Tips for Growing Cherries
Years of breeding have produced the modern sweet cherry, which is a triumph of hope over experience, as the birds always get them first. Morello cherries are more successful – the birds leave their sour fruits for a while longer, so you can grab at least some of them. Sweet cherries require a rich, well-aerated soil with plentiful moisture at the roots. However, they don’t likeor heavy, acidic or badly drained soil.
Historically, cherries were often grown as big trees on strong roots through a grass sward, which ameliorated poor soil conditions and combined well with livestock running underneath.
Cherries can be trained, but sweet cherries (even on the new dwarfing rootstocks) tend to make far too much growth to be grown in most . They can be grown as fans against large walls, but require skilful maintenance and pruning, remembering that they have a tendency to root along the surface, which can damage a lawn or drive. They are therefore most successful grown as half-standard trees at ten to fifteen paces apart in an . Any pruning must be done early in life, and early during the growing season, to avoid silver leaf disease. Only remove dead and diseased growth.
Morello cherries are much more amenable to soil and site, and more confinable, as they respond to hard pruning after fruiting. Remove much of the old wood so that the new can be tied in its place. Morello cherries will even crop on a cold wail, but do take quite some attention – which is amply rewarded if they can be netted (which a wall facilitates).
Probably the best way to have some cherries is to grow them in large containers. They can then be moved indoors or into a cage when they are in flower and fruit. Many cherry varieties need compatible, but some are partly self-fertile. Morello cherries are not only self-fertile but will pollinate almost any late-flowering sweet cherry.
Rain at any time during flowering causes mould on the flowers, and heavy rain while the fruit is ripening will cause it to split. So cherries tend to do best in areas with dry springs and summers. Waterlogging, especially on acid or heavy land, may promote gummosis – oozing from the branches which may lead to an attack of bacterial canker. Treatment requires remedial pruning and restoring vigorous growth by feeding, liming and draining.
Attacks of black aphid can look devastating but do little real damage even though the shoot tips look pretty bad. An aphid attack soon means lots ofto guard the rest of , and after all it’s really the birds who are stealing the crop. Where no netting is possible, pull old stockings over the branches of fruit, though the birds will still eat through them. Be thankful cherries escape the by fruiting early in the year!
Cherries can be picked and kept for several days if picked dry, while still on the sprigs and laid on paper in the cool. They can be frozen, but are fiddly as they need stoning to prevent taint. They do jam well especially mixed withjelly which makes them set and adds bulk.
‘Stella’ is more vigorous and has better quality dark-red fruits a month later. My favourites, ‘Governor Wood’ and ‘Napoleon Bigarreau’ are mutually compatible – the first has delicious red fruits, the second sweet yellow ones. ‘Sunburst’ and Tapins’ are self-fertile cherries that are well worth trying.