Live Staking

Description and Function

Live stakes are sections of woody plants that are cut into lengths and placed into the slope. The plant material is installed during the fall or spring when the original plant (and consequently cuttings from it) are dormant. The plant materials used for stakes are usually hardy species which root easily and eventually grow into mature woody shrubs that reinforce the soil structure of the slope. (See Table 3 for some cutting species alternatives.)

Figure 10. Live staking.

Planning Considerations

Woody plants which have good rooting characteristics make good staking plant stock. Stakes are generally 2 to 3 feet long and 1/2 to 11/2 inches in diameter and can be collected from sections or branches of plants from donor sites. Stakes should be flat cut on the top and diagonal cut on the bottom so they will be installed correctly.

Staking can be used alone and with other planting techniques. Typically, if stakes are used alone on the slope they will be spaced across the slope as recommended for each species and slope situation. Each row should have the same spacing but should alternate stake positions so that if you look down or up slope no two consecutive rows should have stakes directly above or below one another (a diamond pattern). Stake rooting will be most effective if the stake is not positioned vertically but positioned at an angle off horizontal so that rooting can occur more effectively along the entire below ground length as shown on Figure 10.

Stakes are typically be placed into predrilled holes using rebar sections which are slightly smaller than the diameter of the stakes. Gently tap stakes into holes with soft mallets or other instruments. Remove the top section of the stakes that get damaged during installation. It is good practice to mulch the staked area after the installation is completed.

Live staking is also used with contour wattling to secure wattles along a contour. The method of stake installation is the same as described for independent stakes.


Used on slopes of 1.5 horizontal to 1 vertical or flatter. The best time for staking installation is fall and spring which requires careful planning to perform slope work in this time period. Often the planting period for many projects is planned for the summer and early fall and this typically results in low propagation of the cuttings and ultimately poor slope protection performance of the vegetation system. Live staking does not provide an immediate solution to slope stabilization.

Advantages and Disadvantages

  • Advantages: Stake sources are plentiful and inexpensive, can be planted with minimal surface preparation/disturbance, can be placed into irregular (but stable) slope surfaces, helps reduce slope soil moisture.
  • Disadvantages: Does not solve existing erosion problems (excluding benefits from associated mulch), staking is not a short-term solution to slope instabilities.



Key to Applicability and Compatibility Graphics (Figure 2)

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