Growing and caring for fruiting cherry trees
Fresh cherries picked right from the tree in the backyard are special and delicious. There is something unique about those sunbaked fruits being carried inside your home in buckets. With cherry trees, it’s not only the delectable crop that brings you butterflies in your stomach, but also the stunning beauty a cherry tree provides year-round. Growing a healthy cherry tree needs some foresight and a thorough plan. That may sound too much of a task, but don't worry. Here is a comprehensive guide to walk you through the process, including choosing the right type, planting, and caring for your cherry tree.
Fruiting Cherry TreesCherries are drupes with a stone in the center surrounded by juicy, fleshy, eatable material. They have a single seed and are closely related to other nut trees and stone fruits like apricots, plums, nectarines, almonds, and peaches. They are from the Genus Prunus, and you would find them similar to many other flowering trees or ornamental trees.
What type of cherry tree should you choose?Fruiting cherry trees are broadly divided into two categories.
Sweet Cherry Trees
Sour Cherry Trees
It takes a little time:As most fruiting trees will take a specific number of years before they can treasure your garden with heaps of crops, cherry trees are no different. Cherry trees normally begin fruiting after they are 5 years of age. That means, cherry trees need to have a strong foothold into their new home, and only then will they begin producing fruit. Don't say that's too long of a period. In fact, that's more of a reason to get started at this very moment.
Tips to PlantWhether you are up for planting sweet cherry trees or sour cherry trees, you don’t have to remember a variety of tips and tricks exclusive for each. Both these trees require similar growing conditions. Proper well-moist soil is the basic need for cherry trees to grow healthy. All you need to do is dig a hole, lower the root and let nature do the job. Cherries would look forward to a deep-drained soil and rocky soil with a high clay content will create problems. Next, cherry trees need full sunlight for good 8 hours a day. However, protect your delicate cherry trees against scorching afternoon sun that may burn it out. For sour varieties, soil having pH levels of 6 to 7 would work, whereas, for sweet cherry varieties, the optimal pH level ranges from 6.3 to 7.3. This range may vary – for better results, try having a sample of your garden’s soil tested. This should help you stabilize the components of your soil and also select the right variety for your garden.
Did you know?Espaliering is a technique through which dwarfing rootstocks of different trees can be grown along fences, wires, gates, walls etc. you can adjust the branches of your cherry trees, using this technique to train their growth in a horizontal shape. This makes it easier for you to pick fruits and protect them against birds. Espaliering not only prevents fungal infections but also promotes ripening, air circulation, and sunlight exposure.
Watering and FertilizingCherry trees won't require too many fertilizers or water. Only an inch of rain per week should work for these trees – using a rain gauge that shows precise readings should help you gauge it. If you live in a relatively drier area where there is not enough rain, you can water your cherry trees once a week yourself. However, overwatering will only worsen the situation as water-logged roots are prone to fungal infections. A good watering exercise once a week (only during dry weather) is enough. . In the case of cherry trees, fertilization is even simpler. That's because these trees are low feeders, and the following fertilizing methods should suffice the cause:
- Apply a low nitrogen fertilizer at half the recommended application rate.
- Apply this fertilizer at least a year before the flowers bloom.
- Apply compost to these trees at least twice a year.
Pruning and thinningLuckily, cherry trees take the load of thinning the fruit off your back. That is something cherry trees would do on its own. Pruning, however, should be done at least twice a year - preferably once during early Spring and once in the late Summer. The early spring pruning is better when the cold is out and buds are just about to break. Such pruning requires deep cuts and removal of limbs and bigger branches. This helps the tree have stronger limbs to bear more fruits rather, than having weaker limbs unable to support fruit weight. Pruning during late summers involves cleaning the canopy to allow effective air circulation. This is important to keep fungal infections away. The late summer pruning is not intended to shape the tree but only to open things up and allow air to pass through few cuts.
