Don't stake trees unless they are on windy site



November 29, 2008|By Ellen Nibali and Jon Traunfeld | Ellen Nibali and Jon Traunfeld,Special to The Baltimore Sun

How do I stake 6- to 8-foot arborvitaes and a 3 1/2 -inch caliper red maple? They're on the side of a hill that gets wind.

Trunk movement actually makes trunks grow stronger, so we don't recommend staking unless trees are weak or on a very windy site. In your case, consider also whether the wind blows the trees up or down the hill. Place your stakes on the upwind side of the tree. Stabilize the tree with wire or rope threaded through a short section of old hose. Hose cushions the wire and prevents rubbing. You don't want a rigid trunk, so leave slack to strengthen the trunk. Remove the stake after one growing season.

We want to go out and cut our own Christmas tree the old-fashioned way. How involved does that get?

"Choose and cut" Christmas tree farms can be found all over Maryland. They often provide saws, bailing and extras such as hot chocolate, gift shops, petting zoos, even visits with Santa. For a list by county, call us or go to To make your newly cut tree stay fresh longer, protect it from drying wind on a long ride home. Remember as soon as you get home to cut 1 inch off the trunk and keep your tree in a bucket of water until you take it in the house.

Ellen Nibali, a horticulture consultant, works at Maryland Cooperative Extension's Home and Garden Information Center, and Jon Traunfeld is the director of the Home and Garden Information Center. The center offers free gardening information. Call the center's help line at 800-342-2507 or e-mail plant and pest questions through the Send a Question feature at


* Keep scouting your yard and removing bagworm bags or the egg masses of Eastern tent caterpillar, which look like black Styrofoam on branches.

* Prune out fireblight-infected wood on apples and pears during the coldest winter periods to lessen spread of this bacterial infection.

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