Suitable cherry for UFO?

NilaJones(7b)March 14, 2013

Hello folks :).

So I just learned about UFO pruning, and I think it means I can have another cherry (in addition to the cramped Compact Stella I just planted)!

I have a location where I can give it 10-12' of width, but only 4-5' of height. It's a warm/hot spot, lots of sun and reflected heat, excellent drainage in a huge raised bed of sandy compost.

I think it might not quite be too late to get a tree locally.

Suggestions? These would be for fresh eating, and I am near Seattle.

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fruitnut Z7 4500ft SW TX

I'd look for a Sandra Rose, Lapins, or Van. But be aware that more than any other fruit the taste of sweet cherries varies depending on climate, soil, and ??? Cherries that taste great in CA are a bust in eastern WA. I've had a few that are great in CA and sulfurous tasting in my greenhouse.

Here is a link that might be useful: cherry report

    Bookmark   March 14, 2013 at 1:12PM
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NilaJones(7b)

Thanks fruitnut, and thanks for the link!

    Bookmark   March 14, 2013 at 2:22PM
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NilaJones(7b)

Local nursery had some Vans that were huge and nice looking. I got the smallest (still pretty huge) with hopes it will be the bendiest. I am still unsure about its suitability so I did not plant it today.

Alternately, I see you guys talking about cherries in pots. I have some giant pots. What kind of a crop do you get off a potted cherry? A pound or two?

For UFO, do I have to bend the main trunk or is topping it to a side branch, and making that the new main trunk, also an option? Yes, I am this ignorant. But maybe I will learn fast :).

    Bookmark   March 14, 2013 at 7:09PM
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fruitnut Z7 4500ft SW TX

Nila:

On a small cherry tree especially in a pot I don't think training system makes much difference. A bush, central leader, fan, UFO, or whatever it's all the same to me. But after 4-5 years it might make a difference on renewal pruning or ??? In a pot you'll have to repot every few years and my back isn't up to that anymore.

Van is very precocious. It will be setting fruit starting the 2nd or 3rd year. But it does over bear in short order. You'll either need to prune to avoid that or thin the fruit.

    Bookmark   March 14, 2013 at 7:50PM
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NilaJones(7b)

Sorry, fruitnut, I am talking about two different options, trying to choose one for this tree:

1. UFO in the ground

2. Normal tree/bushlike shape in large pot

...and looking forward to yummy cherries!

    Bookmark   March 14, 2013 at 8:12PM
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fruitnut Z7 4500ft SW TX

No need to be sorry, I appreciate your decorum. I'd vote ground over pot. The tree will yield more and live longer in the ground. Longer unless you repot every couple years.

I'd say I've gotten 2-3 lbs off a 15 gallon potted tree, maybe 5 lbs max. You could easily beat that in-ground depending on how big you allow the tree to get, the crop load you allow, and how many the birds eat...;-)

    Bookmark   March 14, 2013 at 9:22PM
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NilaJones(7b)

I hate to say it, fruitnut, but I bought this land partly for the large number of birds ;).

Ok, in the ground it goes!

Returning to an old question, For UFO, do I have to bend the main trunk or is topping it to a side branch, and making that the new main trunk, also an option?

And a new one: Is it ok if I allow it to set some fruit this year? It looks old enough.

    Bookmark   March 14, 2013 at 9:29PM
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fruitnut Z7 4500ft SW TX

You can do UFO either way. I haven't done UFO myself but have seen the pictures and read that either will work.

Yes you can leave fruit if it sets and holds on. I won't expect much the year planted but if it has spurs they should bloom especially on Van. The tree grows a shoot year one, sets spurs year two, and fruits year three. But there can be some fruit on the lower part of last years growth, before spurs form. In fact that is often the biggest, best fruit.

    Bookmark   March 14, 2013 at 9:43PM
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waiting_gw

For UFO you plant the tree at a 45 degree angle and bend it the rest of the way to horizontal. Do not bend the tree the first season. Do not "head" it.