PestsCherries are delectable tiny fruits, and as much as we love them, similarly, pests do. That's why you’d have to keep a close eye on your tree for any such insects creeping inside. You may find aphids, Japanese beetles, caterpillars, Thrips, borers, mites leafhoppers, and the famous cherry fruit fly buzzing into your cherry tree. A general spray like a nut orchard spray may control these mites and bugs. On an advanced level, you may choose a spray that has Sulphur content in it to fight fungal diseases, and Pyrethrin to control insects. However, this may also harm other potentially beneficial insects residing in your garden. Another easier solution can be Neem Oil that targets insects. Although neem oil is organic and natural but that doesn't make it non-toxic. Just like Pyrethrin and similar chemicals, it will still bring harm to other beneficial insects.
DiseaseIn the case of cherry trees, diseases like the Galls, Cankers, Powdery Mildew, Buckskin, rots, and many other fungal diseases will hinder your way with fruit production. These diseases can get difficult to identify and treat as compared to ordinary pests. Horticultural oils are good at removing such ailments. Likewise, copper fungicide is a fine organic way to get rid of fungal diseases and rot among trees.
Bird damageBirds are at ease to feast upon a crop of cherries just ripened or partially ready. What's even worse is the fact that they won't just peck and fly away with their bellies full of cherries but would leave behind rotting left over-attached to the stems. Detailed researches into this problem have highlighted a few effective solutions to the same:
- Use bird nettings.
- Use reflective tapes to distract birds from the crops.
- Use a scarecrow, or a dummy owl with its location changed regularly.
- Keep insects away to offer fewer attractions to birds.
- Use a birdhouse to attract predatory kestrels.
- Plant bird-favorite flowers like Echinacea and Rudbeckia.
GummosisAnother threatening condition among cherry trees is that of ‘Gummosis’. That is when cherry trees would release a thick sticky sap upon being injured. Most of the time, a yard tool would bash the trunk, and resultantly, the tree would release a thick sap to heal the wound. Many times, these wounds are minor and would heal up on their own. However, other times, this sap excretion can be a result of borers or cankers' attack. If you find traces of sawdust on the ground or the base of the tree trunk, you probably have had a borer. An appropriate fruit or nut spray should steer your trees clear of borers. However, if there are no traces of sawdust, pull away the sap and take a deep look into the bark. If it feels dead and brittle, you have got cankers on the battle. Remove them away or call in experts to help you with the same. In addition to these, other common causes of Gummosis include fungal infections like phytophthora and cytosporina. These are more difficult to fight with and would require a careful removal of the fungal tissue followed by the application of a fungicide. Start with removing dead branches and limbs and dispose them off.
HarvestingHere comes the most awaited part – when can you harvest those electric red juicy cherries? It takes up to three years before cherry trees can begin fruiting, however, once mature, the fruit production may increase up to 50 quartz per year. Dwarf specimens, on the other hand, can produce no less than 20 quarts of cherries each year. Growing cherry trees is certainly an effort, but that's worth it. Cherries would usually be ready to harvest between May to August, depending upon the cherry tree variety and your region’s temperature. Knowing when the cherries hanging against those bushes are ripe enough to be harvested is a fun job. It takes a little research to know of the exact color and shape specific cherry varieties would have when ripe. During the expected months of ripening, take rounds of your garden, pluck off the berry that seems ripe and taste your juicy effort. Ripe fruits will be juicy and tender yet firm. Try to be patient while harvesting – haste can make ample waste in this case. The sugar content in fruits takes rises during the last days of ripening, and once plucked, this sugar content won't further increase. That's when you know good things come to those who wait.
Storage and preservationCherries can be stored in the refrigerator for a good period of 14 days. However, their quality tends to fall multifold when stored under room temperature. You are definitely not expected to munch on the entire harvest within a single sitting – so you better preserve it in the refrigerator or the freezer. Freezing cherries only works after you have well washed them and patted them dry. Leaving the stems on and seeds intact helps maintain the freshness for even longer.
Cherry trees on the list