Polar vortex damage to cherry trees

Asked September 15, 2015, 5:54 PM EDT

I lost all my cherry trees (six semidwarf, at least four different varieties, pie cherries, including Mesabi, Meteor, Northstar) in Nov. 2014 freeze (Casper, -27 degrees). Trees were 10+ years old and producing like champs. Tops are dead but all are putting up shoots from rootstock (Gielesa and others). Should I kill the whole thing and start over, or prune rootstocks for one to two trunks and graft scions onto them next spring? Rootstocks were obviously hardy, tops not so much. P.S. Apples were fine.

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1 Response

Rootstock is usually used for a specific characteristic such as cold hardiness or dwarfing. So, I am not surprised that a fruit tree grown here is coming up from a cold hardy rootstock, and it would have to be cold hardy to have survived the freeze from November of 2014.

The suckers that are coming up from the rootstock should be viable for grafting next spring. I would suggest you select a good strong shoot that is connected to the root and not coming up from the bark of the former crown of the previously grafted tree. That way the new tree will be sturdy in our winds and not prone to trunk failure as the tree matures.

From what I understand you should collect your scion wood now and put it in cold storage until you are ready to graft it next spring or you could collect it just prior to grafting it. You could also order scion wood from a wholesale supplier.