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Monday, March 14, 2016


Monday, 9:00 AM CDST.  40 degrees F  both at the ferry dock and on the back porch.  Wind variable and calm.  The sky is overcast and there is heavy fog.  The humidity is 95% and the barometer is falling, now at 29.69".  Rain is predicted for the middle of this week.  There are still stubborn snow and ice piles on roads and roofs, and snow in the woods.  I haven't heard of any bears taking down bird feeders as yet, but they are bound to be out and about.
   There are many different methods of pruning cherry trees, depending upon cultivars, size of the orchard and economic realities of commercial fruit growing, and also local climate and traditions.  For the homeowner or the person with a small orchard, the rules can be simplified, and are much like the pruning of other northern hemisphere  fruit trees, such as the apples, pears and plums.
   Most if not all cherry cultivars are basically the progeny of wild cherry trees, which are shade tolerant climax forest species and will become tall trees if not heavily pruned and/or grown on dwarfing root stocks. 
   The homeowner with a few trees can rely on some of the pruning basics already discussed: prune out dead, broken, and diseased branches; select either a central leader branching system, or a multi-trunked system, but be consistent.  Build a strong branching structure with evenly spaced branches.  Prune to select horizontal branches that will spread out  and catch the sunlight.  Prune to allow sunlight to reach ripening fruit.  The strongest branches have wide crotches,  as wide as 90 degrees at the point of attachment to the trunk or a larger branch.  When pruning, step back and observe that the structure of the tree looks balanced.
   The best and easiest to pick fruit clusters will grow from fruiting spurs, short branches on mature wood two to four years old.  Cherries are fast growers and need to have new growth pruned back heavily each year to produce well.  Additionally, if fruit is to be hand picked without ladders the tree should be kept topped to be within reach.  Pruning is as much an art as a science, and skill will improve with practice.
   Cherry trees have thin bark, susceptible to damage. The above photo shows sweet cherry trees with white-washed trunks.  This is a good way to prevent sun damage in late winter, when  strengthening sunlight reflects off the snow and can damage the bark. 
   Bayfield is a far northern location, but the cold is modified by Lake Superior, so sweet cherries can be grown here.  Lapin and Cavalier cultivars grow well and are as good in flavor and appearance as any. 
   For specific information and good videos on various pruning methods, Google Greg Long, Cherries.  He is a University of Michigan cherry expert.

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