Cherry trees better pruned or Standard size?

last1earthMarch 16, 2008

Should I let my Cherry trees get as big as they can, or prune for smaller size? I'm asking because I heard you have to compete with bugs, birds, and squirrels, and bigger trees would obviously have a lot more fruit. But would it be harder to pick the fruit?

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Last Earth:

What kind of cherry trees do you have there? It helps to supply us with some basic facts when you are requesting advice. Are they sweet or sour? Do you know whether or not they are on dwarfing rootstocks? Where did you buy the trees, locally or by mailorder?

Cherry trees on standard rootstocks can become very large indeed, on the order of 25-35 feet tall. Obviously, you're not going to get all the cherries up-top on such a tree. But if your tree is, say, 12 feet tall, you can easily reach the top branches from a stable ladder. By stable, I mean a 3-point orchard ladder, not a common stepladder. You can reach quite a bit from a stepladder too, but you have to be very careful that it is upright and seated on all four legs, or leaning securely against the trunk or strong branches of the tree. Trees with genetic drawfing or on dwarfing rootstocks can stay pretty small all by themselves with little to no pruning. That's why we have to know what you have to answer your question.

Birds can be formidable competitors for cherries, both sweet and sour, but I have never had much trouble with squirrels. The cherry fruit fly can be a problem, but this does not depend so much on the size of the tree as on how it is cared for.

Don Yellman, Great Falls, VA

    Bookmark   March 16, 2008 at 5:02PM
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franktank232(z5 WI)

What did you order?

    Bookmark   March 16, 2008 at 9:01PM
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I was just about to order today, and found out C and o nursery (sold out). Am very dissapointed. I was going to get Bing, Rainier, and Sweetheart. Would you know of any other good nurseries that have these for under $20?

    Bookmark   March 17, 2008 at 3:20PM
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Last Earth:

You might want to do a little more studying and asking questions before placing an order like this. Here's why:

1. The inexpensive trees sold by C&O Nursery are on a standard rootstock that will grow out a tree anywhere from 25-35 feet tall. I think it was you that wanted to plant 3 or 4 trees to a hole. That sure would be a non-starter with trees like this. Trees on dwarfing rootstocks such as Gisela 5 or 6 are always $30 each or more, but well worth it. I wouldn't plant anything else.

2. Standard trees like this would take 5 years or more before they even begin to bloom -- sparsely. Then another couple of years before they begin to set fruit, assuming you could get them to pollinate, which is also tough. Fruit on West coast varieties like Bing and Ranier, assuming it would set, would be subject to cracking before ripe in your humid, Jersey climate. Sweetheart might make it, but a safer bet would be Lapins, which is also capable of self-pollination.

3. Sweet cherry trees in the East are for experienced fruit growers, who know how to prune and care for trees, including spraying when required. I have the impression that you are a beginning grower, so you would have a lot to learn. Sweet cherry trees are very prone to diseases like bacterial canker.

4. If you want to try to grow sweet cherries in Jersey, you would be better off with something like Lapins on a dwarfing rootstock than 3 trees you cannot grow, even though that single tree might be more expensive. Far from cause for disappointment, it is a stroke of luck for you that C&O was out of stock. It saved you from wasting your money.

Don Yellman, Great Falls, VA

    Bookmark   March 17, 2008 at 7:49PM
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Plant a Stella. It is a hardy semi-dwarf self- pollinating sweet cherry.

    Bookmark   June 24, 2008 at 1:33PM
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C&O has been an excellent source of top quality cherry trees for me. They are the growers, not just a reseller like most, and will sell you 1 tree or 10,000. They have a unique and very fair pricing structure. They provide a number of rootstock choices, including G-5, and G-6, and of course, Mazzard. If you want to get your preferred combination of variety and rootstock, place your order before the end of August, for delivery next season. I have used C&O's TOP QUALITY CHEAP cherry trees to subsidize my "plant in ignorance plan". Unsure of what would succeed at my location, I double or tripple planted three "spots" with different rootstocks and varieties, and cut down the losers after three years. The cost of the chopped trees was much less than the value of the lost growing time would have been if I tried to dial it in one tree at a time.

    Bookmark   June 25, 2008 at 4:23PM
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