How to grow the most delicious cherries in your garden.
By Lars Lund
As soon as cherries hit the store, they are quickly sold out due to high demand, so why not cultivate them yourselves? Once, cherries were large trees, but today you can find them in various sizes to fit your garden. It's all about the stock when referring to size. However, the type, whether sour or sweet, and their ripening time and taste, depend on the variety grafted onto the stock. You can also purchase a tree with two or three different varieties on one tree, typically known as a family cherry tree.
The sweet and the sour
Sweet varieties are those we enjoy fresh from the tree, and they're also the favourites of the birds. Sour varieties are most suitable for pickling, but many of us prefer the sweet ones for our gardens. However, sour cherries aren't as tart as they seem; when they ripen, they're just not as sweet.
It's as important to consider the height as it is to decide whether you want to share with the birds or enjoy them yourself. Cherries often ripen during vacation time, so perhaps only the birds get to enjoy them. They are typically only edible for one to two weeks, which is shorter than most other fruits or berries.
'Stella' is definitely the most popular cherry variety. It doesn’t need another tree for pollination, although when the tree is 30-40 years old, it benefits from the presence of another tree for cross-pollination.
'Stella' has a delightful taste and is usually grafted onto a medium-sized tree, making it suitable for most gardens. However, when they become overly ripe, they can crack, especially during very rainy summers, similar to tomatoes with too much moisture on the fruit. 'Stella' cherries ripen in the middle of July.
Another recommended variety is 'Sunburst.' It's also a self-pollinating variety and very productive with less tendency to crack than 'Stella.' Both 'Stella' and 'Sunburst' originate from Canada, and 'Sunburst' produces slightly larger dark red berries ripening in late July.
A smaller tree with great taste and minimal cracking is 'Merton Late,' which requires pollination from another tree. These healthy trees come from England and produce small but delicious red/yellow berries, ripening in early August.
There are about 300 cherry varieties, but luckily, not all of them are available in local shops. According to many experts, the three mentioned above are excellent choices.
Yellow cherries, like the yellow sweet cherry (Prunus avium), are less favoured by birds. However, I wouldn't recommend them due to their susceptibility to the Monilia fungus, which can cause the berries to crack easily in rainy weather.
For wine and sauce
If you wish to make wine, juice, or sauce from your cherries, consider using the sour 'Stevnsbær' (Prunus Cerasus). They are small but well-suited for this purpose because of their stronger flavour compared to sweet cherries. Additionally, 'Kirsa' and 'Coralin' are sour cherry varieties commonly found in the market.
Morello cherries are also sweet, while cherry plums, although resembling cherries, belong to a different category but are still related.
Soil and placement
Cherry trees thrive best in clayey, preferably calcareous soil that needs to be well-drained. While they can tolerate some shade, cherries produce the best fruits when they receive adequate sunlight. Plant the tree from late September until the first frost, digging a reasonably large hole and mixing in some compost with the soil.
Fertiliser and pruning
Cherries are not very demanding when it comes to fertiliser, but adding compost near the tree is always a good idea. Prune them as little as possible.
The most common disease you may encounter is curly leaves, often caused by aphids, but it typically doesn't affect the yield. 'Grey Monilia' fungus and bacterial canker are also well-known cherry diseases. But most trees can withstand it for many years, and it may even diminish over time.
Om Lars Lund
Danish horticulturist and journalist
Lars Lund has for many years engaged in the garden and greenhouse. Lars has published many books about greenhouses, and he has participated in many Danish horticultural TV shows. He is a walking garden encyclopaedia, and he has answers for most basic cultivation questions – also the more ambitious ones.
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