Leaning Tree problem


Old 01-08-07, 07:01 PM
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Join Date: Sep 2005
Location: CA
Posts: 63
Question Leaning Tree problem

Hi all,

I've got a tree (not really sure what kind, it was planted when I moved in) in my front yard that is roughly 20 feet tall and maybe 7 to 8 feet in diameter.

The issue I have is that this tree, which I want to keep, is starting to lean a bit. Perhaps 8 to 12 inches off center line at the top. The trunk, at least the first 5 to 6 feet are relatively straight. The reason the tree is starting to lean is due to winds that I get in the area. Nothing huge, but enough to start the tree leaning.

I've placed a 7' metal fence post (buried perhaps 2 1/2'), the kind that's in the shape of a T and has bumps, or ribs on the one side (sorry, not sure what to call that), at an angle, and tied the tree up to it using 3/8" cable...with a turnbuckle in the middle. I've tightened the turnbuckle all the way, and the fence post is starting to really lean towards the tree. The tree moved perhaps 1/2 inch back towards center.

My question is, is there anything else besides this method that someone could recommend to straigten out a tree like this? Perhaps, some kind of replacement for the metal fence post? A better anchor of sorts? Or even, a better solution than the turnbuckle method?
Or is this something I'll just have to do slowly..a little bit at a time with readjusting the cable/turnbuckle each time it gets tightened to it's maximum?

Hope that situation/question makes sense.

Thanks for any advise.
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Old 01-08-07, 09:21 PM
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Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: USA
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I assume you have cushioned the cable where it goes around the tree? Many people use a tiny section of garden hose to hopefully protect the bark from getting cut. It sounds like you have the right idea, the stake is usually put in at an angle, and is placed about as far away from the tree as the cable is high. (where it loops around the tree). Most often, you'll see 3 stakes around a tree with 3 cables, which basically keeps the tree immobilized. The benefit of the other stakes is that it keeps the tree from sliding side to side on your 1 cable, or going slack (when the wind changes direction), which can sometimes rub the tree raw. But if that's not a problem in your situation, 1 stake might be fine.

The turnbuckle will work well, but you may find that some links of chain around the post (below the turnbuckle) will also work well to hook your turnbuckle into, making it somewhat "adjustable".

Keeping the tree equally pruned will also help so that it does not have more branches on the sunny side, as compared with the shady side of the tree. Lopsided trees will really bend in the wind due to the center of gravity being off-center. Depending on the type of tree, the majority of inward growing branches can be pruned off, as can any branches that rub on each other, that come close to touching, or that are redundant. Pruning smaller branches off encourages stronger growth along the main branches of the tree, resulting in a stronger tree overall.
Old 01-09-07, 04:40 PM
Join Date: May 2002
Location: Maryland zone 7
Posts: 1,716
Hi Rxsid,

Some good suggestions by XSleeper. My first question would be how the tree is leaning. Is it heaving out of the soil or is this a curvature of the trunk? You say it's from the wind, but have the roots loosened (heaving) or has the tree actually developed a curvature in the trunk from the wind and is still anchored well with it's root system? If you are trying to upright the tree by pulling at the roots then you could actually cause more harm then good by using the turnbuckle and stake method and loosen the roots of the tree in the soil. If you are located where there might be soaking rains or heavy snow/ice load, you could have, or be creating, a hazardous tree that could fail.

A tree that is leaning because of wind that is firmly anchored in the soil can sometimes be pruned to allow a better air flow through the tree. Sometimes corrective pruning can also help to take the weight off the side that is away from the wind. Often the tree will actually compensate with the appropriate growth. Take a look here.

See figure 7 here.

With no disrespect to XSleeper, I also would like to address his statement:

"Most often, you'll see 3 stakes around a tree with 3 cables, which basically keeps the tree immobilized."

He is probably correct that many people stake a tree in such a way that does keep the tree immobilized, but that is not a good practice either. Trees need some sway in the wind to develop a strong root system.

If this tree is valuable to you I would suggest a consult with a certified arborist. They would be able to better determine if corrections can or should be made. From this site:

"Cabling and bracing does not repair a hazard tree, but when done correctly by a trained arborist, it can extend the time a tree or its parts are safe. Done incorrectly, it creates a more serious hazard. We do not recommend cabling or bracing as treatment for a hazard tree unless the tree has significant historic or landscape value."

From this site:

"Look for Tree Balance
Leaning or lopsided trees present more of a hazard than those growing vertically, but if a tree has always grown off center, it generally is not an undue risk. However, any sudden lean indicates breakage or weakening of support roots and should be cause for alarm and immediate action."

From this site:


A leaning tree may or may not be a substantial hazard. It is necessary to distinguish between two types:

1. Natural lean
Not the greatest term, but here we mean trees that have been leaning for much of their life. You can see sweep (curvature) of the stem, or maybe even a crook, where the tree corrected the lean. The upper stem is vertical, not leaning. There is no evidence of recent change, such as soil/root plate movement, cracking or stress bending of the stem. Sometimes natural leans can increase slowly over time as the weight of the stem increases.
2. Unnatural lean
Here we mean a lean that is due to a relatively recent change in the orientation of the stem. You may see evidence of soil/root disturbance indicating that the root system has shifted in the soil. You may see cracking in the stem as it gives way. There may even be bending of the stem going on, usually associated with decay. The upper stem in an unnatural lean is mostly not vertical, but leaning. Trees with an unnatural lean have already begun to fail and are extremely hazardous. I would suggest closing sites immediately until the tree can be removed.

Some specialists suggest that any lean greater than 15, particularly if it is in the direction of the target, is probably cause for removal. Be careful not to put too much emphasis on direction of lean. If you have experience felling trees, you know how much a little wind and holding wood can influence the direction of fall. It would not be at all surprising to have a tree go down at right angles to the direction of lean."

More info on wind damaged trees.

I urge you to have a consult with a certified arborist.

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