Cherry trees are often not the first choice for backyard fruit growers. They’re the bad boys of the fruit-growing world and are often considered to be “difficult” trees to grow.
It’s true that they can be quite a risky crop. For example rain at the wrong time will almost certainly result in some splitting in your crop. In a really wet year, rain can also lead to brown rot infections.
Birds love them, earwigs get into the trees and eat the fruit, and they provide a feast for aphids.
Despite that, growing cherries is well worth the effort. Let us talk you into growing a cherry tree …
Are cracked cherries really the pits?
Cracking after rain undeniably makes the cherries look terrible. For commercial growers, this means the cherries won’t be welcome at the market and have to be discarded.
However, it doesn’t necessarily mean a complete disaster for the home grower. The cherries are often still perfectly usable for cooking, or even for eating.
There’s a little bit of planning and a little bit of luck involved. The best-case scenario is if the cracks aren’t too bad and it stops raining so the cherries get a chance to heal.
Under those circumstances, the cherries will continue to hang on the tree – looking ugly – and you can harvest them at your leisure. If they don’t dry out quickly and get a chance to heal, then you have a much smaller window to harvest and eat them quickly. If they’re left cracked and wet on the tree for very long, they have a high risk of developing brown rot.
The other solution to the cracking problem is to include more than one variety in your garden. This spreads the risk. Rain will normally only damage fruit that is ripe or almost ripe. If you have another variety that is still weeks away from picking when it rains, they may survive unscathed.
Cherries can give you the edge over fruit fly
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. This gives the fruit flies 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.
This gives 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!).
9 reasons to plant a cherry tree
All up, we reckon the pros definitely outweigh the cons. So, here are our top 9 reasons to include a cherry tree in your garden:
- They’re picked early in summer, giving Queensland Fruit Fly little time to get established and ruin your crop
- Cherries grow well in a range of climates. You just need winters that are cold enough and summers that are hot enough. Our place in central Victoria is perfect, for example.
- 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.
- Cherries mainly fall prey only to predictable pests. Fruit fly as mentioned, birds (of course), earwigs, and pear and cherry slug (which rarely needs treating) are the main culprits.
- Different varieties are available which ripen from late November through to mid-January. It’s possible to have fresh cherries for at least 6 to 8 weeks if you choose the right varieties.
- The fruit is incredibly good for you. Cherries contain potassium, calcium, vitamin C, copper, and manganese. They are also a good source of fibre, antioxidants, and anti-inflammatory compounds.
- The fruit is easy to preserve in a number of different ways. It lends itself to bottling, freezing, and drying, and they’re great for cooking.
- They’re ripe and ready for Christmas—and they make great gifts
- They’re one of the most delicious fruits you can grow!
We grow and sell cherry trees from our nursery here on the farm each winter. It’s called Carr’s Organic Fruit Tree Nursery, and you can see the catalogue and order trees here). This is mainly applicable for gardeners in Victoria and southern NSW, as the trees have been grown in this district to suit local conditions. If you’re reading this from somewhere else, we urge you to seek out a local nursery and get their advice about local varieties.
Don’t be daunted by cherry trees! Go ahead and plant one. If you need help with how to prune them (or any other aspect of growing them) check out the Cheeky Cherries short course.