I planted some fruit trees on level ground about 18 months ago. A couple of them have developed a slight lean. I understand that staking is not necessarily a good idea unless there is "too much lean."

Just how much is too much lean? Is there a degree measurement or rule of thumb?


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Since these are fruit trees the crop will likely be heavy; this means there will be a tendency for any lean to get worse over time due to unbalanced gravity effects unless something corrective happens. The trees are a long term investment, so zero lean in any direction is preferred. As the lean gets worse, which it will over time unless corrected, the more we have to prune to favour the weak side or remove crop to re-balance.

18 months in place means that the trees are established but will still respond to encouragement to grow straight. An informal way to achieve this is with one or more strong poles with a Y fork at the top judiciously placed to put the tree vertical again, although it might need occasional adjustment. The more professional scheme would be 3 T-rail posts arranged around the tree with wire to the tree to pull it into verticality. After a couple of years the tree should remain upright and the support can be removed.

Reasons not to stake or support might be: time needed to put in place, driving T-rail could break roots, a Y pole could compress surface bark and cambium tissues, and the existence of obstructions makes it harder to mow around the trees. On the plus side it makes a wonderful adventure playground for squirrels.

  • I would just like to add, you should consider the type of root stock. Dwarf and Mini-Dwarf tree often get the same amount of fruit as a larger root stock, but have much smaller root structure. I worked with people that have had those types of fruit trees fall over even years later, because these root stock have less vigorous roots, not creating as many anchor roots as a larger tree. Also take into account the type of weather you get, the type of soil, and the terrain, like are you on a slope. ---- My short would be to stake it. Don't worry about damaging roots, they'll grow back.
    – GardenGems
    Nov 29, 2019 at 22:24

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