Straightening a Leaning Tree
Q: How can I prevent my leaning tree from toppling?
The 15-foot-tall blue spruce in our yard has a pronounced tilt, which seems to be getting worse as the tree grows larger. I fear it will topple over someday. How can we prevent this?
—J.A. Breidenstein, Round Hill, VA
Roger Cook replies: If you try to pull the tree upright without freeing the roots first, you'll probably tear them and kill the tree. Instead, dig a circle around the tree that's at least 10 inches across for each inch of trunk diameter and at least 2 feet deep. Only then should you attempt to straighten the tree using a truck, tractor, or a whole lot of neighborhood muscle. Just be sure to put a thick pad on the trunk so the cable or rope you're pulling on doesn't damage the bark.
Or you could save yourself a lot of work and hire a tree-moving company equipped with a truck-mounted tree spade to do the digging for you. As long as there's a way for the truck to pull up close to the tree, it can scoop it up, straighten it, and then lower it back down in a matter of minutes.
Whichever method you use, be sure to tie cables to the tree for at least a year to keep the wind from pushing it out of alignment before the roots reestablish themselves.