The Division of Forestry recently had a question about why we don't recommend staking newly planted trees. This question came from one of our tree planting grantees, and following is our response.
It has been a long standing problem that a few, not all, but a few plantings never get the wires removed after the first growing season, resulting in the trees becoming girdled as they grow. When this happens, trees often die above the point of the wires, or if they don’t die the wire that becomes imbedded causes a significant weak point that is susceptible to breakage.
In addition, along and about the mid 1990’s, Richard Harris conducted research on what happens to a tree that is staked, and found that trunk cell walls are structurally weaker than regular trunk cells in the vicinity of the staking tie, and this can lead to internal wounds that pave the way for decay and other problems. (I can look up the research citation if your are interested.).
These two factors led me to conclude, and to recommend, that trees should not be staked when planted. However, enough people have experienced problems with trees not being staked that I’ve had to back up from my recommendation. Now I say I don’t recommend it, but sometimes it may be necessary, and if it is needed, then often it’s because of the nursery stock. Or, to say it with a rhyme, “unless your ball is too small or your top is too tall, you shouldn’t have to stake.”
Bruce Webster, TN Urban Forestry Coordinator
I like the rhyme! Great topic and article. Thanks for sharing.
Wind can also make a difference at certain sites. Another rule of thumb is if you do stake your tree, stake it loosely (an inch of sway). Also use fabric and not wire. A.M. Leonard sells rolls of strong nylon fabric for staking.
I have been using the Tree Frog system which uses biodegradable materials, not only is it biodegradable, it uses a new tensioning method that offers superior adjustability versus traditional upright staking methods to ensure you get a enough slack for optimal growing/support.