pulling a tree straight

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Hi all,
I've got a redbud tree (at least that's what I've been told it is) in my front yard. Unfortunately it is growing at an angle, hanging over the street and actually around a streetlight. It is a very pretty tree but looks like hell. I think it did this because it was competing with an oversized elderberry bush that was left untrimmed by the previous owners. The redbud has two main trunks, one about 4" and the other about 3" in diameter.
So yesterday I figured I would try to pull the tree straight and bought some cable, clamps, and instead of a stake I bought a ground rod figuring that a typical wooden stake wouldn't hold this tree (I have a small ironwood in the back yard that I'm doing the same treatment to.) I cut the ground rod in half, drove one half into the ground a few feet away from the tree, and started setting up the cable. Gave SWMBO a wrench with instructions that she should tighten the cable clamps while I was pushing the tree upright and pulling the cable taut. I set my back against the main trunk, held the loose end of the cable (I bought the cable long enough that I could loop it around the ground rod and back to the tree) took a breath, pushed, and... nothing. The damn tree is STIFF.
Then things got stupid. I pulled the truck around front, tied a loop in the cable, and dropped it over the trailer hitch. Carefully I inched forward, but as soon as the cable pulled taut, the ground rod bent, and the cable slipped off of it. (this is better than what I expected, which was the cable snapping and whipping around. So SWMBO was standing well away from all this mess.) It had a good bite in the ground, but bent right where the clay under-soil gave way to actual topsoil, maybe 9" to a foot below the surface.
So what do I do with this tree? it's the prettiest tree in my front yard, but looks very ghetto as it's been allowed to grow at such an angle. What can I use as a stake that's stronger than a ground rod? Rebar? And how do I pull it without using a pickup truck (e.g. safely) I'm thinking two cables, each with a turnbuckle in the middle, alternately being shortened, or maybe I should just bite the bullet and invest in a good, heavy come-along.
nate
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get a arborist to look at it, you probably cant pull it straight, but may be able to trim it repeatedly to improve its appearance
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You will kill or severly damage it by breaking its roots
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wrote:

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wrote:

Cut it down and plant a new tree.
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A tree with 4" AND 3" trunks and you expect to straighten it out with a stake and a come-along or a truck? Did you just move to the country from the big city?
At that size, it's either live with it, cut it down, or maybe trim it a bit. With dual trunks and encroaching on a street light, it doesn't sound particularly attractive to have in front of the house to begin with. If it was some rare specimen, with a lot of digging and root pruning, you MIGHT succeed in what you want to do, but even then there is risk the tree won't survive.
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Nate Nagel wrote:

it and keeping it pruned to get a better shape. They sprout a lot of new brances, so pruning might not take too long. Got a photo to post? If you take a photo to extension service, they might be able to tell you what to do. Red-bud and lilacs - I sure miss them.
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First, make sure it's your tree. Those in the strip between the sidewalk and street often belong to the local municipality.
Dig out the low side until you can rock it by hand, pull to the desired angle via your preferred method (protecting the trunk where your cable contacts), fill in the space under the roots with very damp soil (to aid compaction), then stake it.
Then, heavily water it daily x7, then water "normally" daily x7. -----
- gpsman
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wrote:

[snip amusing tale of much wasted time and effort]
ROTFLMAO! It took ten years for the tree to grow that way, and you think you're going to pull it straight, just like that, in half an hour! Ain't gonna happen.
You've already received two good suggestions: prune it to the shape you want, or cut it down and replace it. If, however, you're still determined to pull it straight, the only way you have any hope of doing it is a little bit at a time. Sink a stout post in the ground about as far away from the tree as the tree is tall. Attach a cable with a turnbuckle as far up the trunk of the tree as you can, and just above ground level on the post. Pull the tree as far as you can toward the post. Then leave it alone for at least a month. Repeat as needed. It will take years.
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Doug Miller wrote:

