For my June Allotment garden notes I wanted to cover Cherry growing, or as will become apparent, Cherry Farming!
According to the Fruit grower and Nurseryman D.T.Brown, there has been one fruit where sales have ‘gone through the roof.’ This phenomenon is completely unprecedented and has created such a surge in sales that has baffled the fruit industry and nurserymen, who are now struggling to cope with extra demand in sales, exhaustion is now imminent. This fruit, The Cherry Trees.
It was my Nanna who started me off growing Cherries. She is now 96 years old and for her ninetieth birthday asked me for a cherry tree! I bought Nanna and myself, Cherry Stella and also bought myself an extra Cherry Cherokee. I have subsequently added three more Cherries to my collection. Cherry Morello, Cherry Sweetheart and Cherry Kordia. On a recent conversation to my Nanna I explained how I was now growing five varieties, “Criky boy, what you doing, Cherry farming?”
I’ve just had a thought. I Don’t think the Allotment committee are going to like me promoting the planting of cherry trees. “No trees are allowed on our allotment.” However we are not looking at the trees here, these are bushes and with careful management the bush should not grow much more than an un-pruned Currant bush.
The important point when buying Cherry trees is to be guaranteed that the rootstock is the dwarf “Gisela 5 Rootstock” this will limit the Cherry uppergrowth to six feet in open soil and less if container grown. If you ensure the right rootstock the Cherry growth is contained and will never cause extensive root growth. There are two other dwarf bush under stocks. “Colt” is another widely used stock and quite acceptable when Gisela 5 is unavailable. “Tabel” is a rootstock which will produce larger bushes or a small tree up to ten feet, where more space is available in the garden.
Why would I write about planting Cherry trees in June? I hear you ask, surely the best time for planting is autumn? No because a vast majority of Cherry plants die in pots during the winter/spring in the nursery. I Controversially recommend planting in June and July. You can buy an actively growing, leafy plant and hopefully a bush which is fully pot-bound with actively growing roots. You could keep the Cherry in the pot for a further year with no difficulty, or, carefully plant and water weekly until established.
The Cherry Varieties.
I grow, Cherry Cherokee. The nurseries say it is less prone to splitting and will grow well in the north of England and wet areas. I say the pictures usually show a red fruiting Cherry Cherokee but in my experience the cherries are deep purple when they are at their sweetest. The Cherries are a little bitter when red, allow them to mature another week and they turn a deeper purple colour and become more palatable.
I grow, Cherry Kordia. The nurseries say a late fruiting variety. I say its worth the wait, because this Cherry is one of my favourites and one which the birds are less partial to.
I grow, Cherry Morello. The nurseries say a popular sour cherry for pies and jam, ideal for growing in shade and very disease resistant. I say leave them for the birds. Small fruit that if you like sour summer pies, brilliant, but certainly not for me.
I grow, Cherry Sweetheart. The nurseries say another late Cherry that is spoilt by extensive rain. I say generally not very good for our North West climate, however I grow it well in my polythene tunnel and of cause completely protected from the birds. It is a nice Cherry but my favourite comes next.
I grow Cherry Stella. The nurseries say a reliable heavy cropper and canker resistant. I say if you only grow one Cherry this should be the one, reliable Cherries like the sweetest Mediterranean grown Cherries, simply wonderful.
The other Cherries.
Cherry Napoleon Bigarreau is one of the older favourites but rarely a small growing bush. This is usually the Cherry tree we associate with the term Cherry TREE. Also not very fertile and benefits from having another pollinating Cherry trees in the vicinity. I actually argue that in our urban built-up area there are enough cherry trees around to pollinate our Cherries, but better be safe, not sorry. The fruit is very sweet but often the colour is misleading, sour looking yellow to red fruit.
Cherry Penny is new variety to me but again needs a pollinator. Here the fruit is deep purple and of exceptional size. An early fruiting Cherry and crops on very young bushes.
Cherry Summer Sun is a new variety again that has been grown for our North West climate. But I have no experience of this Cherry. The fruit is described as Deep red.
Cherry Merchant and Lapins are two varieties which perform well in southern warmer climates and are grown as early fruiting varieties.
Cherry Roundel is only occasionally available from select nurserymen. This is an Old English Heritage Cherry with large red fruit, but is rarely grafted on a slow bush under stock.
Pest and Cherry problems. There are over thirty viruses infecting Cherries, however, few are ever likely to cause any concern to us domestic growers, and I have personally never had any serious infection. I do struggle with greenfly in spring which is a pain, but my plants are so small I just throw a bowl of soapy suds over the bushes twice a week. Frost damage in spring can spoil the whole years crop, so a handy fleece is useful during April. I occasionally find fluffy looking caterpillars munching away on the leaves, and there I carefully pick them off and put them on a neighbours flowering cherry, they seem happy there! Finally one year the Cherry crop was ruined by a wet spring followed by a hot summer causing all the fruit to split. The Cherries were never-the-less still edible, just unappetising to my friends. The number one pest question is birds. Well of cause they are going to be problem, birds love Cherries, but as your plants mature there’s enough fruits for both you and the birds. I never net the fruit bushes, I once saw a dead sparrow in a customers net, netting is not for me. The whole visual experience was too upsetting for me. You could use tin foil or a scarecrow.
I hope after writing this you all have a go at growing a small Cherry bush, they are simply the best ever fruit and will save you a fortune at the green grocers. The only disappointment could be availability.
Happy gardening, and thanks for the comments last month, anyone can email me with comments, problems or ideas for next month.
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