Friday and Saturday I pruned and trained our young fruit trees. I did a lot of research beforehand, because it seemed so sad to actually cut them at all. But the Holistic Orchard book, and most other resources suggest that pruning helps them to grow into a shape that gives them enough support and sunlight for fruit.
Of course, after the research, I realized it might have been better to prune the cherries more drastically last summer, when we first planted them. But all we have is now. Here is a photo of the Black Tartarian Cherry with its central leader cut at the top–to promote another tier of scaffolding (outward facing) branches. The small bud near the top should grow into another central leader. If I didn’t cut the top, the next outward facing branches would have grown too high up on the leader.
Next, I cut the ends of the first tier of scaffold branches, because they were too long and leggy and uneven. On this cherry, they are also rather low to the ground, but the only way to remedy that would be to cut them all off, and I couldn’t do that. I tied them back to encourage them to grow at a better angle to the central leader. I did this for both cherry trees. (We had also done this last summer, and took off the ties for the winter)
I also pruned our new young apple tree by making a heading cut on its central leader to promote scaffold branch growth. For the peach, I did a more drastic cut on the central leader, to create a “vase” shape, where there is no central leader, but four or five main branches, which is the form most recommended for peaches. Some sources recommend that for cherries too, but we had started with a central leader form last year. After I was done with all this cutting, I said a prayer to the trees–I am so new at this, that I barely know what I am doing–so please forgive me for that, and grow and thrive anyway!
Funny to think that plants can thrive by being cut back so drastically. Is there a message in that for humans too? That the most difficult experiences of our life can shape us for greater beauty and fruitfulness to come?
I took a cut branch with cherry blossoms from the Lapins Cherry, and put it in a cup of water on our deck. Maybe the bees will still want to visit them. For now, it is a sign of the years to come, when we can let the flowers bloom and hope for fruit.