Go to http://www.goodfruit.com/ and search on "ufo".

    Bookmark   March 15, 2013 at 3:45AM
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NilaJones(7b)

Thanks guys :).

With this large a tree I just don't think I will be able to bend it next year.

It looks, on the goodfruit site, like heading is ok but not heading is preferred, and that some people bend the first year and some do not. is that about right?

    Bookmark   March 15, 2013 at 2:35PM
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NilaJones(7b)

Or is it that the practices have changed over time?

    Bookmark   March 15, 2013 at 2:36PM
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nc_orchard(7a)

I think one of the advantages to the ufo versus other training systems is the early cropping potential. When you head a tree you reduce the amount of fruit the tree will produce in the near future. Ufo is one of the few training systems were no heading of the whip is performed and the entire length of the tree is utilized, thereby increasing yields in the near future. If you head the tree and attempt to use a side branch that grows out from the heading cut you negate one of the advantages of ufo traing as it will probably take you a year (or more) just to get that lateral branch to grow out to were it needs to be. How tall is your tree? The only reason to not bend it the first year is if you dont have enough length on it now. In that case you would not bend it this year and plant on a 45 deg angle to allow the tree to gain some height before bending. However, if your tree is long enough now, go ahead and bend it into position this year.

I think another advantage to the ufo method is it would make netting the tree much easier if needed. You are essentially creating a fruiting wall that could have a net drapped over it using your trellis posts to support the net. Although I haven't tried it yet, i've thought about netting for insect control too. There are netting products available specifically for insect exclusion. One in particular is called a kootenay cover and is specifically for cherry trees to keep out the cherry fruit fly.

    Bookmark   March 15, 2013 at 11:39PM
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NilaJones(7b)

Yes, I'm psyched about the netting ease :).

The tree is about 6' including roots, maybe 5 above ground. It's about an inch and a quarter diameter above the graft (thicker below).

Can I bend that? Maybe if I put some big chunks of concrete on the dirt above the roots?

    Bookmark   March 16, 2013 at 12:31AM
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fruitnut Z7 4500ft SW TX

Nila:

You won't be able to bend 1 1/4 inch trunk. Even if it were rooted well you won't be able to bend that thick a trunk very much. If you need 10ft wide by 4-5ft tall I think you need low branches and train them out flat. That's a very short tree especially starting with a tree already 5ft tall.

My cherries on several dwarf roots can be kept that short but I'm not trying for anything like that width.

At that caliper I'd be wary of cutting it back to 18-24 inches which is what you need to maintain 4-5ft final height.

You need a smaller tree, say 1/2 inch caliper, to bend over so the trunk is horizontal 18 inches above the ground.

    Bookmark   March 16, 2013 at 12:07PM
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NilaJones(7b)

Thank you so much, fruitnut, for taking time to advise me :).

So, I have this tree. I also have a Compact Stella that I planted a couple weeks ago. It's 30" tall (or less), side branches removed before shipping, and happens to have a natural curve at the top.

It seems like my options are:

1. Dig up the CS, rinse off its roots (because there is convolvulous seed in the soil where it is, under a weed barrier), plant it in the UFO area and plant the Van where it was. This will be hard on the CS, as it will have to remake all its connection with soil and bacteria, but I can baby it all summer and it might be ok.

2. Cut the Van so that it has one long side branch (or two, one to each side? Which is better?) and grow it UFO-style.

Which do you think I should do?

I'm not too worried about width... I could always add another tree ;).

    Bookmark   March 16, 2013 at 2:37PM
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fruitnut Z7 4500ft SW TX

If your Van is on Gisela 5 or similar dwarfing rootstock I'd cut it back and train the branches out horizontal. Hopefully it will send up more strong shoots 4-5ft this summer. Next winter tie those down to horizontal. In two years you'd have the area covered and you'd have fruit starting in year three.

