Top fruit tree growing advice and information from Real English Fruit

Growing cherries for you to eat (not the birds!) – ten tips

Cherry blossom

Cherry blossom

People who grow cherries are caught up in a constant struggle with the birds. We all love cherries, and likewise our feathered friends, who have a brilliant talent at getting their beaks into the fruit just as it reaches perfection on the tree. But there are ways of ensuring that you can harvest and enjoy an undamaged crop…

It is an early season this year. All the same, we have enjoyed eating our cherries from the garden, which have been steadily ripening over the last three weeks. The birds haven’t had a look in. We had the lot, apart from a very big old tree, which is too big to do anything with as far as netting is concerned.

There is nothing nicer than to grow cherries in your garden. Because of birds, 20 years ago, it was a dodgy proposition to grow your own cherries. Then came along a new rootstock called Colt and a self fertile variety called Stella and it became easier to grow your own cherries. Nowadays it is really possible to grow your own cherries on a relatively small tree, which makes good netting – the most important method of protect your crop of cherries against spring frosts as well as birds – a practical proposition. Which type of rootstock to use, Colt or Gisela 5, depends on your soil and the type of cherry you would like to grow, whether a sweet cherry or a sour cherry. If you contact me (details on my website) and let me know which cherry you like, a cooking or an eating cherry, I can advise you which cherry we can supply you to fit your choice.

There are some ground rules which you have to adhere to, in order for you to get the cherries in the first place and not the birds.

1) To make netting a success. it is far simpler to train your cherry tree along a wall or a fence, rather than a free standing tree.

2) Cover your cherry tree with green shade netting from early April, before blossoming starts and leave it in position until you have picked your crop in June/July.

3) Don’t let aphids ruin your young shoots. Cut out any curled up shoots and put them in the non recycling bin. Encourage ladybirds, lacewings and earwigs, which are effective predators of the aphids. As a last resort, spray with an approved anti-aphids mixture, obtainable from your garden centre.

4) To stop the fruit from splitting, water the trees weekly with 5 to 10 litres of water each week from May until you have harvested your crop.

5) To avoid fungal diseases always prune your cherry trees as soon as you have picked your crop. Never prune during the winter months!

6) Depending on the rootstock used, give your trees sufficient space. Not too close.

7) Only plant self-fertile varieties. We will advise you. Place your order early.

8.  Pick the crop when ready to eat. Cherries do not ripen off the trees.

9) Handle the fruit gently; pick the fruit with the stalk and the cherries will keep for 10 days in good condition at the bottom of the fridge, if you don’t want to eat them all in one go.

10) If you go on holiday ask your best friend to pick the cherries for you. Do not let them rot on the tree. Feed your tree with organic manure each year.

cherry blossom

Cherry blossom

2 responses to “Growing cherries for you to eat (not the birds!) – ten tips

  1. Lili Swenson June 3, 2016 at 12:54 am

    When I lived in NW Indiana, birds would eat my pie cherries on my tree. Now I live in SW Indiana and birds do not eat the cherries. These are also pie cherries but may not be the variety. We are stunned that there seems to be nothing eaten even when they are ripe. It is good that they leave it alone but we are stunned that they do. Could it be the variety. I think it is a Montgomery or some similar name.

  2. Vi June 30, 2019 at 1:45 am

    Does anyone know if birds ever pull cherries off by the stalk? I had a lot of unripe cherries and then didn’t look at them for over a week then they were gone, the stems too. None were shrivelled or rotten or fallen, all were completely gone with no sign there had ever been cherries. I suspect humans took them. I imagine that birds would pull at the cherry which would come off the stem if ripe or else as this article says they might just peck holes in the fruit without even pulling it off. I don’t imagine birds would want to tug at the stem of an unripe fruit when it is the fruit they are interested in, and if they were intelligent enough to collect some unripe ones to hoard for later, that seems unlikely since, as this article says, they don’t ripen off the tree. My verdict is human thieves. What do you think?

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