New cedar elm blew over in high winds

lucas_tx_gwMarch 22, 2012

Hi All,

I have a cedar elm that's probably 2" caliper or so. It was grown in a grow bag and when they planted it (in January) it had a beautiful huge fibrous root system. I live in North Texas and it was settling in well, we've had a nice moist winter/spring so I didn't have to water it much at all and it (unfortunately) had just leafed out about 2 weeks ago. The tree farm it came from doesn't like to stake and I was OK with that because I know there are pros and cons and it was nice and strong, had not been staked while at the farm.

On Monday we sustained winds of 25-35 mph all day. I came home early around 3 and the tree had blown over to about 30 or 40 degrees off vertical. We managed to get it pulled back upright and used some T-posts as stakes and guy wired it using some wire which we ran through an old soaker hose (best we could do at the time). A few small branches snapped off but overall it seems to be OK. I'm sure it lost any new roots it had been trying to put out but obviously it won't do much good to worry too much about that.

We got about 5" of rain in a 12 hr period, so I don't think I need to worry about watering it back in ;-).

So now the question is, what do I do with it going forward?

I know I need to get our temporary stuff off to be sure I don't damage it but we have a long and windy spring ahead of us out here on the blackland prairie, so I'm sure it will need some support.

What do you recommend? Do some of the methods of staking the root ball rather than the trunk actually work?

I'd appreciate any advice.



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hortster(6a, southcentral KS)

Remember that the reason for staking is not to keep the tree from snapping but rather to keep the immature root system from moving in the ground until it can establish. When high wind areas require staking, I haave always used a LOW diagonal stake at the base of the tree, enough to keep the ball from pivoting in the ground but not keeping the trunk from swaying and strengthining. Also, make sure that there is a figure 8 loop around the stake and the tree and that the stake is on the side of the dominant wind. This will keep it from rubbing...

    Bookmark   March 22, 2012 at 10:15AM
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arktrees(6b NW Arkansas)

What horster said. I will add one thing. I would leave it staked until winter. The roots will grow into the surrounding soil all summer, through fall, and probable well into winter in your climate. By the time it loses leaves in the fall,, the roots should have strengthen and well penetrated the surrounding soil. That combined with lose of leaves, thereby reducing win drag, it should be fine to un-stake at that time. Next spring, the roots will be growing before leaf out, and the tree should be more than ready for the increased wind drag by that time. I used this exact approach on our Chinese Pistache that blew over in a storm after planting it. No problems since.


    Bookmark   March 22, 2012 at 11:04AM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

I know there are pros and cons and it was nice and strong, had not been staked while at the farm.

==>>> well of course it wasnt..

it had an INTACT root system to hold it up ... i like to tell peeps.. that the root system underground.. is at least as big.. if not bigger than the tree above.. to help them conceptualize just what was cut off at transplant ...

what does your have to hold it up??? HOPE????

stake it properly.. until it can grow enough roots.. to .. get this.. hold itself up ... and frankly.. we can only guess about all that ...

you said: We got about 5" of rain in a 12 hr period

yep.. the soil disturbed at planting.. liquified.. complicated by the fact that it leafed out.. and created what was basically a sailboat sail in a puddle ... and i dont see how you are going to stake ONLY the rootball with that sized sail ...

looking forward.. start enjoying those stakes.. and leave them there for about 2 years.. until hopefully it will grow enough roots to maintain vertical ..

ask if you need info on PROPER MULCHING.. and PROPER WATERING ...

what you dont mention.. is your native soil type.. and what may or may not have been added to the planting hole ...

i would disregard any worry about breaking a few branches.. or what little root growth there may have been ...

and i presume it was warrantied .. and i would politely put the seller on notice.. especially if he installed it ... because apparently his stake theory was wrong ...

and next time.. think about not going bigger than a one inch caliper.. they transplant easier.. cope better.. and are less stressed all things considered.. and in a given 5 years span.. would probably outgrow the 2 inch ... and this can be used as a bargaining chip for a smaller replacement.. should the seller balk for some reason. ...


    Bookmark   March 22, 2012 at 5:19PM
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Ken-It was in a root bag above ground so it didn't lose any roots. It was planted into the native clay soil (blackland prairie), no amendments, proper depth, watered in and properly mulched.

Horster-what kind of material do you use around the trunk?


    Bookmark   March 22, 2012 at 7:59PM
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hortster(6a, southcentral KS)

For the single low stake with figure 8 loop I prefer nylon rope through a section of good, flexible garden hose. If I were to do a double stake I would still do it LOW on the trunk and would use these 1-1/2" wide nylon straps with gromets to spread the pressure on the trunk:

If you use these, don't make the common mistake of making a complete loop around the tree (tends to "choke" it).

    Bookmark   March 23, 2012 at 10:33AM
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hortster(6a, southcentral KS)

Dug out a picture of the figure 8. This one is a little bigger than ken's 1" tree - it was a replacement for a 10" lacebark elm that an ice storm took out (left side of pic). It is in a high wind area and had quite enough foliage on top to create a lot of wind resistance, ergo the stake.

    Bookmark   March 23, 2012 at 11:19AM
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Above ground root-bags are going to be lighter due to the planting media. Below ground bags are usually the same soil that came out of the hole. Clay soil grown trees are usually pretty heavy. So a above ground grown tree will need to be staked for about a year because it has a lighter root ball. I would stake the tree proportionately to the height of the tree for the first year.

    Bookmark   March 23, 2012 at 5:45PM
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lou_midlothian_tx(z8 DFW, Tx)


It's pretty much given that you'd have to stake a tree (depending on the size of the tree vs size of root system) where you live. I know it can get really windy in the spring so I had to stake my trees so it doesn't lean toward north from strong south winds.

You said grow bag... Let me guess... Chamberville Tree Farm?

    Bookmark   March 23, 2012 at 8:39PM
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I had something similar happen to about the same size cedar elm. I kept it staked for a year, then loosened the ties an inch or two every 6 months, then removed stakes at 2 years.
Tree has been fine ever since. About 15' high now, 4" trunk.

    Bookmark   March 24, 2012 at 11:37PM
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