Tag Archive: sweet

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 www.reephamlearningcommunity.co.uk

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.


Chandler_strawberriesHere’s the second article in the new series ‘Eat Me’. This one has been written by another of the participants in the ‘Grow Your Own’ course that I ran recently in Foulsham, Norfolk.

Strawberries- a guest article by Colin Ferris

The fruit of the strawberry is not a berry but rather is a pseudo fruit or accessory fruit; some would not even accept the definition as a fruit. Indeed what appear to be the seeds on the outside are achenes, each of which is really a single seeded fruit.

Close up of strawberry
Close up of strawberry


The  wild strawberry Fragaria vesca was the first to be grown and cultivated for its fruit until the hybrid ‘garden strawberry’ Fragaria x ananassa was bred in France in 1750. It is a cross between the North American  F. virginiana and  F. chiloensis  from Chile.


Fragaria is a flowering plant (Angiosperm) in the family Rosaceae. The Genus Fragaria contains about 20 species plus many hybrids and cultivars. The structure of the strawberry plant is quite typical of a member of the rose family, most noticeably when looking at the flower with its five petals.



Whilst generally considered in this country as a very typical British fruit, it is surprising to find that the UK does not even make it in the top ten of the world strawberry producers. By far the biggest producer is the USA, growing about 1.5 million tons of fruit per year. Strawberries grow well in any fertile soil and respond well to the addition of manure or fertiliser. It is not advisable however to grow them in soil that has previously been used to grow potatoes, chrysanthemums or tomatoes, due to the build up of soil pests and diseases. Plants will grow well for four or five years after which they decline and do not fruit well. It is thus best to replace them when four years old but not to grow the new plants in the same soil previously used for strawberries, i.e. employ suitable crop rotation.

Strawberries being grown hydroponically
Strawberries being grown hydroponically


Plant rooted runners or bought plants in fertile but well drained soil either in the ground, or in any form of container that can be suitably positioned in a sunny place and watered frequently. Plant in autumn or early spring but avoid cold wet weather and avoid areas prone to frost. Space plants about 14 inches apart with 30 inches between rows.  Keep plants well watered especially in dry spells but take care not to rot the crown with too much water given from above.  When fruits begin to form a mulch, typically straw, should be tucked underneath them to prevent rotting from the soil. Keep weed free. After cropping has finished remove old leaves and straw. If you will not be using them runners should be removed to prevent energy being wasted on them.

Strawberry flower
Strawberry flower


In order to produce new plants with the same characteristics as the parent plant, it is best to use strawberry runners. The stolons or runners produced by the plant are a form of vegetative reproduction and so produces plants that are genetically identical to the parent. It is important to let the new plants remain on the runner until a good healthy set of roots has formed.


Summer fruiting varieties These are the most popular with large fruits over a short but heavy cropping period of a few weeks. There are early, mid-, and late types.

Perpetual varietiesThese have a much longer fruiting season but fruits are smaller and crops not so heavy.

Strawberry display at Chelsea Flower Show 2009
Strawberry display at Chelsea Flower Show 2009


Fungus – Botrytis grey mould, powdery mildew, leaf spot, Verticillium wilt, and red core: remove dead material immediately, lower humidity around plants, remove weeds and prevent overcrowding.

PestsRed spider mite, seed beetle and vine weevil: use appropriate sprays or preferably biological control. Birds: use netting or preferably a fruit cage, bird scarers may help but generally are of little benefit.


Strawberries have such a wonderful flavour that they are used in so many recipes that it is impossible to list them. They are best when picked fully ripe (bright red in colour) when the sun has warmed them, and they taste extremely good with a little sprinkling of sugar and some fresh cream. Given that they crop heavily over a short period, strawberries are often used to make jam.

Strawberries and Cream- the tatse of an English summer...
Strawberries and Cream- the tatse of an English summer…

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