Name: sweet cherry (Prunus avium), sour cherry (Prunus cerasus).
Height: 10m+ if left unpruned, but generally 5-6m, with dwarf cultivars growing 1.5–2m.
Climate: prefers cool climates, but will grow in warm, arid and semi-arid climates.
Soil: prefers deep, well-drained soils enriched with compost and decomposed manure.
Position: full sun, protected from strong winds. Can grow in part shade in hot, dry areas.
Flowering and fruiting: flowers appear in spring followed by a crop of delicious cherries in summer.
Feeding: mulch with compost in spring and autumn.
Watering: regular watering throughout summer when the weather is hot and dry and cherries are setting fruit. Avoid wetting fruit and foliage.
The cherry is a tall, narrow tree. Deciduous, it loses its leaves in winter and flowers on bare stems in spring. Foliage emerges after the flowers, and fruit develops in summer.
Cherries can be planted quite close together to form an edible deciduous hedge, allowing sunlight (and prying eyes) to penetrate in winter. Suitable for gardens of all sizes – even pots, depending on variety – cherries are a highlight of the summer garden.
Always plant at least two cherry trees close together to improve pollination and fruiting. Even self-pollinating types benefit from having another tree close at hand.
Prepare the soil prior to planting with compost and decomposed manure. Stake bare-rooted trees at planting in winter. Potted plants can be planted year-round, although the height of summer should be avoided, as cherries do not respond well to heat stress during establishment.
For best results, follow these steps when caring for your cherry tree:
Once established, bi-weekly watering will usually suffice unless weather is extremely hot and dry. Water more regularly throughout summer, during fruit development.
Prune only to remove last season's fruiting branches and to minimise overall height for netting. This is best done in early spring, rather than winter.
Cherries can also be trained to espalier, producing their harvest flat against a wall or fence.
Birds are the number one pest when it comes to your harvest, quickly decimating your crop in the time it takes you to go and get your net. Be vigilant and net early to ensure you get to reap the rewards of your labour.
Pear and cherry slug is the other major pest for cherry trees. These small slugs can be found munching their way through the foliage. They are best treated with a suitable insecticide, like Yates Success Ultra.
Most cherries are grafted onto dwarf rootstocks, however they can be grown from a cherry pit or seed. Grafting helps to reduce the overall size of the tree-seed-grown cherries can reach up to 20m! Cuttings can also be used, but you may end up with a tree much larger than you want.
Grafting is an advanced method of propagation where the desired cherry variety is grafted onto the rootstock of a tree that offers other qualities, usually dwarfing characteristics.
If using products to deal with pests, diseases or weeds, always read the label, follow the instructions carefully and wear suitable protective equipment. Store all garden chemicals out of the reach of children and pets.
Dwarf fruit trees: perfect fruit trees for small gardens and pots.
Pear: a close relative to the cherry that shares similar growing conditions.
Plum: one of the easiest and most rewarding fruit trees to grow.
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