There’s more to tree planting than just digging a hole the proper depth and keeping its root zone moist. The things you do when installing a tree influence its strength, beauty, and value for the next century. New trees need support for 2 years after planting more often than not require any at all. But doing the staking wrong can cause your new tree numerous problems.
Some tree planting guides say that most trees do not need staking, but the day’s of big ball and burlap nursery packaging are for the most part over. If the tree came bare root or in a nursery container it needs support. Still, it needs to move with the wind to develop a strong trunk and root system. But covering all these requirements isn’t easy, especially with the antiquated methods still used by many today. The exception being conifers (evergreens) with branches to the ground that aren’t planted on a slope.
It’s not just ornamental trees, mind you. While most fruit trees come in a very immature state these days, if they’re fast-growing, you’d be wise to give them upright support. And some apple trees, those really dwarf ones, have such a heavy fruit to wood ratio that you have to stake them from tree planting until forever more. The University of Minnesota says any tree on super dwarfing rootstock needs staking. The 8-10 foot varieties on M.26 (EMLA 26) roots need staking for 2 years. While the M.9 (EMLA 9) rootstock requires permanent staking. See what happens when they aren’t staked properly for the top load?!
Is there an easy way to help the average person stake their new tree planting so it helps the tree rather than hurts it? Preferably using only common household tools. There is now! It’s called Kradl, and will work with any tree you can carry home without a loader’s assistance. Solving the problem became a challenge for Steve Atkinson and Bruce Kidman in 2009. Coming up with a design that was best for both the tree and its people took until 2016. It was a tall order to fill properly.
Why? Stake a tree too loose or too tight is all wrong. Both hamper their development and cause bark loss or internal injuries. The trunk needs to move with the wind, but not enough to tilt before firmly rooting in. Seen any crooked trees lately? It’s unlikely they were like that when the tree planting was complete. More often leaning trees were never staked or staked improperly.
They designed the Kradl’s collar so it won’t cause bark rub, allows movement, and doesn’t give insects a place to nest and dine. Of course, it could cause injury if left in place too long. You have to remove any nursery staking tape and wires or trunk wrap at the time of tree planting, and any staking wire, ropes, and collars after 2 years in the ground. If left in place, the wood starts growing around them. And once that happens, the indented wood is weaker than the rest of the trunk or limbs.
Trees that totally grow over the wires from staking at tree planting will eventually snap off there. I’ve seen the entire tops of 40-50-year-old trees snap off in a storm. All because it was too much hassle to remove the staking guy wires. Quite a loss. One that the ease of installing and removing Kradl can stop from happening to many trees in the future.
While the collar on Kradl has a 4.25-inch diameter, filling it completely with trunk defeats the purpose of the free movement. I’d say 2″ wide at maximum, which is an awfully big tree for the average person to handle at tree planting time! You’d need a machine to move it around. Especially given that this trunk width is at 2/3 the tree’s height from the soil line, which is how far up the trunk you want your support collar.
Unlike that big tree, we were just talking about, anyone will find Kradl easy to carry around the yard. It only weighs 3.5 pounds, even your kids can handle getting it to the tree planting location. It’s also built to last from tough outdoor plastic, powder-coated steel legs, and rust-resistant fasteners. The steel legs will withstand storm winds and won’t rust unless you damage the powder coating. They’re also independently adjustable in height; just what you need for uneven terrain and trees planted on a slope.
Kradl is currently in the midst of the Kickstarter campaign, so you can take advantage of Early Bird savings. Not that this cool new tree planting tool is pricey without that discount. Available now for $20 but once the Kickstarter campaign ends it will sell for $35 apiece. Crowdfunders will start receiving their orders in April, just in time for spring planting!
Learn more on Kradl’s Kickstarter page.
Images courtesy of Kradl and Cooperative Extension.
If you don't find her at the desk - check the gardens. When not writing and weeding, she enjoys a good book, painting junk furniture, and blending the harvest of heirloom tomatoes and chiles into salsas.