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Sparse fruit on ungrafted Cherry tree  RSS feed

 
Posts: 16
Location: Oregon Zone 8b
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I'm inquiring to see if anyone has studied this kind of thing - thanks for your insight.

I have a cherry tree that came up on its own about 7 years ago, hasn't been grafted, and has always consisted of multiple trunks from the bottom. The problem is that it only makes about 1/15 the amount of fruit as other cherry trees in town. It grows well each year and has abundant flowers, but as the weeks go by, much of the forming fruit falls off/shrivels up (and maybe not many of them were fertilized in the first place). There is a cherry tree a block away, and I want to determine what the other possible causes for sparse fruit could be.  Does anyone know if it's because of the genetics from coming up from seed, or if the multiple trunks are influencing it?
 
pollinator
Posts: 4339
Location: Anjou ,France
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Firstly I suspect it's not a seed but it's come from another tree and it's a root . Since most cherries are grafted what you have is the fruit from the root stock . Seems a good opportunity to learn to graft my cherries produce these suckers all the time . It's great free trees

David
 
Esther Platt
Posts: 16
Location: Oregon Zone 8b
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I'm almost certain it was from a seed, as it came up right in the middle of a big established coniferous bush.
 
steward
Posts: 1354
Location: Northwest Montana from Zone 3a to 4b (multiple properties)
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I've got a similar volunteer cherry as Esther does. Actually have three of them, and the only cherry tree in the area is over 300 meters away. I suspect bird droppings.

I the situation that Esther describes, I'd prune it to a central leader. Prune everything off that is below about 18 inches (roughly half a meter) from the ground, and put down compost/mulch to a 3 foot/1 meter diameter circle this season. See what kind of growth you get and go from there.

I've found that fruit drop like that is indicative of some stress like weak root structure, lack of moisture, depleted soil, heat and the like. The pruning will encourage the root system, and good feeding will also aid in that development.
 
master steward
Posts: 5218
Location: Pacific Northwest
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Wouldn't a standard cherry (from seed), like standard-size apple trees, take longer to bear fruit? Dwarf apples, for insance, bear fruit after 2-4 years of planting, while a standard apple takes 7-10 years to bear fruit (http://homeguides.sfgate.com/long-apple-trees-mature-produce-fruit-56479.html).

My cherry trees (1 Lapin, 1 Rainier, 2 Bings) were planted 3 years ago. Last year I got one cherry. They are all semi-dwarf trees bought at various nurseries. Now maybe I'm doing something wrong (totally wouldn't put it past me), but I figure they're just taking a few years to mature.

Here's some info I found about how long it takes cherries to mature enough to bear fruit (http://homeguides.sfgate.com/long-cherry-trees-produce-55503.html):

Sweet cherry trees take about five to seven years after planting to produce fruit, while tart cherry trees set fruit in three to five years. Trees only produce fruit when they are mature enough to fully bloom. The trees bloom in early spring and the fruit appears in late spring to early summer. Dwarf varieties of cherry trees often produce before full-sized trees; you can expect fruit in between one to three years sooner with dwarf varieties.



I think Bill Erickson has some great ideas. I think I might try them on my cherries!
 
gardener
Posts: 1222
Location: Middle Tennessee
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There's a few possibilities that may be the reason for the fruit drop. One is inadequate pollination. Some cherry trees are not self fertile and require a different variety somewhat nearby for pollination and to get good fruit set. The tree will form small cherries so one may believe the blossoms were pollinated, but then the tree aborts the fruit. Second is a nutrient deficiency. Have you had a soil test done? Boron and zinc deficiencies can cause fruit drop in cherry trees. There are other suspects too like a late frost after the blossoms have bloomed. Unpruned trees can experience fruit drop, but usually only drop a portion of the fruit so the tree has a fruit load it can handle. Like Bill mentioned, pruning is good practice, especially with fruit trees.
 
Esther Platt
Posts: 16
Location: Oregon Zone 8b
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I wonder whether I can cut back the main central trunk by a few feet. My purpose would be to keep the tree shorter, since it's now 15-20 feet tall.
 
Esther Platt
Posts: 16
Location: Oregon Zone 8b
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I have a new idea about why it's not making much fruit: since it ripens about a month earlier than other people's trees, it probably also flowers earlier. Is there any way to find another tree for pollination that would flower at the same time?
 
