One of the beacons of summer is the cherry tree. This popular fruit tree will burst into ripeness in late June and some varieties will continue on through the summer. Find out when to plant cherry trees so you can enjoy this delightful crop.
When to plant cherry trees: Cherry trees are a brilliant option for your backyard. They can’t self-pollinate, however, so you need to plant at least two different varieties. Plant your cherry trees in the spring or the fall, when the soil is moist and easy to dig. Your cherry tree will need extra watering in the first years but the soil also needs to be able to drain well. If your cherry tree is very young when you plant it, you can provide extra support for it while it grows. Cherry trees bear fruit after their fourth year and then you can expect at least 30 quarts of fruit. Eat or bake with the fruit right away as it does not have a long shelf life. Fertilize in the spring, prune in the winter, and enjoy your cherries in the summer.
Planting Cherry Trees in Different Climates
A tropical climate is not suitable for cherry trees.
A dry climate cannot support the growth of cherry trees.
While you may be able to grow some varieties of cherry trees in a temperate climate, for the most part, the summers do not offer enough heat for the more popular varieties.
The only climate that can support cherry trees is a continental climate. It offers the cold winters and the very hot summers that fruit trees need.
Unfortunately, cherry trees will not grow in a polar climate.
Choosing Cherry Seeds
Before you think about planting cherry trees, one very important piece of knowledge is needed. You need to plant two different species of trees for you to have fruit.
The same variety of cherry won’t be able to pollinate itself, so you need to start with at least two trees and two varieties. The varieties, however, don’t need to be too different from each other so if you want sweet cherries, there are plenty of options
Sweet Cherry Trees
As its name would suggest, Sweet Cherries, are incredibly sweet. They are perfect if you want to pick a basket and eat them right away.
This is a great option if you are a bit short on space as the trees are small to medium in size. However, there are many types of these trees, including Lapins and Stellas, so each variety will have its own requirements.
Black Tartarian Cherry Tree
Originating from Russia, this type of cherry tree produces large cherries that are solid and have a very dark red color. They are sweet to eat and come out in the middle of the summer.
Vandalay Cherry Tree
A combination of the Van variety and Stella variety of cherry trees, this tree produces sweet cherries that are delicious to eat. The fruit is deep red in color and can be eaten fresh or used in sweets.
Benton Cherry Tree
With a deep red, almost purple color, this tree will really stand out. These cherries ripen a bit earlier in the season, which means they are a great option if you are an impatient person.
Sour Cherry Trees
Within the category of Sour Cherry trees, there are a few varieties, such as Meteor and Crimson Passion. While they are edible, they are sour, so best used in preserves and baking.
How to Plant Cherry Seeds
Sun is key
Like most fruit trees, cherry trees prefer full sun. Make sure you start with an area that has lots of suns and will continue to have some as your tree grows bigger.
The Perfect soil
Cherry trees need great soil to thrive. However, they go in stages in terms of their needs.
When you first plant your cherry tree, you want to ensure the soil is nice and moist. This is why either spring or fall are the best times for planting.
For spring, wait until the ground is thawed but not dried out. This will vary depending on your climate but April should be a good month for planting.
As for the fall, make sure you get your tree planted before the threat of frost. Late September or early October is ideal, although this will depend greatly on the first frost date of where you live.
As for the rest of the year, you want your soil to be moist but have proper drainage. Too much pooling water can saturate the roots of your cherry tree, causing rot to settle in.
As we mentioned earlier, cherry trees are not able to pollinate themselves. Furthermore, you need to plant different species in order to produce fruit. This means at the very least you need two cherry trees.
For spacing, remember that cherry trees can grow to be quite large. Furthermore, their root systems will spread out underground.
For dwarf cherry trees, space them 8 to 10 feet apart. As for standard-size sweet cherry trees, 30 to 40 feet is ideal.
Pay attention to roots
There are different ways to plant cherry trees and it depends on the age and what you are starting with. If you have a graft of a tree, make sure the graft union is 4 to 5 inches above the soil level.
As for trees with roots, place them in the hole and gently spread the roots out to help them start growing.
How to Water Cherry Trees
When you first plant young cherry trees, you will want to ensure they have adequate water. This is especially important in the summer when it becomes very dry.
After your cherry trees are mature, you won’t need to water them very often. The root structure should be extensive enough to absorb rainwater. However, if you have a dry spell in the summer, give your tree some love with some extra water.
How to Grow Cherry Trees
To help keep the soil around your cherry trees moist, you can add a layer of bark mulch. Spread new mulch down every year in the spring so the area can retain moisture.
Cover in the summer
Pests are a major problem when it comes to cherry trees. Insects and birds simply can’t resist the sight and smell of cherries.
After your cherries bloom and have been pollinated, you can cover your trees with fine netting. This will allow sunlight in but will keep pests out.
Spraying is a controversial subject but if you can avoid it, it is best. There are plenty of organic options now if you are really worried about pests getting to your cherries.
Prune in the winter
Even if it is cold out, pruning your cherry trees in the late winter is the ideal time. This will encourage new fruiting wood to grow and won’t interfere with the growing season.
Fertilize in the spring
Once the weather starts to warm up and the ground is no longer frozen, you can add fertilizer. Spray the nutrients around the tree and then water well to allow the soil to absorb everything.
You can fertilize a few times in the spring but stop once the fruit starts to grow. You can fertilize again in the fall.
How long do cherry trees take to grow?
Cherry trees take about four years before they start to bear fruit. This isn’t too long of a wait but you should be prepared for a very small yield that first year and then larger yields each subsequent year.
Dwarf cherry trees, which are smaller in size, will produce about 10 to 15 quarts of cherries when they are fully mature. As for other standard-size trees, you can expect between 30 and 50 quarts of cherries each year.
What is the best month to plant cherries?
You can plant your cherry tree in either the spring or the fall for the best results.
The ground needs to be soft and there should be plenty of moisture in it, to allow the roots to take hold.
When to harvest cherries?
Depending on the variety, cherry trees are ready for harvest between mid-June and August. The trick is to pick them right when they are ready as they won’t last on the tree for very long.
Your cherries should be fully ripe when you pick them in order to get the most concentration of sugars. Varieties come in different colors, so be sure to know what your fully ripened cherries look like.
The shelf life of cherries is pretty small so be prepared to eat them or cook with them within a day or two. If you have an abundance of cherries but are not sure what to do with them, you can always freeze them.
Cherry trees can be a bit high-need, as they require multiple varieties for pollination. But, as long as you plan a little bit, you can have plump, juicy cherries in four or five years.