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Buying new trees
with stakes attached

Q: I saw the Dirt Doctor on TV and he said not to buy new trees that are attached to stakes. How else can you keep them standing up?

He also said that after buying a new tree to "use a wisk broom to expose the root flare" what the heck does that mean?

Thank you

A: I didn't see this particular episode, but I think the Dirt Doctor may be referring to trees that are so loose in their rootball that a stake is needed just to hold them upright.

If their root system is so insufficient that the tree requires help just to stand up, the root system is also likely to be insufficient to provide the tree with enough water and nutrients to be able to survive. In this case, it is better to pass on this tree.

I've planted many a tree that came with a stake, but I checked to make sure the tree was stable enough within its rootball to stand on its own without the stake.

Staking should mostly be used to provide support of trees that are in an extra-windy area, not to support a tree that can barely stand up on its own. After one year, the staking materials should be removed unless conditions warrant otherwise.

As for checking for the root flare, yes, this is very important. The root flare is the area at the base of the trunk where the trunk flares out and down into the ground. Look at an established tree and you'll easily see the flares at the base of the trunk where they go into the ground.

When you plant a tree, you want this root flare at or slightly above what will be the final grade around the tree. If you plant too deeply and bury this root flare, the tree will most likely struggle and it may not survive.

Planting the tree with the root flare just above final grade level will keep the tree from being planted too deeply. Being planted too deeply has killed many a tree, so this is a wise thing to do.

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Tom Mugridge

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