Maintaining your stakes, cross-braces, ties, fencing and other hardware is an often-overlooked part of tree care. In many cases a hammer and nails is all you need. Ignoring the hardware can result in a damaged or misshapen tree.
Stakes and Ties
Stakes and ties should lightly support the tree but allow it to move in the wind. Trees need their exercise, too! A tightly-bound tree won’t send out anchoring roots because there is no need, which will result in a weaker tree.
Note: if you have a leaning or fallen tree that was planted by FUF less than three years ago, our Emergency Tree Care team may be able to help.
Here are some simple tips to keep your tree in peak condition:
Stakes should be straight up and down, and not wiggle when you shake them. A wiggly stake may be broken underground and should be replaced. Stakes are most important on the side where the wind usually comes from, because the tree should pull against a stake rather than lean on it for support. Because wind direction varies in a storm, a three-stake system is your best bet.
When a tree gets large, stakes are no longer needed and they may damage the tree. Remove them.
If the tops of the stakes rub and wound any branches, cut the stakes to shorten them. Keep in mind that taller stakes give you more options for tying and supporting the tree, so only shorten the stakes as much as necessary.
Crossbraces are vital, providing strength and stability for the stakes. They also act as spacers – protecting the whole structure from collapsing inward and wounding the tree. Replace any broken crossbraces with an appropriately sized piece of wood or metal. We use recycled plywood, cut by volunteers.
Move any crossbrace that is wounding the tree.
Ties should be tight enough to hold the tree but loose enough to allow movement. Remember, a tree allowed to move becomes stronger than one that is held immobile.
Adjust ties as the tree grows to prevent wounding.
Attach ties that you can easily adjust later.
The best ties are flat and wide – don’t use rope, wire or string. These cut into the tree, causing serious injury, and often death of the tree or limb portion above the injury. Plastic can trap moisture and cause rot. Rubber or cloth are good materials.
Fencing and Other Protective Hardware
Fencing can protect a tree from vandals, car doors, and other common sources of injury. Contact the DPW Department of Urban Forestry at 415-641-2677 to find out about permits for anything that you build up around the tree basin
Avoid encasing the tree from head to toe in screening.
If you build a fence, put it around the perimeter of the tree basin so the tree has room to grow.
Small metal poles placed at curbside will prevent damage from cars.
Make sure the protective hardware doesn’t eventually become part of the tree! Plan ahead and consider how to remove your protection before you install it.