Pruning Cherry Tree

Wondering if pruning the centre branch would open up the tree to give more light? The tree is 12 years old, is it too late to do this?

Any advice?

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I see what you are going for here, but my only concern would be the one-third rule in that only one third of a tree should be removed at a time. I’m no expert however!

This is an excerpt from Oregon State Extension (not sure what kind of cherry tree you have). Link here for full article:

Sweet cherry

At planting, head nursery trees at the height you desire for scaffold branches. Train sweet cherry trees to the open center system (figure 5) with three to five scaffold branches. Young sweet cherry trees often grow vertical limbs 6 to 8 feet without branching. You must head them to induce lateral branch formation.

Prune in summer to reduce the re-growth of vigorous trees. If a young tree is growing very rapidly, cut off a foot or more of new growth after about 3 feet of growth has been made in the summer. This will cause branching. You can hasten production by tying down or weighting limbs to horizontal.

To promote branching on trees not pruned in summer, head every shoot in winter to about 2 feet.

After 5 or 6 years, stop heading and thin out crowded branches.

Bacterial canker, a common disease of cherry trees, frequently causes gumming and dead areas or “cankers” on limbs. If it infects the crown or trunk, it can kill the tree. If a gummy, dead area encircles most of a limb, you must cut off the limb.

Bacterial infection can enter through pruning wounds. To avoid this, prune in August. You usually can avoid death from bacterial canker by budding or grafting a variety about a foot out on the rootstock limbs.

Mature trees require little pruning except as needed to reduce tree height. If birds are eating a lot of the fruit, you may want to net the tree.

Sour cherry

Sour cherry wood is quite brittle, so give special attention to developing wide-angled crotches in young trees. Either select wide-angled shoots to form limbs, or spread shoots to widen the angles. Three main scaffold limbs are enough for a sour cherry tree. The modified central-leader system helps form wide-angled scaffold limbs without having to spread them.

In the first and second summers, remove excess shoots so that all new growth is on the permanent scaffold limbs. In mature trees, only occasional thinning out of excess branches is needed to keep a good balance of light and fruitfulness throughout the tree.

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Thank you Lorna for sharing this information. It is very helpful.

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