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Friday, October 27, 2017

Pines Remain Staked After Five Years, No No No

Q. We have Mondel pines that are 5 ½ years old which are still staked.  I'm afraid these bindings will strangle the trees soon.  But we also have a lot of wind that could blow the trees over.  Can I safely remove the braces now?
The reason for staking trees is to prevent the roots from moving too much after planting. Wind blowing through the canopy of the tree can act as a lever and move the roots in the soil which damages them and delays their growth into the surrounding soil. The trunk should move, but not the roots.

A. Yes, remove the stakes.  Tree stakes, or as you call them bindings, should be removed after the first growing season.  If the planting holes are prepared correctly, these trees should be firmly anchored in the soil after one growing season.
These trees were properly staked at the time of planting if those largest stakes were pounded into the solid soil beneath the planting hole. If they were only pounded into the loose soil surrounding the tree, the stake moves with the roots and the wind.
            I understand your concern about the trees possibly blown over by wind.  As trees get taller with a full canopy, strong winds can uproot them easily if they are not firmly anchored in the soil.
This tree trunk lacks what is called "taper" or a wider trunk at the bottom and narrower trunk higher. This is because the tree was not grown properly at the nursery where it was produced. Trees like this require staking for several years because wind can snap or break the trunk easily. In fact, the trunk may never be strong enough to support the canopy of the tree. Trunks with good taper bend without snapping and require less staking time.This tree was secured to the stakes in the wrong place. The trunk is not given any chance to move and increase its taper.

Leaving the stakes tied to the trunk can result in those ties strangling the trunk. Eventually if these ties are not removed the trunk may snap in a strong wind or prevent water and nutrients from moving up and down the trunk.
 Solutions to this problem are twofold. First, prune these trees so that wind can flow more easily through the canopy. A method I don’t like, but used quite frequently, is to “rat tail” the limbs.  This technique removes all side branches along the limbs so that only a cluster remains at the ends.
            It’s true, it allows more wind through the canopy but unfortunately results in limbs that become weak and break easily during strong winds.  Don’t use this method.
Removing the inner branches so that air can move through the canopy works for a couple of years. But eventually the new growth at the ends of these branches becomes so heavy and the lack of taper that results from this type of pruning causes these branches to snap in strong winds. Some arborists refer to this method of pruning as "rattailing".

            A better method is to selectively remove entire branches from the trunk.  This method also allows wind to move through the canopy but without weakening and eventually breaking the remaining limbs.
            Secondly, increase the area irrigated under the tree as the tree gets larger and water them deeply.  This increases the size and depth of the root system thus improving its anchorage in the soil.  

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