Planting and Caring for Your Cherry Tree

In most areas across the Rainy River District, the soils tend to be clay predominant with a few interspersed sandy or loamy soils. All of these are perfect conditions for a cherry tree. Cherry trees can also tolerate drier conditions – great for our area during those hot and dry summers.

Tough love is a key to great success with a cherry tree. Many gardeners kill cherries and many other fruit trees with kindness – overwatering and over fertilizing will kill your tree. Cherry trees do not get the photoperiodic message (reduction in sunlight hours in the fall) to shut down like other native fruit trees so if you water cherries into August and September, they will grow lush and fail to naturally harden off and there is a good chance they will suffer from winter injury. Let Mother Nature do the watering and try to keep the soil around them as dry as possible as fall approaches. This will force the tree to harden off and prepare itself for winter. It also is imperative to stop fertilizing the cherry tree by mid summer as well.

When at the nursery you want to select a tree with a healthy appearance and a symmetrical growth form, so take the time to pull the pot out from the other plants and view it from all sides. Always dig the hole at least twice as wide and one and a half times as deep as the size of the pot or root ball. Once the hole is dug, place the tree in the hole in the pot just to make sure the depth and position looks good. Remove the plant and add compost or manure to fill the hole two-thirds. At this time, you can mix in a powdered or granular transplant fertilizer (fertilizer with a high middle number) and then dig a new hole to accommodate the tree in this new soil by pushing the soil around within the hole. Gently remove the plant from the pot being very careful not to damage the roots and once free from the pot, gently tease the young roots outwards from the root ball in order to encourage them to grow into their new surroundings. The tender hairy and white roots are the young roots of the tree, responsible for the absorption or water and nutrients, so be extremely careful not to damage these in the transplanting process. Place the tree in the hole making sure that the root collar is level with the top of where the soil will be in the hole once it is filled in. The root collar can be identified as a small bulge around the stem where the roots and the stem of the tree meet. Usually it is the top of the soil in the pot but sometimes a pot can lose some of its soil or the plant was planted too deeply in its pot. It is up to you to adjust the soil so the root collar is even with the soil level in its new home. Once the tree is positioned in its hole, I like to fill the hole with water, before back-filling. Pack the soil around the tree firmly, but not too tightly that you compact it, while ensuring that the tree is planted straight and even, ensuring the soil is even with the root collar.

Remember that most of these new hybrids are self pollinating which means you do not have to pair them with a companion for cross pollination. This is an excellent feature if you are short on space or want to plant a variety of other fruit trees too. Also, some of these new hybrids are available in a compact or shrub form which is even more space saving.

Take some time this spring to visit your local nursery and look for one of these new cherry hybrids. Whether you plan to grow one to eat the fruit out of hand, for baking or making jam you will not be disappointed. A cherry tree in our region appears to be easy to take care of, has lovely spring flowers that attracts northern orioles, produces a lovely fruit in late summer and the new hybrids tend to be very disease resistant. You can’t go wrong!