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Live Stakes

The Benefits of Live Staking in Eroded Soils

Introduction to Live Staking

Erosion is a common problem in areas in need of habitat restoration. Caused by a lack of root mass to stabilize the soil, when high water flow enters an area due to heavy rains or natural streams and rivers, the sediment is washed away and erosion is further exacerbated. A natural remedy is planting live stakes, which are woody cuttings of trees or shrubs that grow roots when planted. As the root matrix grows, it stabilizes the soil and helps prevent further erosion.

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Several species may be used for live stake cuttings such as willow, cottonwood, poplar, and dogwood, as well as other hardwoods. For habitat restoration, it is important to introduce native plants to support the local wildlife.

How to Plant Live Stakes

Live stakes are typically 1-2 inches in diameter, and 2-3 feet tall. The top of the stake is cut straight across, while the bottom is cut at an angle to help with planting. At least half of the stake should be planted into the soil. In soft soils, the stakes may be planted directly into the ground. In harder soils, it is beneficial to first dig a small hole prior to planting. The stakes must be planted at least 2-3 feet apart to allow for sufficient lateral growth of the root systems. When planting live stakes on a slope, it is most beneficial to plant 90 degrees relative to the slope for most efficient lateral root growth. If the slope is vertical, plating at a slight upward angle is ideal. Be sure to prevent the live stakes from drying out prior to planting either by submerging them in a bucket of water, or wrapping them in a wet towel.

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What to Expect After Planting

After the first season, some leaf growth may be observed, though the root growth is most important for stabilizing the soil. A gentle tug of the stems will tell you which of your stakes has grown roots and which have remained dormant. Dormant cuttings may be removed and replaced with a new stake. After a few seasons, as live stakes grow, the stems may be harvested and planted as live stakes in other areas in need of soil stabilization.


Live staking is an excellent method for erosion sediment stabilization due to its ease of implementation and cost effectiveness. Moreover, it is a natural remedy to erosion. While other methods exist, live staking introduces native plants to an area that may also serve as a habitat or food source for local wildlife. Live stakes may be planted in a single day, and grow roots within a few months of planting. Once planted, live stakes require little maintenance, and stems from the resulting trees can then be re-harvested and used for soil stabilization in other eroded habitats.

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