The June 1990 issue of ANN contained an article about the importance of staking young fruit trees. I would like to correct two errors I made in the article. First, the subject of the staking efforts was not pear trees, but ‘Blushing Gold’ apple trees. Second, the poles which the Sundquist orchard foreman. Gene Cox, used for staking were made of galvanized steel, not aluminum.
I revisited the Sundquist Orchard with Gene on June 16. Besides Blushing Golden’ apples, he had Law Spur Red Rome’ apple trees growing on stakes alongside a row which were unstaked and planted at the same time. On the average, I estimated that the staked trees were 40% taller and wider than the unstaked ones. There was considerably more fruit on the staked trees that the unstaked ones. These Romes’ were on dwarfing rootstocks and in their “second leaf” (second growing season) in the orchard. They were 1 year old, on 2-year-old rootstocks when planted and staked. Green horticultural tape was used to tether the trees to the stakes.
Gene told me that he had dug up a few staked and a few unstaked trees. After one growing season, he found a lot more hair roots on the staked than on the unstaked trees. He feels that is because the whipping action of the wind breaks the hair roots. Much of the increase in fruitfulness and tree size is, he feels, due to the increased number of hair roots on the staked trees.
He routinely snips about 5-10% of the length of tree roots, especially if they have few feeder roots on them, before planting the trees. The cleanly-cut ends will soon generate lots of secondary and hair roots. (Note: if the root tissue is white inside, it’s alive; if brown, it s dead).
I bought 1/2-inch diameter electrical metal tubing and staked many of the taller fruit trees in my own garden. It was available only in 10 ft lengths at about $2.20 each, but that’s a small investment for a $10-$25 tree. Our yard in Pullman is quite exposed to the prevailing winds, so I feel this will help the trees considerably.
For staking young trees in Dan Whitney’s orchard, we used bamboo. It is better than conventional wooden stakes because its surface is smooth and will not abrade the bark. We put the stakes close to the windward side of each tree. By doing so this early in the growing season, we hope to have taller, straighter, better-rooted trees for sale in 1991.
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