Cherry tree pruning

Cherry tree pruning

The cherry tree is a potentially long-lived fruit plant and generous in production and for this reason it is always recommended to plant several specimens in mixed orchards and at least a couple in private gardens.

From a phytosanitary point of view, however, it is quite delicate because various types of adversity can arise and cause significant crop losses, and for this the fruit grower must arm himself with patience and good will, especially if he intends to cultivate with the organic method.

Among the various operations required to grow the cherry tree at its best, to be carried out scrupulously and at the right time, pruning plays an important role because it can affect production and affect the health of the plants.

Sweet cherry and sour cherry

Considering that there are many types of cherry trees, primarily divided into sweet cherries and sour cherries (black cherries), in this article we will discuss the general principles of pruning that concern both, but referring above all to the sweet cherry, since it is the species most interested in cultivation. for fresh consumption.

One of the major differences between the two species is linked to the size that the two plants can reach: heights of over 8 meters for the sweet cherry left to grow freely and a much smaller size, sometimes more like a large bush, for the cherry tree. acid. The prevalent typology of productive branches also differs: for the fruiting of the sour cherry, the mixed branches of medium vigor and the mixed brindilli are especially important, while the most typical fruiting formation of the sweet cherry is the "bunch of May" or flowering dart. This type of structure is a very short branching carried by branches of 2 years and over, provided with many flower buds and a vegetative bud at the apex. The floriferous dart grows by a few millimeters every year and its flower buds are renewed. As it ages, the bunch of May produces fruits of decreasing quality and for this reason it is necessary to renew the ramifications that lead to it thanks to careful regular pruning.

When to prune the cherry tree

Cherry tree pruning on plants still in the rearing phase can take place towards the end of winter, near the vegetative restart, since this has the aim of stimulating the emission of new shoots.

In adult plants, on the other hand, a green pruning is better, performed in a period of time that goes from the moment just after the harvest until the end of September. The important thing is to avoid or limit as much as possible interventions in the winter period, since the cherry tree does not tolerate large cuts well, especially in the cold season, to which it reacts by emitting gums and scarring with difficulty and slowness.

Cultivation pruning of the cherry tree

We have explored on this blog the different forms of farming that can be achieved in an orchard, the cherry tree is raised above all in two forms: the low pot, especially in hilly environments, and the palmette, more typical of lowland crops subject to spring cold returns, where the high wall reduces damage from frost.

The vase

The vase is a shape in volume and is more in line with the natural development of the plant, it has its own beautiful aesthetic presence that makes it perfect even in a garden. It lends itself well to the containment of vegetative vigor, as it has a short central stem from which the 3 or 4 main branches branch off. The height that the cherry trees reach with this form of training is 2-2.5 meters and this allows the execution of most of the operations from the ground.

To direct a potted plant, preferably a low pot, it is necessary to act immediately after implantation, shortening the rod to 50-60 cm from the ground. In the spring-summer of the same year the shoots will grow, destined to become the first branches, and those grown too low will have to be eliminated. In the following winter, these first branches will be rammed 70-80 cm from the ground, each with 4 or 5 buds. These buds in turn will emit new shoots, which will become branches to be rammed during the following year. From the third year the new shoots will be grown freely but they will have to be thinned out, eliminating the very vigorous and vertical ones. Finally, from the fourth year, the back cuts can be made on the main branches of our pot cherry tree.

The palmette

The palmette is a wall shape that assumes that the rows of the orchard are structured with a system of poles and metal wires, a situation more typical of professional fruit growing and less of a private one. The palm-grown plant consists of 3 or 4 branch stages, the first of which starts at about 50-60 cm from the ground and has 45 ° inclined branches. About a meter above the second stage starts, less inclined than the first, and after another 70-80 cm the third stage even less inclined. In the inter-row space, not much growth of branches is allowed, only of short branches, because it is a form aimed at minimizing the volume of the plant. To arrive at the complete formation of a palmette it takes 3 or 4 years.

To lead it correctly on the cherry trees, after the planting, the rod is spiked about 60 cm from the ground, and in the following spring the shoots that will form the first scaffold are chosen, while the others are removed or shortened. Gradually, in the following summer and autumn, the branches of the second stage are identified and the growth of the others is contained with the cuts, and towards the fourth year the third stage is also formed. The two branches of each stage are inclined thanks to the binding to the horizontal metal wires.

Production pruning

Since the cherry tree enters the phase of full production, pruning consists in the thinning of the main branches and in the removal or shortening of the fruiting branches which are now exhausted. Shortening the fruiting branches allows the renewal of the bunches of May.

How to prune: the criteria

You don't learn how to prune by reading an article, but it can certainly be useful to draw some guidelines on the purpose of cherry tree pruning and how we can do it.

  • Vegetative balance. The balance between production and vegetation is one of the objectives pursued with pruning and therefore interventions must never alter it.
  • Guarantee air and light. With pruning, the cherry tree foliage is illuminated and ventilated on the inside and this preserves the health of the plant and prevents the onset of scale insects, which like to stay in dense and shady foliage. For this reason it is often necessary to thin out the branches that are too dense and that tend to intersect each other.
  • Keep the shape and size of the tree. Maintaining the shape and limiting the size of the plant are important objectives of annual pruning. If the cultivation system chosen is the vase, the length of the main branches must not exceed 3 or 4 meters;
  • Remove diseased or damaged parts. With pruning all the branches affected by pathologies are eliminated, as needed, and even those dry or accidentally broken by the wind.

Important precautions

When cutting the branches of a tree, always keep in mind that you are causing injury to the plant. During the pruning of the orchard in general, and in particular of the cherry tree, as a type of delicate tree, it is essential to have some attention.

  • Clean cuts. The cuts must never be damaged but clean and decisive, and must leave a short portion of wood above the gem to promote healing.
  • Clean tools. It is necessary to take care of the pruning tools, keeping the blades sharp and cleaning them, possibly disinfecting them after cutting off branches affected by pathologies.
  • Inclined cut. The cuts must not be straight but inclined and located just above a gem, so that the drops of water do not stagnate but rather slip away.
  • Elimination of suckers. The suckers, vertical branches that subtract energy from the plant, must be eliminated at their base.

Lastly, no less important detail, let's avoid overdoing the cuts. In addition to the fact that the cherry tree is a species that tends to emit gum and does not accept large cuts, it must be remembered that cutting a lot will not save time in the following year: the plant reacts by emitting a lot of vegetation to the detriment of fruiting, with loss of vegetative-productive balance.

Video: Arborist tips on how to prune your trees.