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I've just planted a new cherry tree, and I would like to keep it short enough to be able to harvest the fruit with nothing more than a step ladder.

Seeing as I've just planted it, I feel that I should leave it alone this summer, but will probably need to prune it in the fall or winter.

How should I go about it?

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Backyard orchard culture has some thoughts on keeping fruit trees at a desirable height (the height of the grower). Essentially you make a cherry "bush" more than a tree through:

  1. Pruning the tree for low initial branching (started by topping the tree at 2ft or less).
  2. Pruning during the growing season in addition to the normal dormant pruning to keep the tree at the desired level

I've watched a good video that discusses this method, though I haven't tried it myself.

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  • I would like to add that pruning stimulates growth. The more you prune the more growth you will stimulate so the key is balance. – brian buck Jun 30 '11 at 16:10
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Cherry trees grow with a single upward leader, all other branches come out sideways from this. When the tree gets to the desired height, simply prune off the growing tip of the central leader. The tree with no longer gain height but will instead put its efforts into sideways branching, flowers and fruit.

Cherry trees are susceptible to diseases if pruned too early in the year. Leave the tree until winter before pruning.

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