Cherry trees are a sight to behold in the spring, when they’re covered in white or pink blossoms. After that, they produce the delicious cherries that most people know and love. Here’s how to grow cherry trees in your own garden!
- Sweet cherries are the variety most often found in markets. They have a thick, rich, and almost plum-like texture. Sweet cherries grow in hardiness zones 5 to 7; they are self-sterile and best for an orchard or a large garden. You’ll need at least two or three trees, as they’ll need to pollinate each other. If space is limited, consider the dwarf, self-pollinating cultivar ‘Stella’.
- Sour cherries are not usually eaten raw, but are widely used for preserves and other cooking uses. Sour cherries are much smaller than sweet cherries and all varieties are self-fertile. They grow in zones 4 to 6.
Cherry trees generally start bearing fruit in their fourth year; dwarf trees bear fruit a year earlier. One mature, standard-size tart or sweet cherry tree will produce 30 to 50 quarts of cherries each year; a dwarf tree, about 10 to 15 quarts.
Plant cherry trees in early spring or late fall (when the ground is soft and has a higher moisture content) in a sunny site with good air circulation and deep, well-drained soil. Apply mulch and water well. After flowering in a fruiting year, you’ll need to drape trees with wildlife-safe netting to protect the fruit from birds.
Plant cherry trees in a sunny site with good air circulation; planting that will shade the cherries. Ideally, cherry trees should get at least 6 hours of sunlight each day.
Space sweet cherries 35 to 40 feet apart; dwarfs, 5 to 10 feet apart. Space tart cherries 20 to 25 feet apart; dwarfs, 8 to 10 feet apart.
When to Plant Cherry Trees
- Plant cherries in the late fall or early spring (when the ground is soft and has a higher moisture content).
- When selecting sweet cherries, make sure the different varieties will pollinate each other.
How to Plant Cherry Trees
- Trees on standard rootstock should be planted with the graft union a few inches below the soil level. Trees on dwarf rootstock should be planted with the graft union several inches above the soil level, which will prevent the graft from growing its own roots and bypassing the rootstock.
- When planting fan-trained trees, construct the necessary supports before planting. Plant fans only 12 to 15 feet apart.
- For bareroot trees, place the rootstock on a small mound of soil in the center of the planting hole, and spread the roots down and away, trying not to bend the roots. Backfill with soil.
- For container-grown trees, first remove the rootball and set the tree on its side; cut through any pot-bound or encircled roots with shears. Don’t cover the top of the root-ball.
- Pick fruits only when FULLY ripe ( red, black, yellow); the sugar content rises the few days before fully ripened.
- Be ready to harvest within a week’s time. Eat or cook immediately.
- Pick fruits when firm if they are to be frozen.
- Be sure top pick with the cherry stem so you do not tear into the fruit, however, take care to lead the fruit spur to produce fruit next year.
- Remember that cherry trees do not typically bear fruit until their fourth year. Thereafter, they should produce about 30 to 50 quarts of cherries each year.