Q: The rain earlier this month softened the soil in my yard. Because of high winds, a twelve foot pine tree is leaning at about fifteen degrees from vertical. A small portion of the root ball is six inches above ground level. I am hoping I can right this tree and stake it and hold it in place for the winter. How should I do this?
A: First dig a cavity under the raised portion of the root ball. This will allow it to settle back into place when you pull the tree vertical once more.
Find a neighbor who has a trailer hitch on the back of his truck or SUV. Tie a heavy rope to the hitch and to the leaning pine, half way up the trunk. Gently pull the tree into position. The root ball should subside back to its original growing level in the soil.
You’ll need to stake the tree in order to hold it upright until its roots can do their job. Wire, cable or rope wrapped for long periods around a tree trunk can do terrible damage as it sways in the wind. I do not recommend trying to pad the wire with cloth or old water hose. An old bicycle inner tube works very well. Knot it around the trunk and tie your rope or cable or wire to it. Two stakes, separated by 5 – 10 feet are better than a single stake and wire. Leave the staking system in place for a year. The roots should provide firm anchorage after that.