Growing a cherry tree will not only give you pretty spring blossoms to brighten up your garden but also summer fruit that is expensive to buy.
There are two types of edible cherry fruits: sweet cherries, which you can eat straight off the tree if you like, and sour cherries, which need to be cooked and are great for puddings and jams.
Sweet cherries are the ones most often found in markets. They have a thick, rich, and almost plumb-like texture. Traditionally, sweet cherry trees are self-sterile and best for an orchard or a large garden.
Sour cherries are not usually eaten raw, but are widely used for preserves and other cooking uses. Sour cherries are much smaller than sweet cherries and all varieties are self-fertile.
Equally, the introduction of new self-pollinating varieties means you need only have one cherry tree – although having two will increase your crop. Perhaps one sweet and one sour is a good solution.
Cherry trees will grow in all soils as long as they drain well and have plenty of compost dug into them before you plant the tree. So once you have chosen a spot –sweet cherries thrive in sunny and sheltered positions but sour cherries can take dappled sunshine as long as there is shelter – you can do the ground work.
Dig a hole that is only as deep as the roots, so that the root-stock collar does not get buried or it may rot and possibly throw up suckers of a completely different tree.
Put a stake in first, off-center so you can attach it to the tree, then add a few handfuls of fertilizer or fish blood and bone. Place the tree in the hole and fill with soil, firming down with your feet as you go along. Keep newly-planted trees well watered, and when they are beginning to fruit make sure the ground doesn’t dry out or many of the fruit will drop.
Tips for planting
- For sweet cherries, make sure the different varieties will pollinate each other.
- Plant sweet cherries in late fall or early winter if grown outside, or at any time if container grown.
- When planting fan-trained trees, construct the necessary supports before planting.
- Space fanned trees 15 to 18 feet apart.
- Planting for sour cherries is the same as for sweet cherries, however, space bushes and fans only 12 to 15 feet apart.
- Thinning is not necessary.
- Apply mulch to retain moisture.
- Drape netting over trees to protect the fruit from birds.
- Water routinely in dry areas.
- There is no difference in care between sour and sweet cherries
Pests and diseases to look out for are: aphids, caterpillars, brown rot, black knot, bacterial canker (cut out any branches with signs of black knot or bacterial canker as soon as possible), birds.