Summer pruning is just as important as winter pruning

Summer pruning is just as important as winter pruning

By Andres Puvogel, Chilean Horticulturist, working as Production & Technical Manager in the Cherry Industry in the USA.

Pruning cherry trees is an essential practice for maintaining their health, shape, and productivity. The objectives of pruning can vary slightly depending on the specific variety and the growing conditions. However, some common objectives include:

Promoting fruit production: One of the main objectives of pruning is to encourage and enhance high quality fruit.

Enhancing sunlight exposure: Fruit trees require sufficient sunlight to produce sugars through photosynthesis, which contributes to fruit flavor and quality. Light is also a key factor on flower bud induction and the differentiation process.

Thinning fruit: In certain cases, thinning excess fruit is necessary to avoid overcrowding, which can lead to smaller, lower-quality fruit.

Controlling size and shape: Pruning allows you to control the size and shape of the fruit tree, making it easier to manage, harvest, and maintain.

Encouraging new growth: Pruning stimulates the growth of new branches and spurs, which are essential for future fruit production.

Improving air circulation: Proper pruning helps open up the canopy, allowing better air circulation and sunlight penetration.

Removing dead or diseased wood: Pruning removes dead, diseased, or damaged branches, preventing the spread of diseases and improving the tree’s overall health.

Training young trees: For newly planted fruit trees, pruning is crucial for shaping the tree’s structure and establishing a strong framework for future growth.

Managing pest and disease: Pruning can help in the early detection and removal of pest-infested or disease-affected branches, reducing the risk of further spread.

Certain objectives can be more effectively achieved depending on the timing of pruning throughout the year. As a general guideline, summer pruning, conducted while the tree is actively growing from mid-spring to late summer, tends to weaken the tree. On the other hand, winter pruning, carried out while the tree is dormant or inactive, has an invigorating effect.

Summer pruning is just as important as winter pruning and serves distinct purposes that are crucial for the overall health and productivity of the tree. Many objectives, as mentioned earlier, can be better achieved or exclusively accomplished through summer pruning.

Thinning the fruit is a crucial goal of pruning, and it can be accomplished either during summer or winter. Various processes, such as flower bud induction, which is the transformation of vegetative buds into floral buds, are influenced by factors like sunlight. In cherry trees, this transformation occurs approximately 2 weeks before harvest and continues for 2 weeks after harvest. During this critical period, ensuring adequate light penetration is essential to support the process. Subsequently, the cells inside the buds initiate and differentiate, and a well-illuminated tree will produce higher-quality flowers in the following season.

Summer pruning is one of the best tools we have for managing vigorous orchards and controlling excessive growth. By removing actively photosynthesizing parts of the tree during this season, we reduce the plant’s access to stored reserves, which helps regulate its vigor and prepares it for winter.

When it comes to controlling a tree’s size or height, summer pruning is particularly effective. The best time to do this is in the spring after the tree has bloomed, or in the summer when the new branches have stopped growing. Waiting until this point minimizes the chances of regrowth.

Summer is also the ideal time to clean the orchard of dead or diseased wood. The higher temperatures and drier conditions during this season facilitate faster healing of the tree’s tissues and reduce the risk of fungal or bacterial contamination.

For varieties that are more susceptible to bacterial canker (Pseudomonas sp.), it is advisable to prune them in late summer when humidity is low and before the rainy season start to prevent infections.

In summary, summer pruning should be a regular practice in most cherry orchards and should complement winter pruning rather than replace it.

To achieve the goals mentioned earlier, it is essential to time summer pruning appropriately, ideally starting in spring or late summer. Avoid pruning during the middle of summer as it can lead to plant stress, tissue damage, and an increase in fruit doubling.

It is crucial to complete summer pruning before the leaf drop begins. By this time, the plant has already transported its stored nutrients to the roots, trunk, and branches in preparation for winter. This transition marks the start of the dormant phase when winter pruning typically takes place. Thus, planning summer pruning to coincide with these stages of the plant’s growth cycle can yield more favorable results for the overall health and development of the plant.


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