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I recently acquired a Montmorency Cherry tree that is a couple of years old. I want to make sure it grows in a healthy, maintainable way, but my only experience of pruning fruit trees is with apples. Should I treat this tree the same way as an apple, and prune at the same time, or should I approach this differently?

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up vote 6 down vote accepted

First, a disclaimer: I haven't pruned a cherry tree (yet); this year will be the first :) But I did do some research when I bought them and here are the important things to keep in mind.

  1. Keep strong, firm lateral branches that stick out from the central trunk and prune the smaller ones. Cherry trees need sunlight and good air circulation around them and so some pruning techniques like "pyramid" etc which work on apples are not really useful here.
  2. The natural tendency for the lateral branches is to grow vertically and hence they need to be "forced" to grow outwards by weighing them down.
  3. Prune cherries in late winter for the best growth in spring/summer. Pruning them too early might result in infections.
  4. Summer prune them only if you want to control their growth.

That said, you might want to look up and see if there are additional requirements for your cherry tree type. Mine is a hybrid low chill requirement cherry tree (because where I am, there isn't really a winter season), that still needs to be pruned with the "seasons". Also, because I'm constrained for space, I'll be pruning them in summer to check their growth. In any pruning, this is important to bear in mind:

Winter pruning -> Encourages growth & fruit bearing in spring.

Summer pruning -> Discrourages growth for the rest of the season.

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