In an earlier post we described the fundamentals of growing and training cherry trees to the UFO system. This training system is easy to understand and simple to execute when everything goes according to the instructions. The challenge always is what do I do if they don’t grow like the they are supposed to according to the plan. Below I will describe several of these situations.
Key principals to growing cherries successfully:
Cherry trees need to be growing vigorously to produce good fruit. Cherries are different from other fruits because they ripen so early. At the same time the fruit is ripening the trees are still pushing spring growth. So nutrients need to be there during that ripening time not just for the fruit, but for the new wood the tree is trying to grow. Fertilizers need to be applied a week or two before bloom. Cherries only absorb nitrogen over a six week period starting around bloom. If you are using our Fruit Tree Blend (8-18-18 with micros) try ½ cup for the first 2 years then evaluate your trees vigor in later years. You want to see 2 or more feet of new growth per year as an average over the whole tree. Another visual indicator is the leaves should be dark green during harvest.
- What if you have tied down your leader and only 1 or 2 shoots break and push upwards and you find yourself beginning the second year without many shoots growing. The key strategy here is not letting any shoot grow any faster than another. You will want to keep the main trunk at a 30 degree angle from the ground and if you want one shoot to be the strongest it should be the shoot growing from the end of the trunk. With that said if this terminal shoot or any shoot for that matter, is really out growing all the others then you bend (tie) that part of trunk to a more horizontal position to the bottom training wire.
- If you still have leaves and flowers growing on the horizontal trunk and you aren’t having luck getting the upright shoots to push, taking off all competition along the trunk is advisable. This means leaving only the upright shoot or bud you hope become shoots.
- If you still don’t have all the upright shoots you want then scoring above the buds (Just cutting out a tiny piece of the green bark, see photo) in late spring is a good way to encourage these stubborn buds to begin to elongate into your upright fruiting shoots.