Flexible Stakes Improve Tree Tube Performance

Tree Protection Supply customers tend to be the most savvy tree tube users and buyers in the market.  They have tried different types of tubes, and many different types of stakes in an effort to find the combination that provides the best combination of price and performance.

Lately I have been amazed with how so many of these experienced tree tube users seem to be thinking along the exact same lines regarding their choice of stake material.  There is a definite trend toward using stakes that flex and sway in the wind, such as PVC electrical conduit or fiberglass rod.

Like many other “old school” ideas about tubes, the old idea that the stake should be rigid is undergoing a major sea change, as tree tubes – like any other technology – continue to improve in both performance and affordability.  Flexible stakes have several advantages:

  1. Consistency – No matter how good your source of wooden or bamboo stakes is, there are always some stakes that fail due to imperfections, knots, etc.  PVC and fiberglass stakes have consistent quality you can count on.  If you buy 25 stakes you know you’ll have 25 stakes you can use.
  2. Decay resistance – PVC and fiberglass stakes last for years, and can even be reused.
  3. Stand up to wind – Flexible stakes bend in the wind, but spring back.  I have seen tree tubes with fiberglass stakes still standing after tornado winds had snapped mature trees like matchsticks. 
  4. Tree stem diameter growth – The motion of a tree swaying in the wind triggers growth responses in the tree that “tell” it to thicken its stem and add taper to the base.  Trees grown in tree tubes with flexible stakes sway in the wind and grow thicker trunks.
  5. Reduced bark abrasion at the rim – After a tree emerges from a tree tube the leafy canopy acts like a sail and catches a lot of wind.  The force of the wind on the canopy causes the stem of the tree to rub against the rim of the tube, sometimes cause bark abrasion at that point.  A flexible PVC or fiberglass stake affords some “give” and reduces the rubbing of the stem against the rim.

Like other recent developments in tree tube design – such as ventilation to improve growth – I think that the shift to using flexible stakes will bring tree tubes to a whole new level of performance.

Based on my own experience I recommend ½” Schedule 40 PVC electrical conduit.  For now I get them at my local Home Depot or Lowe’s store in 10 foot lengths.  I cut them in half to make two 5ft stakes which work for both 4ft and 5ft tree tubes.  Generally you can drive ½” conduit stakes just with a hammer or rubber mallet.  In dry, hard packed or gravelly soils it might be helpful to use  “driving collar.”  When the stakes starts to wiggle and vibrate due to resistance in the soil it is difficult to pound.  So I slip a 4ft length of 1” conduit pipe around the stake I’m driving, and hold that driving collar firmly while I drive the ½” stake.  It works great!

As a final note, you might find that your trees grow a little more slowly in tree tubes with flexible stakes as compared to those grown in tubes with rigid stakes.  That’s OK!  That means they are allocating more of their growth resources to developing a thicker stem and tapered base.  Trees grown in tubes with rigid stakes tend to slow down in height growth after emerging from the tree tube, while they devote their energy into thickening the stem.  During this phase trees grown in tubes with flexible stakes will catch up and shoot past them.

And as always, keep visiting us at Tree Protection Supply for the latest info and tips to boost the performance of your tree tubes – not to mention for the best prices on the best tree tubes on the market.  Stay tuned for more developments soon!

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