Planting a cherry tree is a good choice for anyone who would like a little fresh fruit right from their back yard. A cherry tree will grow practically anywhere, although there are ideal conditions that will help to get the best results for the homegrower. A cherry tree has the added benefit of a beautiful flowering tree in spring, and delicious fruit in summer.
It was once necessary to plant at least two cherry trees in the same area for pollination. but there are now varieties that are self-pollinating. Since the homegrower can plant just one tree of that variety and get fruit, it is especially helpful where space is limited.
The first step in planting a cherry tree is to decide which kind of tree you want to plant. There are sweet cherries and sour cherries, usually preferred by bakers and cooks, and several varieties within each class. The next step is to select the site where you will plant the tree. Cherry trees need soil that drains well, as they will not survive in standing water. Good air circulation is necessary to prevent cold air from “pooling” around the tree in the spring. Cherry trees also need full sun, so you will not want to plant your tree in the shade of your home or where it will be shaded by other large trees. If you have cold winters, that will be beneficial for cherry trees, although they will grow in places where this is not the case.
Once you have chosen your tree and the best site in which to plant it, complete the following steps:
- . Dig a hole about twice the size of the root system. Spread the roots out gently, and do not shake all the dirt off the roots.
- Keep the tree upright and straight. Push the dirt firmly down around the roots as you fill in the hole, rather than waiting until all the dirt is replaced. If you tamp it down as you fill, it will remove air pockets that will allow the roots to dry out and die. Water after you have the roots covered with soil. Continue replacing soil and tamping until all the dirt is replaced and pressed firmly around the tree.
- Water one last time. To help the tree develop a good root system, water frequently during its first year after planting. After the first year, you may water the cherry tree the same as any other tree.
Once your tree is well established, it will grow with very little attention unless it is attacked by a fungal or bacterial disease. If it is kept pruned and fertilized, especially in the first few years, that will help to make it resistent to diseases. Young trees, however, should not be pruned in late fall or winter.
If your tree was planted late and is still young when a heavy frost or freezing temperatures is expected, cover it with heavy plastic all the way to the ground. It may also be necessary to stake a young tree if it is in an area susceptible to heavy winds, to keep it from breaking.
The only other “enemies” cherry trees have are birds, who, of course, love to eat the cherries as soon as they appear. If there are enough of them, they can almost strip a tree bare of its fruit. You can prevent this from happening by covering your tree with netting available at your garden store.