Learn About Cherry Trees

How to Sow

Cherry: Bare Root Fruit Plant

How to Plant

Planting Bare Root Plants:

  • Choose a site in full sun in an area with well-drained soil with a pH of 6.0-7.0. Make sure there is some protection from the prevailing winds. Northern exposures are less prone to late spring frosts, and are more likely to have more snow cover. This protects the plants from soil heaving in winter. Do not plant in the root zone of black walnut trees. Avoid heavy clay soil as well as sandy soil. Amend as needed with organic matter.
  • Some cherry trees need another variety for cross-pollination and some do not. Check your variety when you plant. ‘Nadia’ sweet cherry produces best when planted with a Japanese plum. Be sure to plant trees within 50 feet of each other if they will be cross pollinating.
  • Space trees 12-18 feet apart.
  • Plant dormant bare root plants in spring as soon as the soil may be worked.
  • Soak the roots in water 1-2 hours before planting.
  • Cut the tree back to approximately 30 inches tall at planting. Cut side branches back to 3-4 buds.
  • The planting hole should be large enough to hold all the roots without bending or bunching up. Dig holes at least 18 inches deep and wide. Break up hard pan soil layers if present. Do not add raw fertilizers or manure to the soil mixture. Over feeding can kill young trees.
  • Set the budded or grafted tree in the planting hole so that roots lie naturally, with the bud union just above the soil level after planting. Fill in the soil in layers and tamp down around the roots to make sure there is good soil to root contact and to remove air pockets.
  • Water immediately to saturate all soil and roots in the hole. After the soil around the plant has settled, make sure the bud union is at the proper height above the soil level. Adjust as needed. Leaves should emerge 6-8 weeks after planting once the weather has warmed.

How to Grow

  • When rainfall is not adequate, water newly transplanted trees deeply at least once a week during the first growing season. Apply 3-4 gallons of water per tree. Hoe a small ridge of soil around each tree to keep water from running off.
  • A nitrogen fertilizer should be applied to newly transplanted fruit trees 3-4 weeks after planting. Be sure to keep granular fertilizers from direct contact with the tree trunk.
  • Do not cultivate the soil surface within the area of the planting hole.
  • Mulch 2-3 inches deep, extending 3-4 feet around the base of the tree, using shredded leaves or other organic matter.
  • Use tree guards, cages, fencing or deer bags to prevent damage from mice, rabbits, deer and other wildlife.
  • Monitor for Pests and diseases. Check with your local Cooperative Extension Service for pest controls recommended for your area.
  • Prune to shape and train trees in early spring.

Growing tips

Harvest and Preserving Tips

  • A full harvest can range from 5-10 years after planting, 7 years after planting being the average.
  • Harvest is June thru July depending on the variety.
  • A sign that cherries are ripe is when the birds start eating them off the tree. Sour cherries are ready for harvest when they come off the tree easily without the stems. Taste sweet cherries to be sure they are ready for harvest.
  • Cherries will not ripen off the tree.
  • Harvest with stems attached for better storage.
  • If harvest is for cooking or canning, leave the stems behind on the trees.
  • Cherries can be stored in cool temperatures for 10 days.

Common Pests and Problems

Bacterial Canker: Gummy, water-soaked cankers appear on branches and the trunk. Fruit develops with dark, sunken areas. This causes them to be more susceptible to brown rot. Cool, wet weather promotes development of cankers after blooming. Burpee Recommends: Cut out diseased wood. Contact your Cooperative Extension Service for recommendations.

Black Knot: Twigs and branches exhibit hard black knobby growths. This eventually girdles and kills branches. Burpee Recommends: Cut out diseased wood. Contact your Cooperative Extension Service for recommendations.

Botrytis: This fungus causes a grey mold on flowers, leaves, stems and buds. It thrives in cool wet weather conditions. Burpee Recommends: Remove affected plant parts, avoid watering at night and getting water on the plant when watering. Make sure plants have good air circulation. Contact your Cooperative Extension Service for fungicide recommendations.

Crown Gall: This is caused by a bacteria that causes galls (masses of plant tissue) to form on roots, root crowns, stems and branches. The galls can interfere with the ability of water to move through the tissue, affecting plant vigor and causing stunted plants. Burpee Recommends: There is no cure for this disease; remove and destroy infected plants. Do not propagate infected plants.

Scab: Dark spots form on leaves and fruit. Water soaked lesions gradually turn brown in the center with a lighter colored margin. Cracking on the fruit can occur. Burpee Recommends: Contact your Cooperative Extension Service for recommendations.

Common Pest and Cultural Problems

Japanese Beetles: Burpee Recommends: Hand pick early in the morning into a bucket of soapy water.

Leafhoppers: Leafhoppers cause injury to leaves and stunt growth. They also spread disease. Burpee Recommends: Remove plant debris. Use insecticidal soaps. Consult your Cooperative Extension Service for other insecticide recommendations.

Lygus Bugs (Tarnished Plant Bug): Lygus bugs are ¼ inch long and are green or brown with yellow markings. Nymphs are flightless and smaller than the adults. They suck on stem tips and flower buds and inject a toxic that deforms roots, stems and ruins flowers.  Burpee Recommends: Because lygus bugs over winter in garden debris, remove all debris after the first frost. Contact your Cooperative Extension Service for insecticide recommendations.

Spider Mites: These tiny spider-like pests are about the size of a grain of pepper. They may be red, black, brown or yellow. They suck on the plant juices removing chlorophyll and injecting toxins which cause white dots on the foliage. There is often webbing visible on the plant. They cause the foliage to turn yellow and become dry and stippled. They multiply quickly and thrive in dry conditions. Burpee Recommends: Spider mites may be controlled with a forceful spray every other day. Try hot pepper wax or insecticidal soap. Check with your Cooperative Extension Service for miticide recommendations.

Thrips: Thrips are tiny needle-thin insects that are black or straw colored. They suck the juices of plants and attack flower petals, leaves and stems. The plant will have a stippling, discolored flecking or silvering of the leaf surface. Thrips can spread many diseases from plant to plant. Burpee Recommends: Many thrips may be repelled by sheets of aluminum foil spread between rows of plants. Remove weeds from the bed and remove debris from the bed after frost. Check with your Cooperative Extension Service for pest controls.

FAQ

Do I need two different cherry varieties for cross pollination? Sweet and sour cherries are generally self-pollinating; check your variety description. The sweet cherry ‘Nadia’ is a cross between a cherry and plum and benefits from cross pollination with a Japanese plum.

When will my tree bear fruit? Trees should bear fruit in 3-4 years, with full fruiting in 5-7 years.

Can I grow cherry trees in my zone 9/10 garden? Check the hardiness zones for your variety. ‘Nadia’ has low chill hour requirements and can grow in zone 9 but other varieties need more cold winters.

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