mature sweet cherry tree #679089 - Ask Extension

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mature sweet cherry tree #679089

Asked January 13, 2021, 7:53 AM EST

I am confused about timing of pruning sweet cherry trees. Some say in winter some say in spring to avoid infection. This is a mature cherry that has not been trimmed in many many years, 25 feet tall or so and minimum fruit on it. I know how to prune it, just not sure of timing. I am thinking of heavy heading it in Feb. and then finish pruning around blossom time. your opinion would be of great help. thank you in advance.

Monroe County Michigan

Expert Response

Hello Douglas,

Our fruit tree expert is out of the office. I am including some information that may help.

According to William Shane, MSU Extension District Fruit Educator, the best time to prune is February, March and April while trees are still dormant. Older trees can be pruned in February.

See pruning slides here- https://williamshane.weebly.com/uploads/2/7/0/7/27077603/shanebackyardorchardsoct2020.pdf

Dormancy is monitored by observing the buds. This description from Extensions says “true dormant (buds closed), to delayed dormant (slight green peeking from buds)”

Pruning –

https://www.shawnee.k-state.edu/lawn-garden/Pruning%20Fruit%20Trees.pdf

Chill hours, temperature and dormancy- https://extension.illinois.edu/blogs/over-garden-fence/2016-02-29-degree-days-and-chilling-hours

I will send this along to Mr Shane for his advice.

Laura Sheffer Replied January 13, 2021, 11:03 AM EST

Douglas, your plan seems good.   A general rule of thumb is to not remove more than about 20% of the branches in one season.   Waiting until late February for pruning is less harsh on the tree.  It's also a good idea to wait for a forecasted dry spell to prune to help avoid canker problems, some varieties are more prone to canker than others (e.g., Hardy Giant, Lapkins).  

Also, avoid pruning ahead of a predicted low temperature snap, or within a week after a low temperature event.   

William Shane Replied January 13, 2021, 12:28 PM EST

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