For years and years, newly planted trees of all shapes and sizes were routinely supported. The questions that were never really answered were ‘For how long will they need that support ?’, and ‘Do they really need to be supported at all ?’
The truth is that up until more recently, we supported newly planted trees because we always have supported newly planted trees.
The other question is whether it is always beneficial.
This tree simply snapped in half because of its restraint.
This is not an uncommon sight. I once came across an establishing conifer hedge which was 3.5 M high and with 45 or more individual trees within it.
Each tree had been tied to its little cane with plastic string by their previous owner when they were newly planted. The 5 years or so of annual growth was restricted by the string like in the picture above, and every last one of them snapped off at that point.
So why do we need to support a tree at all?
Well, the main reason is to hold it in place to give the roots a chance to grow into the soil in which it has been newly planted so that it can support itself.
So how long does that take ?
Not as long as you might think.
In the real world where naturally deposited seed germinates and the young plants develop, the very first thing that the seed does is to put down a deep root to support itself.
Then as the tree grows on, the root continues to further develop. And as the little tree is buffeted by the wind, so the roots respond by producing root on the lee side to add extra support.
And in a free-standing tree, that is the natural process that happens as the tree grows.
So when we cheat by wanting to start off with a bigger tree that is maybe 10 years old, that 10 year old root system is not there in the same way as it would have been had it not been interfered with. The net result of that is that if it is moved to a new location, it cannot immediately support itself.
So we believe that the right selection of species for your soil type is absolutely paramount. Because if a young tree is actively growing it will produce that healthy root growth in a season or two.
Therefore only short-term support should be necessary in a larger ‘Standard’ tree, and in a little fruit tree like the one at the beginning of this blog, none should be necessary at all.