Staked tree with adjustable tie

I’ll have a stake with my tree please

Take a little walk around the car park at the Orchard Centre in Didcot and you will spot quite a few trees with a bit of a lean on them (grrr). I have also been to a number of gardens recently and found some lovely trees leaning at rather at a rakish and occasionally alarming angles. The latter we can forgive but the former we shouldn’t because if you are buying a tree, you should always always stake it.

The tree for your garden

Let’s just say you by a small fruit tree for your garden, in 10 years time it won’t be quite so small but I am guessing that, amongst other things, you want it to be standing tall and proud and… straight!

You will dig the hole, take the tree out of its container and pop it in the ground, gently firming it in and then leave it to it’s own devices.

However … unless the spot is sheltered from the prevailing wind (see below) there will be a relentless pressure on one side of the tree which will in effect push it over because it doesn’t have the root system to anchor it properly.

  • On average, depending on time of year and your location, the wind generally comes more from one direction than any other – this is your prevailing wind.

The presence of the prevailing wind is why you should always stake a young tree so that it has some support and gives it time (usually 2-3 years) to establish a root system that means the stake is no longer needed.

Oh and if you need a guide on how to plant a tree in your garden I would go with this but with one small proviso…

Your stake should support the tree at about 1/4 to 1/3 up. So if, for example, your tree is 1.8m tall (that is from the ground, not the bottom of the container), then your stake should meet the trunk at between 45cm and 60cm up.

The tree for your commercial developments

I don’t do commercial developments but it doesn’t take a genius to spot a tree planted on the cheap.  So I wanted to explain the problem as it is a bit different from the example above of the tree for your garden.

The trees used for commercial developments will usually be larger and so are supplied as “root ball”.  This means the tree has its roots contained in a hessian material which means it can just be popped in a hole as is – quick and easy (and cheap).  The hessian rots away, the roots slowly grow through it spreading and the tree becomes established.

Simples… or not.  The hessian is barrier and so an impediment to root (and tree stability) development which means you have a large tree in a hole with a ball on the end of it (the root ball) and the omnipresent  prevailing wind pushing against it from one side.

The result is that unless it is staked the tree rotates in the hole (no roots yet) due to that prevailing wind and so takes on the interesting lean we can see below.  All because the sub-contractor (and so client) didn’t want to pay to stake the plant properly.

A row of trees that weren't staked at the Orchard Centre, Didcot
A row of trees that weren’t staked at the Orchard Centre, Didcot

Rant over

Trees not planted properly stand out like a sort thumb and at some point in the future they will probably need to be removed/severely chopped because they have become unstable, unsightly or both.

The irony is that taking an “established” tree out is more way more costly then putting a stake in. It also leaves an obvious gap – all for the sake of a stake or two and 10 minutes of time.  What a waste.

Buying a tree?  Please be sure to mention to the waiting staff you would like a stake with it.