There’s nothing better to eat than a freshly picked, sweet cherry. The glossy fruits are also a nutritious addition to many desserts. Cherry trees are often seen in back gardens, and growing your own cherries is easy, especially with modern varieties.
There are two main types of cherry. Dessert cherries that are sweet when eaten fresh, and acid cherries that are sour when picked but are great for pies, crumbles and jam making.
Choosing a Cherry Tree
The good thing about growing your own cherry trees is that there are many varieties that are self-fertile. This means that they can produce fruit without the need for cross pollination from another cherry tree.
Cherry varieties such as Morello, Stella or Lapins are all self-fertile cherry trees.
Cherry trees produce fruit from midsummer onwards, depending on the variety.
Cherry Tree Rootstocks
Cherry trees that you buy often come as rootstocks. This means that the tree has been grafted on to the roots of another. This controls the vigour of the cherry tree, and determines the height of the mature plant.
Planting Cherry Trees
cherry trees will grow in most types of fertile garden soil, as long as it is well drained. Dessert cherries prefer a sunny spot, and this will also help the plant to produce quality fruit. Acidic cherries can be planted in partial shade, although a sunny position is preferable.
Plant bare rooted cherry trees in late autumn and winter, but do not plant if the soil is frozen. Container grown cherry trees can be planted in any season.
Support the tree with a stake until it is well established.
Caring for Cherry Trees
Apply a layer of mulch in February. In spring, a handful of organic fertiliser around the base of the tree will help to provide nutrients for the growing season.
Pruning Cherry Trees
Cherry trees can be left to grow as bush shapes, or they can be trained and cordons or fans if you have a small garden.
There is also a difference in how you prune a dessert cherry trees than acid cherry trees.
Prune dessert cherry trees after fruiting, removing any damaged branches. Keep the tree an open shape to encourage healthy growth.
Prune fan trained cherry trees in the spring. Cut off any stems that are growing towards or away from the supports. The tree begins to grow new stems in spring, so in summer, trim of the tips to stop them from growing longer, so the tree can put more energy into producing fruit. After fruiting, these stems can be pruned to about three buds from the main branch.
Acid cherry trees produce fruit on stems that have been growing for a year. Older branches that are over three years old can be cut back to encourage new growth that will bear fruit the following year.
Cutting bid branches can leave the cherry tree susceptible to disease, so painting the sawn area with a suitable tree paint is recommended.
Freshly picked cherries will last for around a week in the fridge. Cooked, they can either be preserved in jams, or pie fillings can be frozen to be used at a later date.
With a little care, growing cherry trees in your garden will soon reward you with a good crop of fruit to enjoy each year.