begun to dry out. This reduces your chances of saving the tree.

-Soil must be moist- successfully straightening a tree in dry soil conditions rarely happens.

-Most shallow-rooted species (like maples) stand a better chance of being straightened vs. deep rooted varieties (like walnuts).

Stake and Anchor Removal
Your stake or guy attachments were likely installed at the time of the initial planting, or shortly after. Leave these in place for one growing season. 
After you remove the attachments, check your tree for stability. If the tree's root system still moves in the soil when the trunk is moved or whether the trunk still bends excessively, reattach the connections to the stakes LOOSELY, to accommodate new growth.

Leave the stakes or anchors on for one more season!


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