Saturday, July 09, 2011

Pruning Sweet Cherries for Backyard Orchard Culture

For my version of backyard orchard culture with sweet cherries, cherry picking time and cherry pruning time are close together. I wouldn't prune before cherries are almost all picked, because then the birds can find them. Birds have not been much of a problem yet. Pruning now has some advantages:

*Summer pruning is considered to have a greater dwarfing effect, compared to winter pruning.

*In a rainy winter climate such as I have, winter pruning may lead to disease. Summer pruning gives the wounds a chance to seal.

*Summer pruning opens up the tree so that potential buds are exposed to sunshine.

*Summer pruning is an excuse to be outside. It's not so nice in the winter.

*By pruning when the cherries are on the tree, it's possible to see where cherries form. On these trees, they form on last year's growth.

These 2 sweet cherries are scruffy and need pruning. The camera angle was bad, into the late afternoon sun.

I cut off the majority of new growth.  For outward facing branches, I leave 6 inches to a foot.  For inward branches, I leave about 3 inches.  Termed another way, I leave about 6 or 8 leaves on outward branches.  I leave 2 or 3 leaves on inward branches.
One is pruned, one to go. It's much neater now, and I can reach all of the branches without a ladder.

The cherries grow in the first part of last year's growth. So the parts that I have left should be good for next year's cherries.

Now it's easy to see the cherries. Before they were hidden in the lush growth. Better get them before the birds do.

These sweet cherries are very good.  Almost like little plums, with a snappy texture and lots of juice.  I wish I was savvy enough when I planted them to know which was which.  Now I keep better track.

Once the cherries are done, I'll also do some thinning in the center, so they are more open to the sun.  They will also probably need a second pruning in late summer.  Not as extensive.  By now they have done most of their growth.

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