It may seem a bit strange to be talking about cherries just as we’re descending into winter – but now is the time to be deciding what trees to plant this year, and while cherry trees are often not the first choice for backyard fruit growers, they are a wonderful option.

Cherries are often considered to be “difficult” trees, and it’s true that they are quite a risky crop, as rain at the wrong time will almost certainly result in some splitting in your crop.

Cracked cherries after too much rain
Cracked cherries after too much rain

While this makes the cherries look terrible, it’s not a complete disaster for the home grower, as the cherries are often still usable for cooking, or even eating if they cracks aren’t too bad and you eat them quickly.

The other solution to the cracking problem is to include more than one variety in your garden to spread the risk, as rain will normally only damage fruit that is ripe or almost ripe, while another variety that is still weeks away from picking may survive unscathed.

Cherries are the perfect tree for any area where Queensland Fruit Fly has become established. It’s better to focus on growing crops that ripen early in the season, to give the fruit fly less time to get into the crops.

You’ll probably still need to do all the normal fruit fly prevention techniques like trapping and netting, but for much less time, giving you a higher chance of actually being able to pick fruit from your trees (and the fruit fly netting will also keep the birds away, which is a huge bonus!).

A bird-pecked cherry
A bird-pecked cherry

So, here’s our top 9 reasons to consider planting a cherry tree in your garden:

  1. They’re picked early in summer, giving Queensland Fruit Fly little time to get established and ruin your crop
  2. Cherries grow well in a range of climates, as long as the winters are cold enough and summers are hot enough (here in central Victoria is perfect, for example)
  3. Cherries get very few diseases – in very wet years we’ve had tiny amounts of brown rot, but even then, haven’t needed to spray any organic fungicides. In fact, there are no diseases that we routinely spray cherries for
  4. Cherries mainly fall prey only to predictable pests, like fruit fly as mentioned, birds (of course), and pear and cherry slug – which rarely needs treating
  5. Different varieties are available which ripen from late November through to early January, so it’s possible to have fresh cherries for 6 to 8 weeks if you choose the right varieties
  6. The fruit is incredibly good for you. Cherries contain potassium, calcium, vitamin C, copper and manganese. They are also a good source of fibre, anti-oxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds
  7. The fruit is easy to preserve in a number of different ways, including bottling, freezing and drying, and they’re great for cooking
  8. They’re ripe and ready for Christmas—and they make great gifts
  9. They’re delicious!
Making a cherry pie - exceptionally yum
Making a cherry pie – exceptionally yum

You can find out more about how to prune cherries (and various other aspects of growing them) in the Cheeky Cherries short course.

We’re currently selling trees from our nursery here on the farm (Carr’s Organic Fruit Tree Nursery – you can see the catalogue and order trees here) which can give a slight benefit for growers in central Victoria, as the trees have been grown in this district to suit local conditions. Some tree types have already sold out this year, but there still plenty of apples, cherries and peaches available.