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Renewal pruning sweet and sour cherries

Posted by Heather Coiner 
Renewal pruning sweet and sour cherries
June 29, 2014 07:25PM
Our cherry fruit set was sparse this year--we got about 2 quarts of North Star cherries from 12 trees and zero sweet cherries from our one Bing and one Rainier sweet cherry. I would like to improve our crop for next year and am wondering whether summer pruning now could help initiate fruit bud formation.

I think the most of the trees are still young; trunk diameter is <3" and they are about 6-8' tall. The Rainier is the exception, with a 6" trunk and a height of 15'. I pruned out the most offensive branches in the winter, but did little to thin other branches, not knowing how cherries fruit, and wanting to avoid over-pruning my first year. Now, in the summer, I have noticed that the canopies are dense and have marked some interior branches for removal, using Phillips' book and the pruning concepts thread on this forum as a guide.

Is now a good time to prune these trees? Is this the best way to try to improve next year's crop, or is my time better spent with another strategy?

Heather Coiner
Little Hat Creek Farm
Zone 7a, Roseland, VA

Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 07/03/2014 03:10PM by Michael Phillips.
Re: Renewal pruning sweet and sour cherries
June 30, 2014 05:05PM
Cherries are hard to keep rejuvenated. I only have pie cherries here in northern New Hampshire but my older Northstar ( going on 20 years) in particular is reaching further and further out from the tree interior. And bloom is no longer as full. Only one of the larger pruning cuts on this tree from this spring has proffered new shoot growth. It's said you can count on this response more regularly if made into three-year-old wood rather than older wood ... but I didn't make such cuts early on and thus all the blind wood within today. My Evans tree on the other hand seems to generate "trunk sprouts" of its own accord and these I bend dutifully under bearing branches, which once the older wood gets removed the next year, makes way for a renewed fruiting zone closer into the trunk.

It will be interesting to read if others have insights gained from summer pruning cherries to renew the fruiting zone. Perhaps what's said about a shorter life for prunus species in general (compared to apples and pears) is the bottom line: Pie cherries in particular peter out over time. I have two new pie cherries coming into production, a Galaxy and another Evans, both about 5 years old, and have started to think that's the surest renewal method. Small trees that can be easily netted matter when waxwings and other birds await "their share" of the crop.

Lost Nation Orchard
Zone 4b in New Hampshire

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 07/03/2014 03:13PM by Michael Phillips.
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