The warm weather on Saturday (March 30th) reminded me that the cherry and peach trees will soon be blooming. It’s recommended that they be pruned in late winter and the buds are already swelling, so I pruned them on Saturday.
I have a ‘north star’ cherry tree. It is a tart or pie cherry that is naturally dwarf and thus works well for a back yard orchardist. Sweet cherries are more difficult to grow; some varieties need a second tree for pollination and the fruit tends to crack. I also have a ‘redhaven’ peach tree on dwarfing rootstock. Although peaches on dwarfing rootstock aren’t recommended for Pennsylvania, I haven’t had problems with it. Peaches also are self-fruitful, i.e. they don’t require a second tree for pollination.
I have pruned and trained these trees to an open center or vase shape, following the advice from the Penn State Extension website. This leaves space inside the tree for sun and air to penetrate. It helps prevent disease.
As these trees are several years old, I only need to maintain their shape and encourage the growth of new fruiting wood. I remove branches that are extending into the center, branches that cross each other or produce crowding, dead or damaged branches, and the tall, vertical “water sprouts”. I use pruning shears of the shearing type, rather than the anvil type that can crush the branches. I also have a big lopping pruner and a Japanese saw for larger branches. I soak the pruners in bleach solution, then rinse them, before using them on each tree to reduce the chance of spreading diseases.
I’ve included some before-and-after photos of the cherry tree to show you how many branches I remove.
I collected the pruned branches and spread them on a screen to dry. I will use them as the source of smoke in my smoker.