Sour Cherry Growing Tips, Pests and Diseases

Sour cherries are the easiest cherries to grow because they're more tolerant than sweet cherries of cold winters and hot, humid summers. They also are less vigorous and therefore require less pruning. Cherries live about 30-35 years. For insect egg control, apply dormant oil spray every spring before the leaf buds open, covering all areas of the trunk and branches.

Harvesting Sour Cherries

Wait to pick until the fruit is fully ripe, which is when the flesh slides off the stem, leaving the pit behind.

Storage Requirements

Use immediately, if possible; freeze sour cherries immediately. Firm flesh fresh cherries can be stored at 34°-40°F for 2-3 weeks.

Height - Dwarf: 6-10 ft. Semidwarf: 12-18 ft. Standard: 15-20 ft.

Spacing - Dwarf: 8-10 ft. Semidwarf: 18-20 ft. Standard: 20 ft.

Root Depth - 50% beyond drip line

pH - 6.0-6.5

Bearing Age - 2-7 years

Pollination - All sour types are self-pollinating.

Chilling Requirements - 800-1200 hours at below 45°F

Site - Full sun to partial shade. A southern exposure or 12 ft. from north-facing walls to delay blooming. Well-drained soil and good air circulation. Likes 4 in. of top soil. Don't plant on former apricot, cherry, or peach sites; when waterlogged, their roots release hydrogen cyanide, which may linger and hinder growth. Also don't plant between other fruit trees, because cherries bear at a time others may need to be sprayed.

Water - Heavy and even supply. Cherries are especially sensitive to water stress.

Fertilizer - Heavy feeder. Low N until 2 years old. Appropriate new growth is 12-24 in. when young and 6-12 bearing.

Training - Free-standing tree: open center or central leader. Wire-trained: fan-trained against a south or north-facing wall, using the same method as for the peaches. All sizes of sour cherries are suitable for training because they are not vigorous growers.

Pruning - The lowest branch should be about 2 ft. off the ground and limbs about 8 ft. apart. Both sour and sweet cherries bear on spurs as well as on 1-year-old wood. sour cherries, however, produce several adjacent fruit blossoms on the 1-year-old wood, which cause future bare spaces that lack foliage. If there are too many of these lateral flower buds, trim 1-2 in. off the branch ends in June to stimulate leaf buds. Sour cherry spurs bear 2-5 years.

Pests & Diseases

Apple maggot, blackberry fruit fly, birds, cherry fruit fly, cherry fruit sawfly, codling moth, peach leaf curl, peach tree borer, plum curculio.

Bacterial gummosis, black know, black rot, brown rot, cherry elaf spot, crown rot, peach leaf curl, mildew, verticillium wilt.

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