One of our most popular requests is for assistance planting and growing fruit trees. In this article, we will cover our recommendations for growing cherry trees. Cherry trees are fun to grow, delicious and make a great addition to your landscape and garden.
Growing a Cherry Orchard in 4 EASY Steps
Step 1: Choosing the Right Variety
Cherries can be broken down into two main groups, sweet and sour. These two groups will usually not pollinate each other, so if you want sweet cherries you'll want to get two different varieties to increase crop size or get a self-pollinating variety. Sour cherries are usually self-pollinating, but be sure to check the plant label or ask a sale's associate to be sure. We have pollination charts at garden center and will help our customers succeed with their orchard goals.
Cherry Trees & their Recommended Cross Pollinators
Montmorency (sour): Self Fruitful, tried and true!
Bing (sweet): Must be pollinated by another sweet variety such as Black Tartarian, Lapins.
Whitegold (sweet): Self-fruitful form of Rainier.with better disease resistance. Can pollinate other sweet cherries.
Sour cherries have more flavor and are great for cooking but need to have sugar added. Sweet cherries are great for fresh eating and making pies.
Step 2: Cherry Tree Planting Instructions
Like most fruit trees, cherries enjoy slightly acidic, well-drained soil. If you have heavy clay soil, it pays off in the long term to amend the soil to allow more drainage. This can be accomplished with our One Step Soil Conditioner or any mix of compost. Avoid adding sand to clay soil, this will give you a mixture akin to concrete. Adding decomposed granite or bluestone chips (in small amounts) along with organic matter is a much more successful mixture. Be sure to keep half to two-thirds of your existing soil in the mixture, otherwise the roots will never want to leave the amended soil area.
Be sure to dig a hole as deep as the rootball (or up to 1-2" more shallow for berming) and about twice as wide as the width of the rootball. This will give you space to add your soil amendments in order to create a transition zone for the roots before they get to the surrounding soil.
Step 3: Care & Maintenance
Mulching is a great way to keep weeds out and also helps cut down on watering during the heat of the summer. A thick mulch layer will also help keep your cherry trees dormant in early spring. If the trees break dormancy too early, their flowers will be susceptible to late spring frosts. If the flowers get frosted before they can pollinate eachother, then your crop for the year will be shot.
It is also wise to invest in a good hose-end sprayer. Horticultural oil and orchard sprays will be your best friends with fruit trees. These are natural sprays that can be used up to the day before harvest, which fight fungal infections and pests. It's better to be preventative when it comes to pests/diseases than reactive because you don't want to lose all your hard work from the year.
Be sure to sanitize pruners when making cuts and pruning, this will also minimize the risk of infection for fruit trees. This can be accomplished with a bleach/water mixture. Proper tool maintenance will also make cuts easier and cleaner, which will aid in the tree's recovery.
Step 4: Harvest
Harvest time will generally be in late summer to early fall and is the most fun part of growing cherries. Chill hours will vary by variety, with some varieties being ideal for fresh eating right off the tree. Grab a basket and some friends or family to make a day of it! We make sure our cherries are on semi-dwarf rootstock, meaning they shouldn't get over 10-12 feet tall and wide making harvest much easier.
Bonus Tips for Abundant Cherry Harvests
- Expecting a late spring frost during bloom? Run a sprinkler on the trees overnight. The water will freeze over the trees and flowers creating a protective shell. This is a widely used orchard trick to protect crops.
- Avoid dyed mulch, while pretty it doesn't break down and cycle nutrients as a mulch should. This is especially important if you want an organic orchard.
- Develop a scouting program. By actively looking for signs of diseases and pests, you can be proactive in addressing any issues before they cause damage to your trees or crops. Identify pests/diseases that are prevalent in your area and when to look for their signs.
- Netting can keep birds from snatching all your precious cherries. Make sure it is the correct size to prevent birds from getting entangled or injured though!
Growing a Backyard Orchard
The Barn Nursery carries a variety of fruit trees and can help you select the correct varieties to meet your goals, including fruit production and cross-pollination. To learn more about how to plant and grow your own, take a look at these other articles on fruit trees.
This winter we're making it even easier to start an orchard. Fruit Trees, especially Apple, Cherry and Peach, sell out quickly every year. Order yours by the end of February and get 20% off. You'll be guaranteed spring availability and can pick up or arrange for delivery and planting as soon the plants arrive. Simply enter coupon code: FRUIT20 at checkout. Order fruit trees online here.
The Barn Nursery & Landscape Center has a long history of excellece in landscape design and installation. If you are considering a large landscape project, take a look at our portfolio of work on Houzz.com. To schedule an appointment with a member of our Landscape Design Team, click below.
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