June is the perfect time to take a stroll around the orchard and do a bit of light maintenance while enjoying the sights, sounds and smells of early summer. Take a few minutes to check whether the stakes supporting the trees are still doing their job and loosen off any ties that are too tight.
Most fruit trees only need temporary staking for two or three years at most. The exception is trees grown on dwarf rootstock, such as M27 or M9, which have very poor anchorage and will need to be supported for their entire life. As a rule of thumb, the more vigorous the rootstock, the shorter time the tree will need staking.
However, providing support for the tree is only part of the stake’s function. Properly positioned, a post will help the young tree to establish a healthy root system and a strong trunk.
Standard and half standards should be planted with a stake that allows the tree to flex in the wind. The movement encourages the tree to produce a strong root system that, as it spreads out, will help anchor the tree. It will also stimulate the stem to thicken and produce a sturdy trunk that will prevent the tree being damaged by strong winds.
The stake, which should stand higher than the grafting union to avoid the tree splitting, should be placed on the side of the prevailing wind so that the tree is blown away from it. As we mentioned in our blog post 6 Common Mistakes When Planting Fruit Trees it is important to set the tie low down the post so that it holds the tree upright, but still allows some movement.
The purpose of the tie is to catch the tree rather than attach the tree to the stake. Loosen off the tie as the stem develops to avoid damage to the trunk. Don’t forget to remove the stake and the tie once they have fulfilled their function.