Growing Crops: Cherries

Cherry propagation, like that of apples, is done by grafting different varieties onto specific rootstocks that will determine how they grow. Cherries are susceptible to canker and silver leaf diseases. Do not attempt to grow cherry trees from seed; instead purchase young, healthy, disease-resistant varieties from a reputable nursery to transplant into your garden.

Nature Hills Nursery has a good selection of live cherry tree varieties; click on the banner below to see your choices:

Be sure to read Growing Fruit 101 in conjunction with this post.

Best Climate to Grow: Most climates except for those that are excessively hot and dry, or cold and wet.

Light Requirements: Full sun for sweet varieties, partial shade for sour (acid) varieties.

Soil Requirements: Double-tilled, extremely rich, fertile soil that retains moisture but drains well, with a slightly acidic to neutral pH level between 6.0 and 7.0. Amend as needed prior to planting.

Feeding and Water Requirements: Provided that the cherry trees were started out in healthy soil, an annual feeding of rotted manure should be all that is required. Mulch to retain soil moisture, replacing the mulch periodically as it breaks down into the soil. If you live in a dry climate, you will need to water more frequently and make sure your trees are very well-mulched.

Treegator-« Drip Irrigation – $ 25.99
The Treegator® Drip Irrigation System offers approximately 10 hours worth of drip time. It has a 20 gallon capacity and 2 or 3 can be zipped together to fit larger trees. It is 3 feet tall when empty. The fill opening will fit a 1.5 inch diameter hose. Treegator® Drip Irrigation System must be used on a level surface or properly built mulch pile.

Treegator-« Jr. – $ 23.99
The Treegator® Jr. offers approximately 6 hours worth of drip time. It is 33 inches round and 7 inches high when filled. The fill opening will fit a 1.5 inch diameter hose. Treegator® Jr. must be used on a level surface or properly built mulch pile.

When to Plant: Between mid-Fall and early Spring.

Planting Depth and Spacing: Make a note of where the graft is located above the rootstock. Dig your planting hole to such a depth that the graft is clearly visible at least 2 inches above the ground when the tree is planted. The hole should also be double the width of the root system. Gently spread out the roots so that they are not tangled together. Stake the tree and fill in the hole, pressing down firmly. Mulch with rotted manure, top the mulch with a layer of straw, and water thoroughly.

Where you decide to plant your cherries and how far apart they will be depend on the varieties you intend to grow. Most cherry trees grow anywhere from 20-35 feet high, with the Black Cherry growing up to 80 feet! Plan very carefully where you want them to be, and what you want them to shade.

Container Requirements: Self-pollinating varieties (such as Lapins, Montmorency, Stella, or Sweetheart) are recommended for container growing, and we strongly recommend that container cherries be espaliered against a wall or sturdy trellis and pruned regularly in order to control their growth. You will need a large, wide container that is at least 18 inches deep. You may need to feed with rotted manure twice a year as opposed to the once-a-year requirement for cherries grown in the ground. Regular mulching and drip irrigation specifically for containers is also recommended, making sure that the container soil does not become waterlogged.

Pruning: With standard cherry trees you will simply need to prune back any damaged, dead, or diseased wood, and thin to maintain good air flow throughout the tree’s branches.

With espaliered trees you will be pruning for shape as well as to ensure that there is always new growth that will flower and bear fruit each year. Each summer, prune the branches you just harvested back to any new growth – which will flower and fruit the following year.

Harvesting and Storage: Pick the cherries, stems and all, when they are ripe. Sweet cherries need to be either eaten or preserved (by canning or freezing) shortly after harvesting, while sour cherries will keep for several days longer before they need to be either consumed or preserved.

Pests to Monitor: Aphids, Birds, Blackflies, Caterpillars, and Winter Moths. Visit our pest control beneficials, barriers, scare tactics, homemade organic pesticide, and commercial organic pesticide pages to see your options and choose your weapons.

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