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Q: Is a cherry tree supposed to be pruned before the sap starts flowing and the buds start forming?

A: As a general rule, we prune deciduous tree in the dormant season (we are just at the end of this period now, in mid-February). Yes, this is best done before buds are flushed out on branches. Dormant season pruning is used to encourage vigorous summer growth. But when it comes to cherry trees, the “best practice” would have you prune cherries in mid-summer to minimize the risk of silver leaf infection. Silver leaf infection is an airborne fungus that enters the tree through larger pruning cuts.

When deciding at what time of year to prune fruit trees, it depends on how you want the tree to react. If you prune in winter, the tree will respond with vigorous growth in summer. If you prune in summer, the effect will be to suppress growth allowing you to control the size of the tree. Some clients like to have trees pruned in winter so they get a flush of growth that will cover views of neighbour’s decks or unslightly construction sites in the vicinity.

Most apple trees bear fruit on second year wood. Leaf buds form the first year of growth, and then in the second year, fruit buds will form on those same branches. This winter we have already pruned some apple trees in Vancouver backyards, and our clients know that they will have to wait a couple of summers before they get any fruit.

As for the sap flow in fruit trees, cherry trees do not have heavy sap. Common trees that do have a heavy flow of sap in spring include maples and birches.

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