Cherry Trees - hints on how to plant and grow them

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As a general rule of thumb, cherry trees are the first of the stone fruits to blossom and fruit hence the appearance of the  fruit in the supermarket shelves herald the arrival of summer.  Cherry trees aren't all that hard to grow provided you have :

  • cold chilly winters
  • enough room for 2 trees (they are big trees mind you, some growing in excess of 30 feet, so if you are planting 2, then plant them at least 18 feet apart) - most cherry trees require a pollinator.  There are new varieties of sweet cherry trees ( Stella and Sweetheart) which are self pollinating so pick these if you want just one tree which will give you fruit.  If you are short on space, you can try to espalier them against a wall and pruning religiously to keep them in check.  The advantage of having them espaliered is that you can keep them to a reasonable size and netting to stop the birds getting at the fruit proves to be an easier task.
  • lots of time and patience to spray them and net them to stop the birds from eating the bounty before you get to them.

 Cherry trees are originally from Europe and Western Asia.  The coveted cherry blossoms that enshroud the tree in spring is a vision to behold.  Japan is well known for its cherry blossom festival and the hint that winter is leaving us to give way to spring is never as potently portrayed as an alley full of cherry blossom trees erupting with vivid white.  So if you do decide to plant cherry trees, you get a double bounty, the spring show and the fruit to boot!

Cherry tree requirements

Most cherry trees (unless you are after the sour cherries which cooks much prefer) require a pollinator - if you only have room for one tree, then perhaps you could convince your neighbour to have one in their yard too.  Cherry trees need frosty winters to bear a good crop, so whilst you may get some fruit if your winters are milder, you aren't going to be able to get basketfuls of cherries.  Still, how many cherries can you eat?  The fruit really only keeps for a week in the fridge so it would mean a cherry binge for that week after the harvest and then you'd have to wait another year for your next fix!

Cherry trees prefer a protected site and rich, well drained soil - they loathe wet feet.  When the tree is about to fruit (around late spring) it's best if there isn't any rain around that time as you get better cherries with fewer subject to rotting.  Cherry trees aren't particularly fond of mulching and too much fertilizer is wasted on them.  They much prefer just an annual sprinkling of blood and bone or old poultry manure.

How to prune cherry trees

Cherries are borne on fruiting spurs on branches that are at least 2 years old.  So if you prune off the spurs by accident, you will have to wait another 2 years for any fruit.  Pruning essentially is done to ensure that the cherry trees assume an open vase shape, taking out any dead twigs and removing any branches that cross over each other.  Pruning is best done when conditions are dry - avoid pruning in wet and damp conditions as cherry trees are prone to fungal diseases.

Cherry tree problems

Cherry trees are prone to fungal attack so bordeaux spray in winter is often a necessity.  If you see little holes in the trunk and branches, then you are likely to have wood borer problems (some moths do this too) and will need to try killing them with wire down the hole or injecting insecticide into the holes and then filling them up with wood putty.  The dreaded pear and cherry slug is another problem and needs to be dealt with by spraying with a solution of Derris.

What about sour cherry trees

Sour cherries are the wilder cousins of the more cultivated sweet cherry trees.  They tend to be self fertile (you only need one tree) and are smaller and bushier in shape.  Sour cherry trees also tend to have bad habit of suckering so bear this in mind when you plant one.  The cherries tend to be more tart to the taste buds and are usually used in cooking eg pies.  Growth requirements and conditions are similar to their sweet cousins.

Montmorency - $ 25.99
The Montmorency cherry is the most popular sour cherry in America and it is the classic pie cherry tree. Montmorency cherries have proven over the years to be outstanding for cooking and pie-making. The tree ripens the fruit in June and grows about 15 feet tall. The Montmorency cherry tree is self fertile and produces medium sized, dark red, cherries with good flavor and quality. Flesh is clear and yellow in color.

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cherry trees