Ensure that all your standard plants and young trees are securely staked

Picture courtesy Alabama Extension see their flickr pagePicture courtesy Alabama Extension see their flickr pageThere are many different types of tree stakes and ties, and various staking methods, depending on the size of the plant. Read more about them below.

August is known as the “windy month” in South Africa, so ensure that all your standard plants and young trees are securely staked.

When planting large trees or shrubs it may be essential to stake them, and newly planted standard plants like roses should always be securely staked until they are well established. However, young trees will more often than not do better when not staked, unless you want to ensure perfect upright growth.

A newly planted young tree or standard plant will take a couple of years to anchor itself firmly in the soil, and staking is usually done to prevent wind rock and movement of the roots. This movement can tear new roots and slow down the establishment of the plant. However, some movement of the trunk stimulates root growth and also helps strengthen the trunk by thickening it and giving it taper from bottom to top. So, although staked trees might grow taller and faster than their un-staked counterparts, their trunks may be weaker and their root systems less developed.

To solve this dilemma only stake large plants which have just been transplanted, and large newly planted trees or shrubs, as well as standard plants. A young tree growing in its nursery bag may often have a dense crown of leaves combined with a disproportionately small root ball, and is almost certain to require a stake. By staking a tree like this, its root ball will be held motionless in the soil, allowing the roots to grow into the surrounding soil, thereby anchoring the tree and giving it stability. The stakes are removed as soon as the plant is firmly rooted.

To ensure success familiarise yourself with the various methods of staking before planting.

Special tree ties are available which are made of durable, long-lasting plastic, with buckles for fastening and adjustment. These ties are well worth the investment because they can be re-used and can easily be loosened as the girth of the stem expands. In an emergency, pantyhose, bicycle tyre tubes, soft rubber strips, or similar materials can be used to secure the plants to the stakes.

Picture courtesy F. D. Richards see his flickr pagePicture courtesy F. D. Richards see his flickr pageSpacers are also available and are used to prevent the stem and stake rubbing against each other. When using these spacers, make a figure of eight with your tree tie and insert a spacer in between the tree and the stake before securing the tie to the stake with a nail.

Ground anchors are essentially professional underground staking systems which are fitted at the time of planting. They offer discreet anchorage, and are useful for specimen trees, or those in highly visible areas where above-ground methods would be unsightly.

If a stake moves in the ground, it will not anchor the plant, so ensure that all stakes are firmly and deeply planted.

Single stake method

When planting young trees, they won’t always need staking unless you want to ensure perfect upright growth. In this case plant a long stake when you plant the sapling, and tie the tree as it grows. Small trees are easily secured to a single wooden stake with a soft material like pantyhose or raffia.

For most ornamental garden trees a single, short but sturdy stake about one-third of the height of the tree, should suffice.  Support for any young tree should allow the top of the tree to move freely and also allow for some movement of the trunk, all without causing abrasion where the tie makes contact. A tie placed too high (more than two-thirds of the way up the trunk) will not allow sufficient movement of the top of the tree.  Single stakes should be inserted into the ground on the side of the prevailing wind in order to allow the tree to blown away from the stake.

Larger trees will require very sturdy wooden or steel stakes, and stronger ties. For tress with long straight stems, or flexible stems, a longer vertical stake will be required, and to avoid damaging the bark there should be a gap of 2.5 to 3cm between the stem and the stake.

Double stake

This method is very useful on windy sites, and the standard method of staking container-grown plants and trees growing in nursery bags. When planting, two or three stakes are inserted opposite each other, or equally spaced around the tree, outside the root ball. The stakes are then secured to the trunk using long tree ties or a timber crossbar and tie.

When securing your ties, ensure that they are not too tight, or they will damage the bark, and check them regularly to ensure that they have not become too tight, causing damage to the trees.

Picture courtesy Alabama Extension see their flickr pagePicture courtesy Alabama Extension see their flickr page

Angled stake

Angled tree stakes are used for trees planted on slopes. Before or after planting, stakes are driven into the soil at a 45 degree angle, leaning into the prevailing wind. The plants are then secured with a flexible tree tie.

Guying

Guying is particularly useful for large trees or shrubs which have been transplanted. Short but sturdy stakes are inserted firmly into the ground at a 45 degree angle away from the tree, and strong wire is secured to the stakes and the stem. To prevent rubbing and damage to the bark where the wire touches the trunk, it must be covered with rubber tubing, a piece of hose-pipe, or similar material. Various materials can be wrapped around the stem to protect it. Check on all ties regularly to ensure that they have not become too tight, causing damage to the trees.

Even when staking is necessary, the sooner the stakes are removed, the sooner the plant can develop a really strong trunk and root system. Once the tree can stand unsupported without bending or shifting in the ground, remove the stakes. This usually takes twelve to eighteen months, but may be longer for semi-mature trees, or ones on weak rootstocks, such as dwarf apple trees.

The worst hazard of staking is forgetting about it and perhaps letting the ties girdle a trunk, or just leaving the stakes in place so long that development of a sturdy trunk is delayed.

Members can click here to read more about what to do in your garden in August