Staking Trees – Just Skip It

Remember how I mentioned I was sick about a million days ago?  Well here it is, day number 11, and it’s possible that this bird flu or SARS or whatever it is, is finally lifting.  I’m still dreaming of getting my hands on one of those dental suction tools and sticking it up my nose and then down my throat to clear out the goop once and for all.  Can anyone make this happen?


Let’s talk about trees for a minute.  Anytime I’m working on a project my number one recommendation is to plant a couple, better yet a bunch, of native shade trees.  It’s a basic first move, it’s easy, and it makes tons of sense to shade your house and yard from our intense (relentless) sun.


One of the main things that goes wrong for people and their trees is the act of staking them when it’s unnecessary, and it’s almost always unnecessary here in the desert.  Properly grown trees are allowed to develop multiple trunks that stand up to wind without the help of a stake.  Like this:


no stakes 1-03

Lots of times, though, you’ll see poorly-grown trees that have had all but one trunk trimmed away, leaving this:

no stakes 2-02

If you’ve purchased one of these crappily-grown trees, you’re aware of the staking battle that follows.  If a tree needs serious staking to keep it from being essentially horizontal, it becomes hard to create an exit strategy.  The longer the tree is staked, the less strength it develops to stand on its own.  I could get into the scientific nitty-gritty of this, but here’s the main point: buy native trees that have multiple trunks (desert willow, native mesquite, palo verdes, ironwood – they should all have multiple trunks), leave them alone for the first 2-3 years after planting, then do some light pruning to get the shape you desire.  I’ve seen trees that have been in the ground for 5+ years and still require their original stake to stand up, and my opinion is that they’re mostly a lost cause.  Just start over with a specimen that has been grown by someone who knows what’s up with our desert trees.




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