Posts: 328
Location: SW PA USA zone 6a altitude 1188ft
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If your cherry blooms a month earlier than your neighbors tree then your not likely to get it pollinated by those trees. You need to find a tree in the same flowering group as your tree. And it should be a different variety than your tree. In the book in front of me: "Grow Fruit" by Alan Buckingham he has four groups based on when they flower. I'm reluctant to relate the cherries in the earliest group as they don't seem very popular, but here goes: Early Rivers, Mermat, and Noir de Gruben and no others. In group  B are a few that are sold by Stark including Napoleon, Starkrimson, Rainier, Whitegold, and five others.

So it seems to me that you need to figure out what the cherry variety it is that you have and match it up with a cherry variety from the same group.

You related in your original post that:   "has always consisted of multiple trunks from the bottom" I'd consider cutting all or most of those except for the one that looks the healthiest. Give the roots some room physically and nutritionally. You might also consider learning to graft. Shop for one or two cherry varieties from the earliest group and graft onto your existing tree. You can buy scions which are 8 inch cuttings from trees. They are priced at $5 each at most. The biggest price impediment is that shipping is $22.50 minimum. If your grafting onto your existing tree there's no limit to how many different cherries you graft as long as you have appropriately diameter grafting stems. Also they don't have to be in the same group. You could for example graft a Stella sweet cherry which is self pollinating. You can put any sweet cherry and I believe also any Tart cherry on the same tree as a sweet cherry. Most orders for scions or rootstocks is done early in the winter and by January you find some items out of stock.

I bought scions and rootstocks from Cummings and Fedco. I might have also bought from Grandpas Nursery except that their minimum shipping was twice as much as the others.

Good luck with you tree.

 
Esther Platt
Posts: 16
Location: Oregon Zone 8b
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Those all sound like good ideas. I've done about 2 dozen successful grafts of apples and plums, but no successful but grafts. Here is a thread I created with a question in that topic: https://permies.com/t/89228/apple-trees/Bud-Grafts-anatomy
 
gardener
Posts: 4890
Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
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John, Bill and James have given some great options for your cherry tree.

One thing to remember though, if it is a from seed cherry tree it is a full sized tree and it will be 8 to 10 years before a fruit set will hold to ripening.

Nothing wrong with grafting some other cherries onto that root stock, in fact it will definitely help provide pollination for all the varieties you graft on as well as the mother plant.

If you want to help the tree fruit earlier (years in ground wise) then you will need to remove some of the trunks to the ground.
This will get the whole root system feeding the remaining trunk, just be sure to remove all suckers asap from the cutoff trunks.

Redhawk
 
John Duda
Posts: 328
Location: SW PA USA zone 6a altitude 1188ft
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Assuming that lack of a pollinator IS your problem, then where is the pollinator the tree your seeds came from. Your tree seems to be very unusual. The three trees in the same flowering group seem to available in the UK and nowhere else. However if we assume your seeds came from a pollinated tree then it's possible that someone in your neighborhood has at least one unusual cherry tree. So if that's true then it's possible that that same person has a compatible pollinator. I'm thinking that you might drive around your neighborhood when your tree is blooming. Find someone with a cherry tree blooming and I'd bet that they have more than one cherry tree blooming. I'd approach them and discuss your tree with them. It's possible that they are proud to have established their tree throughout the neighborhood and they may be willing to give you a cutting in late winter or a stem long enough to give you a few buds in August to permit you to do a T-Bud.

I'm also guessing that it's a deer who left all those seeds in one patch. Of course a bird may have made repeated visits to your donor tree, but then that would seem to make it more likely your donor tree had a pollinator partner??

 
Esther Platt
Posts: 16
Location: Oregon Zone 8b
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Thanks for your analysis and suggestions, John. I think you might be forgetting that I would have thrown hundreds of cherry pits there myself! So the seed could have been from anywhere. I will prune it and find a compatible tree to pollinate. Bryant, I think it did make some more cherries than last year.
 
Posts: 127
Location: SW Ohio
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Do you have a picture of the tree? Do the branches grow mostly vertical? I once watched a video about an orchard where they do not prune the trees, but train the branches to be horizontal. Apparently they produce much more fruit if the branch is horizontal or droops, because of the hormonal signals in the tree.
 
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