Birds are always excellent judges of fruit, and their judgment is not at fault where cherries are concerned. A healthy tree will produce a huge crop unfailingly, year after year. In spring it is a magnificent sight, with its dense masses of flowers. In early summer it is handsome and highly profitable – with its masses of fruit. It gives litdc trouble.
Ready for Use.
Ripening dates vary between June and August, according to variety. Fruit hangs well for some time after it is ripe.
Varieties. For cooking, the sour or acid varieties Morello and Kentish Red are the best; for eating raw, the sweet varieties.
Though the acid Morello and Kentish Red are self-fertile, all the sweet varieties are self-sterile – they must receive pollen from a different variety for their fruit to set. This means that more than one variety should be present in the garden – unless other varieties are growing in the immediate neighbourhood. Even with Morello and Kentish Red it is not altogether advisable to plant either variety alone.Sweet varieties which make appropriate mates are: Bigarreau Jaboulay and Early Rivers, ripe in mid-June; Bigarreau Frogmore and Kentish Bigarreau, early July; Noble and Bigarreau Napoleon, mid-August. Acid mates are Morello and Kentish Red, July to August. There are, of course, several other varieties of cherry, and before purchasing trees not included in the foregoing short list it would be advisable to seek the nurseryman’s advice as to suitable mates.
Forms of Tree.
Standards naturally give the largest yield. Where space for these cannot be afforded, fan-trained trees can be obtained for planting against a wall. Cherries are also grown as bush trees and pyramids, in which form they can be purchased as pot trees of fruiting size for the greenhouse or conservatory; their general treatment is explained in the section FRUIT IN THE GREENHOUSE.
Cherries flourish especially in good earth above a chalk subsoil. Ordinary ground should have lime rubble, or crushed chalk, or hydrated lime mixed freely with it. Heavy soil – clay, or near-clay – should be deeply dug and made porous with plenty of sand, or sharp grit, and lime rubble or broken chalk.
When and How to Plant.
Autumn is the most suitable period, though planting may be carried out at any time when the trees are dormant – that is, leafless – excepting when the ground is wet, or frost or snow is about. Full instructions are given in the section THE ABC OF PLANTING. Standards need to be 25 ft. apart, bush trees and pyramids 10 ft., wall trees (fan trained) 15 ft.
Watering and Feeding.
Young trees need frequent soakings with plain water, particularly those against a wall, during dry spring and summer spells. Young and old alike benefit from dressings of lime, in the form of hydrated (water-slaked) lime or crushed chalk, every second or third year, during winter.
Birds and Other Troubles.
Old muslin curtains or fish netting flung over the trees will save most of the ripening fruit from starlings and other birds.
Black fly has a great liking for the young growths. These pests should not be left to get a hold. They breed at a tremendous rate and are most easily dealt with, when the advance guard first appears, by spraying with quassia solution; the concentrated preparation can be bought with directions for mixing. Fly-clustered shoot ends within reach should be dipped into the solution.
Exudation of gum. from the trunk may result from bruising; from branches, by too much pruning, especially of older wood. If gumming is extensive the tree is weakened, and may die.
A silvering of the leaves indicates silver-leaf disease. Diseased or dead wood must be cut out, in summer, and burned at once, and the cut surfaces dressed with any thick, tacky paint, to seal the wounds. This disease is fully dealt with under PLUM, which is the most frequent sufferer.
The sour, or acid, varieties – Morello, Kentish Red – produce their fruit on side shoots of the previous year’s growth, the shoot generally being covered with fruit from end to end. When the fruit has all been picked, the shoots from which it came should be cut close back; the new ones are left unshortencd, and they will bear the next summer’s fruit.. Grown flat against a wall, the new shoots should be tied back as neatly as possible.
The sweet varieties fruit differ-endy – on short spurs produced by older wood. These spurs are formed in great abundance, and little pruning is needed. Wall trees should not be allowed to become crowded with side shoots; surplus ones should be removed when quite small – rubbed off with the finger. Side shoots for which there is space should be pinched back to four or five leaves in summer, and cut back to within a couple of buds of their base in winter to form additional fruiting spurs.
As standards, the sweet cherries can be left to look after themselves when a good head has been formed. If it becomes necessary to remove an old branch in order to keep the centre open, it should be cut back, as far as may be necessary, with a saw, not in winter but in summer. The cut surface should then be pared smooth with a sharp knife and the wound painted over with thick paint. This prevents gumming, and is a safeguard against silver-leaf disease, as explained under ‘Birds and Other Troubles’.
Pruning in general is further explained in the section THE How AND WHY OF PRUNING.
Propagation. Cherry trees are increased by budding or grafting selected varieties on to suitable stocks, as explained in the section
How TO PROPAGATE FRUIT TREES AND BUSHES. Gathering the Fruit.
Ripe fruit will continue to hang on the tree for a considerable time, if it is protected against birds. Out of reach from the ground it should be picked from steps or a ladder with the top padded to prevent injury to the bark of the branch against which it rests.
Surplus Fruit. Cherries not required for immediate use can be preserved as explained in the section EASY HOME PRESERVATION. OF FRUITS.DAMSON
A variety of plum, the damson is particularly hardy. It makes a good windbreak, and can be purchased as a bush tree, standard, or half-standard. Planting and other requirements are as under Plum. The least possible pruning is needed when the fruiting stage is reached, all that is necessary being the removal of any old branch that threatens to spoil the shapeliness of the tree or for which there is no longer sufficient room.
Varieties include Bradley’s King; this can be planted without a companion tree, as it is self-fertile. It ripens in September. Merry-weather, ripening in September or October, produces the largest fruit. The earliest is Rivers’ Early, ripe in August. The latest is Shropshire Prune, ready for use inOctober, and one of the best for preserving. Damson wine is good.