The Accidental Smallholder Forum

Growing => Fruit => Topic started by: kernow64 on May 11, 2017, 08:58:31 pm

Title: Advice on pollarding/severe pruning mature cherry trees.
Post by: kernow64 on May 11, 2017, 08:58:31 pm
Hi All,

A first post on this corner of the forum from a smallholding newbie so please be gentle.

We've recently taken on a smallholding which has been neglected for a few years.

We have a row of mature cherry trees (I don't know what species) which have not been pruned for years and are literally tearing themselves apart - storm Doris didn't help!

Typically, the trunks of the trees are 12"-18" in diameter and at 24"-36" the trees branch out horizontally with 8" plus branches spreading out 12-15'. Apart from the strain on the trunks (two have started to split but with no obvious I'll effect on the tree itself), the branches are shading the vegetable beds we are in the process of restoring.

I'd like to save the trees, (the blossoms were amazing) but it seems to me that only fairly brutal pruning/pollarding will do. If so, how close to the trunk do I prune back to and when?

I'm aware that normally pruning of cherries should be done during dry weather June-Aug to avoid silver leaf but am not sure whether that still applies for branches of this size. FWIW we are at 1200' in mid-Wales.

Many thanks for any advice.

Title: Re: Advice on pollarding/severe pruning mature cherry trees.
Post by: ellied on May 12, 2017, 08:36:37 am
I would not go with a drastic one time prune of old trees but a 5 year plan, taking out a few large branches (1-3 per tree depending on size) and a lot of smaller ones each time to give recovery space for the trees.  A gradual shaping that works from bonsai up to big scale with trees.  The wood makes great firewood too, or big pieces may even be worth offering to a woodworker if they can kiln dry it..

Pruning times are as you say, to avoid silver leaf and other water/damp/fungal damage for all stone fruit trees.  So look now and maybe mark a few options with spray, coloured wool or chalk and then go back a few days later to think again before you start (hint, sometimes it looks good til you start then you realise a better option so worth measure twice cut once approach from woodworking!).

If they're a row with low horizontal branches have they maybe been espaliers at one time?  You could go back toward that and at least make any fruit reachable for picking, by focusing on removal of tall uprights which have come from water shoots over the years and not been removed.  That will also cut shade height for your beds.  Brutal doesn't work that well on fruit, I've found, you'll get better crops and survival rates by 'gardening' the trees not kill or cure methods, for the most part.

Where horizontal weight has resulted in twist/split damage, reduce strain by providing support if you want to keep those sections, or select one of those and reduce prune there or bring the edge further in toward it to reduce load at that point, depending what will look better in terms of balance.  I have a plum with a twist tear and just used 2 old fence stabs nailed together in a cross brace to hold it the last 4 years now.  Will need removed one day but I am trying to encourage growth elsewhere first as that is a key structure for fruiting volume beyond it and symmetry.
Title: Re: Advice on pollarding/severe pruning mature cherry trees.
Post by: kernow64 on May 12, 2017, 04:18:48 pm

Thank you so much for taking the trouble to give such a helpful and comprehensive answer.

I've got a few weeks to plan my cuts and as you have suggested I will err on the gentle side and stagger my pruning. In the meantime I'll get some props under the heavier branches.

Thanks again,

Jerry  :)