I guess I just wasn't anticipating that I would be completely unable to at least put a little tension on it and pull it at least an inch or two. I understand that it takes a long time to do something like this and I can deal with that. I don't want to cut down and start over as there aren't a whole lot of "nice" trees in the front yard - I've got a paw paw tree on the other side and a couple of evergreens, that's about it. It looks like there were some nicer trees at one time, I took an unidentified stump out yesterday and there's still the remains of a huge cherry to be dealt with, but they are not there anymore. I guess a redbud must be a pretty hard, dense wood? (I don't know, I'm far from a tree expert.)
Pruning is not an option as the angle starts close above the ground; if I cut off everything that was growing where I didn't want it to, there wouldn't be any tree left at all. So I guess I am stuck with either your method or else as others have suggested digging under the roots on the street side and hoping I don't kill the damn thing.
I may try to take some pics later so you can see what I'm talking about.
why does it seem like the biggest part of owning a home is rectifying all the stupid crap that the previous owners did? I think they meant well but a lot of the green leafy stuff seems to have been planted simply wherever without any thought on what it would encroach on as it grew or what it'd be competing with.
nate
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clipped

and don't think about tomorrow. We have neighbors on one side who have live oaks 10 feet from the building. They spread, easily, 50 feet from the trunk. On the other side, neighbors have nasty pines planted along the property line about 3 feet apart. They are now about 40 feet tall and pushing our sprinklers around with their roots. The builders didn't have to worry about them, and the owners apparently want to wait until they are much larger and more expensive to do anything about them.
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Norminn wrote:

You can trim neighbors trees that hang over your property line, and the same would apply to their trespassing roots. If they are damaging your property I'd suggest sending them a certified letter documenting the damage and asking them to rectify the problem (or have your lawyer send it). After that you're good yo go just cutting them off at the property line.
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on 5/4/2008 10:34 AM Nate Nagel said the following:

You might try digging a bowl shaped hole around the truck and then flood it so that the water gets down to the roots. Straightening might be easier with the roots in mud, rather than dry dirt. If you have a pressure washer, digging and flooding can be done in one operation.
--

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In Hamptonburgh, NY
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Nate Nagel wrote:

Trees will grow and adapt to obstacles (like growing around fences), but it's slow. If you put in a good ground anchor like a screw in one and do the turnbuckle thing tightening it a bit each month it should straighten out over time. Watering the ground heavily might also help you adjust the root positioning a bit each time.
From the sound of it your previous homeowner should have been living in a mud hut instead. Perhaps they are now...
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Doug Miller wrote:

pulled straight, the amount of tension required would probably cut into the trunk and kill the tree. Redbuds don't have an especially long life, so considering a replacement is probably the best solutions. If one trunk is cut down this spring, there might be enough sprouts to give a shapely tree in a few years. Sounds like a lost cause.
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As someone suggested, often those trees are not yours. They may belong to the city. If you mess it up, you could end up buying a new mature (very expensive) tree. You also may find that the city will be happy to come out and take care of the situation. It may not be to your liking, but chances are good they would end up doing the same thing a professional you would hire would do, only you may not need to pay for it.
My suggestion is to call in a professional and don't be surprised if the suggestion involves replacing the tree.
I might consider staking the tree and slowly (over several years) shorting the lines to slowly move it more upright. You might not like the results however.
--
Joseph Meehan

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Joseph Meehan wrote:

There is no sidewalk on my side of the street, and the utilities are running down the property line between the back of the lot and the lot one street over, so I don't think that the city really has any interest in the tree. But I do understand your concern in that regard, I didn't clarify in my original post.
But that brings me back to my original question - what to use for a stake? a steel ground rod was no match for the tree, would some old cyclone fence pipes be stiffer? I seem to remember being able to bend them by hand (I took all of the non-perfect ones that were kicking around to the dump last year in a fit of yard trash cleaning)
nate
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Nate Nagel wrote: ...

RR tie buried about 5' deep _might_ do.
You'll still be better off consulting extension office (for free) or arborist (for hire). Even if you could eventually retrain it in the direction you'd like, in the time it took a new specimen would reach the size of this one and it's likely the previous experiment would never be fully satisfactory, anyway.
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dpb wrote: ...

And, as someone else pointed out, a redbud isn't that unusual of a specimen nor costly planting, has a (relatively) short lifespan and unless you go to great difficulty in making a sling of sufficient strength and size to use around the branches where you're pulling, the cable will just act as a saw and cut through them w/ time effectively girdling it rather than bending such a large branch, anyway...
All in all, pruning or a new specimen are your only (realistic) options in all likelihood.
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Well I don't think you can do it all at once. The best you could do would be to put some tension on it, maybe with little or no movement of the tree. Then every few months tighten it up a little. Allow the tree to slowly change direction. Consider this a 5 year project, it may take longer.
However my suggestion remains, hire a professional and don't be surprised if the answer is to replace it.
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