'Improper staking will weaken the tree'

Staking newly installed trees is a fairly common practice.

Most landscapers have a special note or diagram showing a detail of a planted tree.

Those details, without fail, always show the tree with two or three guy-wires around the stem.

Those wires are supported to the ground by wood stakes.

I'm guessing every designer has cut and pasted that detail from a previous employer until it has infiltrated every design studio from here to Bangladesh.

When I was studying landscape architecture, a professor came around my second year and gave everyone a copy of that same detail, which for years we used and used and used again on every design project.

The question is why?

Don't get me wrong. Sometimes it might be necessary to stake a tree but the majority of time it is not.

Not only is it not necessary but usually more damage is done by improper tree staking than if the staking never occurred.

Improper staking will not just weaken tree health but also weaken tree structure.

Wire wrapped in a piece of old garden hose is not a suitable tie material. Tie material should be flat, non abrasive and flexible. The best material on the market today for staking trees is a material called Arbortie.

The reason for staking is so a tree doesn't topple over in a strong wind.

Sometimes I think designers, homeowners and some landscape companies believe a tree will actually jump out of the hole and flee in the middle of the night if those wires aren't tight enough.

You want slack in the support material (remember flat and pliable, no wire) so the tree moves naturally with the wind.

Research has shown that tree movement actually helps strengthen the tree and increases caliper size which is the ultimate goal.

Trees that have been staked tight for years have a much higher tendency of cracking in half after the ties have been removed. This is because a tree that hasn't been allowed to move naturally during development actually has a less dense wood.

Worse yet, most stakes are never removed.

As the tree grows in diameter, it surrounds the guy-wire. Once this occurs, the water and mineral flow to the top of the tree shuts down and death quickly follows.

Reasons to stake would include a tree with an oversized crown in comparison to the root ball, trees planted in sandy or wet soil, or a windy planting area such as a mountaintop or by the ocean.

Richard Schipul is owner of Designing Eden, LLC in New Milford.