Those horizontal shoots will send up shoots that you can then manage as UFO.

    Bookmark   March 16, 2013 at 2:59PM
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NilaJones(7b)

Wait, tie down the new shoots off the horizontal side branches? Surely I am misreading this?

I went and did some measuring. The tree is taller than I thought -- 6 and a half feet above ground. Yes, I really did get the smallest they had.

The graft is 4" above the uppermost root (I don't see or feel a collar to show me soil height). 13" above that, roughly, are 3 side branches close to each other, in different directions. The trunk above them is about 3/4" caliper. Then it's just got one more branch, higher up.

The label says semidwarf and does not tell me rootstock. I doubt the nursery workers would know, though they might be able to find out and maybe I should call them.

So, I could grow this tree like my peach, only more so. I could cut it off above the three branches (maybe remove one of them, too), and train them outward. They are already at about a 45, so I think I could get them pretty flat. They are long - 30" or so.

I was thinking for UFO I should let the new growth off the side branches stay vertical, and remove any that isn't, and keep the side branches horizontal and supported. Is that wrong?

::scratching head::

    Bookmark   March 16, 2013 at 10:40PM
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NilaJones(7b)

PS -- Is it ok to plant this puppy pretty deep, to just below the graft?

    Bookmark   March 16, 2013 at 10:41PM
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fruitnut Z7 4500ft SW TX

If you head it above those branches you should get some strong upright shoots this summer. They won't necessarily be off the current branches. Could be off the trunk. Pull as many as you want down flat and train the rest as UFO.

If the tree isn't on a dwarf rootstock you are in for a losing battle trying to keep it 4-5ft tall. I won't want any part of a tree on mazzard. Done that and it's too big.

If you don't know what you are dealing with all this planning is a waste of time. No ones going to do UFO on mazzard.

    Bookmark   March 16, 2013 at 11:34PM
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NilaJones(7b)

I'm sorry I'm so foolish. I will call the nursery tomorrow and see if they can track down the rootstock.

I should have just ordered online where I know what I am getting.

But, wait, what about Dave whatsit, the backyard orchard guy, who says that even nondwarfing rootstocks are fine at 4-5', you just have to prune more?

I'm feeling a bit in over my head, here :(.

    Bookmark   March 16, 2013 at 11:39PM
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waiting_gw

I often see Colt called a "semi-dwarf" rootstock (by overly optimistic nurseries). It is a 15-20' tree. I can't imagine keeping one at 4-5' but with the UFO system you could keep it at 8'.

In the long run, given your size constraints, you will probably be happier with a different tree.

Maybe the nursery you bought it from will let you exchange it for a true dwarf or accept a return if they don't have any.

If not, maybe you have a friend or relative that could adopt your tree (though it needs a pollinator) and get another on a fully dwarfing rootstock.

I wouldn't order from Raintree this late, been there, done that.

You can probably still order a Van on Gisela 5 from Cloud Mountain Farm Center (they have other varieties, too). They are in Everson, if that is close to you (I have no idea) you could even pick it up and pick it out.

I ordered 3 trees from them and was happy with what I received.

Don't get stuck on having a Van, there are other good varieties. Size is the problem you need to solve.

    Bookmark   March 17, 2013 at 2:07AM
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NilaJones(7b)

Well, boy am I feeling stupid. I did not realise that nursery sold anything other than full dwarfs, so when I sent an employee to get the tree (I was too sick, and thought I'd miss the chance if I waited) I did not tell her to check :(.

No, I am not stuck on Van, it's just what they had. Sandra Rose sounds good, for example.

I thought now was too late for mail order but I will see. When I bought the tree we were in a run of two weeks with highs in the 60s, but the weather has cooled off a little.

    Bookmark   March 17, 2013 at 12:49PM
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NilaJones(7b)

Ok, it turns out this Van is on Mahaleb rootstock. Anyone ever heard of that?

    Bookmark   March 17, 2013 at 2:30PM
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