Cherry on the treeHere’s the final article by one of the participants in a ‘Grow Your Own Food’ course I ran recently in Foulsham, Norfolk. I’m planning to run another course starting in February (Tuesday mornings for 6 weeks) as well as another one focused on helping participants use design to reshape their own gardens (Monday evenings at Reepham, Norfolk). More details can be found at

Cherry Trees

Guest article by Ann Blezard

Choose a sunny spot for your tree (approx. 6 hours direct sunlight a day). Acid cherries will tolerate some shade. Cherries grow particularly well in southern and central England.

Cherries will grow well in almost any kind of soil, but avoid soil that stays soggy for extended periods. Spreading a layer of mulch over the soil around your tree will help it grow better.

Some cherry trees cannot pollinate themselves and will need pollination partners. Others are self- fertile.

It is preferable to grow cherries from a rootstock as it can take 10 years or more to obtain the first fruits from a cherry grown from seed.

Cherries are now available as a dwarf rootstock, growing to approx. 10ft, instead of the usual 40ft, allowing you to cover the tree with bird netting to protect your crop.

Cherry trees should be planted between November and March.  Mulch in late February with well-rotted organic matter.  Keep trees well watered during the early stages of fruit development. Apply potash if fruiting is poor.

Cherry trees flower early in the year, the flowers will need protecting from frost. Cover with horticultural fleece if frost is predicted,  however  remove during the day to allow access to pollinating insects.

Sweet cherries will fruit on one-year old and older wood. Formative pruning takes place in spring as the buds begin to open. Established trees are pruned from late July to the end of August.

Cherries are not totally disease free. Sweet cherries are susceptible to a disease called brown rot.  This can be prevented by pruning in between branches to allow good air flow, be scrupulous about cleaning up blossoms, fruit and leaves that might have been affected. Sulfur is an organic method for brown rot. Spray when the flower buds are pink, when the flowers are open, when the petals fall and once again about 14 days later.

Cherries can also be affected by Silver Leaf, a fungal disease of the wood and leaves, causing a silvering of the leaves and death of the branch. The fungus produces most of its infectious spores in autumn and winter. Prune susceptible plants in summer when not only are there fewer spores, but pruning wounds, the main point of entry for the spores, heal more quickly.

Cherry blackfly is an aphid that sucks sap from the foliage of fruiting cherries during spring and early summer. Attract  natural predators like blue tits or use soap based sprays before the leaves curl.  Cherry blackfly will not affect fruiting, but looks unsightly

Cherries will shed fruit that they do not have the resources to bear, known as cherry fruit drop or cherry run off. Pruning trees to give an open canopy, maximising light to the leaves and increasing the photosynthetic rate is likely to minimise the fruit drop. Thinning the cherries is also an option, creating a balance between the supporting leaf and the fruit, thus increasing fruit retention.

The Evans Cherry variety showing ripening fruit
The Evans Cherry variety showing ripening fruit

Examples of cherry varieties are:-

Sweet Cherry- ‘Stella’ : Black, large , rich, high quality fruits, regular heavy crops; self-fertile. Late season; harvest  in July.

 Acid Cherry- ‘Morello’: Self-fertile , dark red fruits, excellent for preserves and tarts. Attractive blossom, heavy crops, late season; harvest  July and early August.


(Serves 8)


350g Caster Sugar

45g Butter, melted

125g Plain Flour

¼ tsp Salt

1 tsp Baking Powder

120ml Milk

1 tbsp Cornflour

225ml Boiling Water

500g Fresh Cherries, stones removed (frozen cherries may be used)


Preheat oven 180 deg C/Gas 4

1) Mix 150g sugar, butter, flour, salt, baking powder and milk together. Place cherries in bottom of 23cm square tin. Spread topping over cherries.

2) In small bowl combine 200g sugar and cornflour, stir in boiling water, pour mixture over topping.

3) Bake for 45 minutes, serve warm with vanilla ice cream.

Bing cherries- the most widely grown variety of sweet cherry in the U.S.A.

Bing cherries- the most widely grown variety of sweet cherry in the U.S.A.