tree stabilizing
The method preferred by most landscape engineers for tree stabilization
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News

National Landscapers Association Recognizes Tree Staple
September/October "Landscape News" 


An Alternative to Tree Staking

Many arborists now agree that the disadvantages of staking and guying trees far outweigh the advantages. The current trend in thinking is that staking impedes normal tree growth and is detrimental to tree health.


In his article, "Should Newly Planted Trees Be Staked and Tied?" William R. Chaney answers the question simply. "In most cases, no. It is crucial that trees experience movement caused by the wind to develop properly."


Chaney, who is a professor at Purdue University's Department of Forestry and Natural resources, notes that supporting trees with stakes and guys can go beyond unnecessary to detrimental.


Blowing in the Wind

Jay Banks, arborist with the town of Leesburg, VA, explains. "Research has shown that by staking trees you reduce the development of trunk taper, which means the tree's ability to grow in response to the prevailing winds. Staking can also lead to a tree snapping in half if the guy wires are placed too low on the trunk."


Marianne C. Ophardt, an area extension agent with the Washington State University Cooperative Extension, says that staked trees—especially those improperly staked, which happens all too often—tend to develop smaller root systems and thinner trunks. "The movement of the tree trunk in the wind stimulates plant hormones that, in turn, stimulate root and trunk growth. When a tree is staked in a manner that prevents any movement of the trunk, the tree doesn't establish and grow as strong. This is why young trees that are staked are often unable to stand upright when the staking is removed."


Staking Is Easy At First, But Requires Follow-up

Paul Wray of the Iowa State university Forestry Extension agrees with Ophardt that small trees less than six-feet tall or less than one-inch in caliper or diameter should not need staking to support them. Ideally, though, the tree should be watched after planting to make sure.

"As tree planting stock gets larger, their root system, ball-and-burlap, or pot size may not be sufficient to support them without tipping or transferring top movement of the root system. With trees that may be able to support themselves, plant them and watch the planting hole for several days after planting. If the tree tips or leans, it needs support."


For landscape firms unable to watch tree plantings closely, automatic staking can seem like the best alternative. But Dennis Patton, horticulture agent with the Johnson County, Kansas, State Research and Extension says automatically staking and guying is a big mistake.


"Trees across the country are shamelessly being killed by acts of kindness or neglect. The culprit is improper staking when the tree is planted and the failure to remove the mechanisms."
Patton notes that staking problems normally are the result of three incorrect practices:

  • Improper staking at the time of planting, particularly staking high—on the upper two thirds—of the tree trunk;
  • Leaving braces on past the first growing season;
  • Fitting the stakes too tightly on the trunk to allow for natural growth.


"Staked trees should be checked often during the growing season to help prevent this problem. Wire guys that are too tight or left in place for extended periods will girdle the tree, restricting the movement of nutrients and water. The tree can be choked to death."

What To Do?

Jim Mancini, vice president of Tree Staple, Inc., has a better idea.


In 1997, Mancini, who is a landscape professional, was on a job when he devised the concept of a below-grade tree and shrub stabilizing system that doesn't need to be removed. He tested the product for four years before bringing Tree Staple™ to market. Here's how it works. Guy wire systems rely on trunk stabilization. Tree Staple™ stabilizers secure the tree's root ball.

"Tree Staple™ looks like the number ‘seven.' The longer part of the staple is placed against the outside of the root ball; the cross member stretches across the top of the root ball, and there's a shorter prong that goes into the root ball. The product is basically hammered down on the longer prong until the cross member is slightly recessed into the root ball and the shorter prong, as well is into the root ball itself. To adjust, simply alternate back and forth from the longer prong to the short prong until it's completely in."


Advantages Over Staking

John King, the company's CEO, says the product has many advantages over stake and guy wire systems. "Root ball stabilizing puts no restriction on the trunk of the tree, so there's no risk of chafing, strangulation or undo stress involved. This allows the tree to grow normally, swaying in the wind, which everyone agrees allows better development of the trunk and the tree itself."


Commercial users are especially drawn to the labor-saving advantages. Tree Staple™ stabilizers can be installed in about one minute by one person (versus the 10 to 20 minutes or more required to install stake and wire) and requires only a sledgehammer for installation. "This tool is almost what a power-nailer is to hammering. It involves about one-twentieth of the time as stake and wire."


