How to buy - Tree stakes and ties

Keeping the root ball of newly planted trees steady in the ground is key to development, says Sally Drury.

A machine round stake - image: Greentech
A machine round stake - image: Greentech

See tree stake and tie product and supplier listings

Q: When do trees need staking, guying or anchoring by an underground device?

A: The simple answer is when they need support. The aim of staking and guying is to keep the root ball of newly planted trees steady in the ground while they spread and develop to anchor the tree firmly.

If the trees being planted have a well-developed branch structure, they can rock in the wind. This leads to the root ball drying out and working loose in the pit. Then a sudden blast of wind will topple it, assuming it has not given up and died beforehand.

There are times, however, when it is not really economic to support trees with stakes, guys or underground anchoring systems. It is also important to understand that wind can also help strengthen trees - some movement can encourage the development of anchoring roots.

I have heard it said that a tree does not need staking if it is planted using a spade to create a notch in the ground. These are likely to be whips and stock less than 1m high. But if a planting pit has been excavated to accommodate the roots of larger trees, then staking or guying (above or below ground) will be necessary.

Stakes or canes are also required by many of the tree shelters used to provide a beneficial microclimate around the newly planted tree.

Q: How tall does the stake need to be?

A: Twenty or 30 years ago it was common practice to stake right into the crown, and sometimes we still see it today. Unfortunately, this provides a leverage point for wind and vandals, and as a result trees snap at the height of the stake.

Research by the Forestry Commission in the 1980s indicated that short stakes reaching about one-third of the way up the stem are sufficient to hold the root ball steady but at the same time allow just enough movement in the upper part of the tree - a factor believed to reduce stem weakening as well as helping to encourage a strong and healthy root system.

Q: Why are some trees staked with a single stake and others with two or more?

A: Single-stake support is usually provided for feathered up to standard trees, and particularly for field-grown stock. In this instance, the stake can be driven firmly into the pit prior to the tree being planted and should be in the side subjected to prevailing winds so that the tree is not buffeted onto the stake and damaged.

Double-staking is useful for container-grown trees because they can straddle the root ball without disturbing it. Double-stakes are driven in after the tree is set into place. Greater support can be provided by triple-staking in a triangular arrangement - again surrounding the root ball and supporting the stem via rubber ties.

Q: What are the benefits of underground systems such as the Platipus?

A: Such systems are usually used to support rootballed stock and are installed into the pit at the time of planting. The chief selling point of the Platipus Anchors system is that there is nothing above ground to spoil the appearance of the tree - you are not looking at the stake or more likely the surrounding matrix of two, three or four stakes and associated strapping and ties.

According to Platipus Anchors system manager Ian Rotherham, there can also be a time saving. "When it comes to rootballed trees you can place an underground anchor faster than two stakes, a crossbar and tie, so there is a time saving," he explains.

Q: Do underground anchoring systems need removing?

A: It is unlikely that they will be removed, and in any case trying to do so may damage the roots. This is why Platipus Anchors designed in degradability. Rotherham says: "The wire system degrades over three-to-five years. It has a thin galvanisation on it and will gradually rust away."

There are some underground systems that use nylon strapping for reasons of economy. The nylon will not degrade. It is also worth noting that systems using narrow straps are not suitable for supporting trees grown in Air-Pot containers.

Q: When is above ground guying used?

A: Above ground guying systems tend to be used for cedars, pines and other species that have big evergreen heads. Guying can also be used in an attempt to straighten trees that have moved after planting. The resulting trip hazard means that guying cannot always be used in public places.

Q: Given budget constraints, are people still planting trees?

A: There seem to be plenty of planting schemes at the moment and suppliers are reporting a great deal of interest in planting products. Green-tech sales director Mark Whiting says: "Currently the level of enquiries we are working on is ahead of the same period last year, which is very encouraging when you consider how mild the weather has been recently and the general economic picture that the media constantly refers to.

"Having grown by more than 20 per cent, we are confident of achieving similar growth this year, and have already broken a record for the number of pallets shipped in one day. Being this early in the season, that has to be encouraging for the remainder of the planting season."

The company is the UK's largest distributor of Tubex tree shelters and also reports an increase in sales of Acorn products, following the Fiberweb purchase of Tubex earlier this year. Last year, Green-tech invested in additional storage space to accommodate extra stock.

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