There's more. Because the system is below ground, landscape firms don't need to return to the site for post-planting maintenance, retrieval or disposal which saves even more time.


King also notes that community liability is reduced, because there are no above-ground obstructions; hence no risk of people or pets being injured by poles or wires. The system deters random theft, too, since new plantings aren't so noticeable.


From an aesthetic standpoint, architects love Tree Staple™. "When architects design projects, they don't design them for stake-and-wire. They use stake-and-wire only for as long as they must in order to secure the trees. With Tree Staple, they get instant aesthetic gratification."

Staking versus Tree Staples
City Trees November 2002 Issue


This article offers an opinion regarding a new concept in tree planting procedures.


Staking

The recommendation for staking trees has changed in recent years as the result of studies on the effect of wind sway on trees and what happens to staked trees. Trees tied to tall stakes at a point just below the crowns are still a common sight, however this practice, that was once thought to discourage vandalism and support the tree, is no longer recommended. Trunk stabilizing systems that rely on stakes and/or guy wires require a considerable amount of time to install properly, need to be adjusted, and must be removed within 12 to 18 months after installation to prevent long-term tree damage.


If a tree is staked and tied just below the crown, the stem cannot sway, and little increase in stem diameter occurs from base to crown. The stem may in fact become thicker above the tie than below it, because diameter growth increases in response to the movement of the crown. A supported tree will initially gain height faster than the unsupported tree, but the stem will be thin and weak up to the tie, and then taper rapidly. As the tree can flex only over the height of the crown, it is all too easy to snap the crown off by using the tie as a pivot. There are other disadvantages to staking. Regular maintenance will be needed to check on the ties, as these can abrade and even strangle the stem if not adjusted from time to time. Stakes and ties also cost money. Where possible, it is usually better to use smaller trees that do not need staking. Furthermore, nursery grown trees have a relatively limited root-spread that makes them vulnerable to wind-throw or vandalism when they are planted in cultivated soil.


The stem diameter growth of a tree is stimulated when it sways in the wind. If a tree is left unstaked, the whole tree, including the stem, will sway, stimulating maximum diameter growth at or near the root collar. Over time, this swaying will help form a stout, firm tree with a stem that tapers evenly from base to crown. The unstaked tree will thus develop a structure that can flex under the force of wind or vandalism. As roots at the root collar also increase in diameter from the movement of the stem, the tree is given added stability.


Stapling

A new, below-grade system that secures new plantings by the root-ball has been designed to be left alone. The concept is simple. A long "staple" is placed through the root ball to hold the ball in contact with the bottom of the planting pit and hold the root system in place. One person using a simple sledge hammer can install the product in less than 2 minutes; significantly less than the time it takes for traditional guying and staking methods.


It's what you can't see that is a key benefit of below-grade stabilizers. There are no above ground stakes, wires, or exposed components, whatsoever. Immediately upon installation, the staple stabilizes the tree to provide a finished look to a new landscape. And if the aesthetics alone are not enough of an enticement, think in terms of safety for children or pets where the danger of exposed stakes and wires is eliminated. The faster installation, no maintenance, better appearance, and reduced liability are all benefits to this new concept.


This new invention was developed by Jim Mancini, a veteran landscaper, who has patented this innovative way to stabilize newly planted trees. His company, Tree Staple, Inc. sells the new below-grade stabilizing system under the Tree Staple™ brand. The product and its concept have captured the interest of the ANLA who is encouraging all municipalities, landscape architects, state governments and landscape installers to consider alternatives to traditional staking and guying specifications.


The ANLA recommendations refer to research that proves that trunk stabilization may be detrimental to a tree's growth and development. Trees need natural movement to grow properly. Traditional trunk stabilizing creates unnatural stress and wears on the tree's trunk. When secured by the root-ball, trees flex from the root collar through the length of the trunk. They develop a better overall taper and become more tolerant of wind and vandalism. Trunk damage and girdling are inherent dangers of traditional systems that use guy wires. The tree staple system eliminates these problems and promotes better growth.



References: ANLA Memorandum, W. Quinn; "Should Newly Planted Trees Be Staked and Tied?" FNR-FAQ-6, Dept. of Forestry and Natural Resources, Purdue University Extension Service, June 21, 2002.


British Trust for Conservation Volunteers, "Tree Planting and Aftercare",www.btcv.org/skills