This section will cover both sour and sweet cherries. The sour cherry is the best choice for most home plantings as it is more hardy and most sour cherry varieties are self fruitful. Tart cherries will not pollinate sweet cherries.
Most cherries begin to bear the third or fourth year after planting.
Homeowners may want to consider bush cultivars 6 to 8 feet high or dwarfs about 8 feet high. Sweet cherries are larger than sour cherries.
Cherry trees must be kept dormant before planting or they are more likely to die. The roots of cherry are slow in establishing so early planting for this tree fruit is essential. When handling the trees use caution, the buds are large and may be rubbed off fairly easily.
The following list of cherries are listed as being hardy in northern growing areas.
Sweet Cherries Early Cultivars
Black Tartarian - Good pollinator, fruit softens quickly after harvest. Sam - Fruit resists cracking, good fruit production. Use Bing, Lambert or Van as pollinators.
Emperor Francis - Yellow fruit with red blush, resists cracking. Use Ranier, Hedelfingen or Gold for pollination. Gold - Fruit fairly small and yellow. Pollinated by any other sweet cherry. Royal Ann (Napoleon) - Good fresh and for canning. Pollinated by Corom, Windsor, or Hedelfingen. Schmidt - Use Bing, Lambert or Napoleon as pollinators. Stella - Self fruitful and can be used to pollinate any other sweet cherry. Van - Use Bing, Lambert or Napoleon as a pollinator. Yellow Glass - Yellow fruit but quite sweet. Use Black Tartarian as a pollinator.
Black Republican (Black Oregon) - Use any sweet cherry as a pollinator. Hedelfingen - Resists cracking but is only moderately hardy. Use any sweet cherry as a pollinator. Lambert - Erratic bearing. Tree tends to form weak crotches if not trained properly. Use Van or Ranier as a pollinator. Windsor - Use any cultivar except Van and Emperor Francis as a pollinator.
All sour cherry cultivars are self-fertile so they need no cross pollination.
Early Richmond - Small red fruit with yellow flesh. Meteor - A dwarf about 10 feet tall. Large red fruit with yellow flesh. Montmorency - Red fruit with yellow flesh and resistant to cracking. Northstar - Genetic dwarf and resistant to brown rot. Red fruit with red flesh.
Young cherry trees may be fertilized with 1-2 pounds of 12-12-12 per year of tree growth. Trees growing in fertilized lawns may not need any additional fertilizer.
Young cherry trees are trained to the modified leader method. The modified leader method begins by cutting back 1 year old, unbranched trees to 3 1/2 to 4 feet above the ground. If the new trees are well branched, skip this step in the first year.
The second year, save the most vigorous upright- growing shoots for a leader. Remove all sharp angled branches and select one or two branches to be scaffold branches (the branches that will make up the structure of the fruit tree). The saved branches should form a wide angle from the trunk, should be widely spaced from each other and located on opposite sides of the trunk. The lowest of the scaffold branches should be at least 2 feet off the ground.
At the next pruning, again save the highest shoot to be the leader. Save two more side branches for scaffold branches. The branches saved should be spaced far apart and should form wide angles from the trunk. The branches saved last year will need pruning. Each branch will have in turn produced branches, called laterals. On each scaffold branch, save two or three laterals that are at least 6 inches apart. Prune any laterals that are longer than the scaffold branch.
Never let the side branches get out of proportion with the top. If need be, cut or head back the side branches.
In the fourth year continue to save additional branches to be scaffolds as described before. Remove any rubbing branches and prevent the formation of narrow V crotches.
By the fifth year the tree will have all the scaffold branches required, and it will not be so important to maintain a well developed leader.
Mature trees are pruned to eliminate sharp crotch angles and to get rid of branches that grow across the shape of the tree. Remove dead, broken and weak branches and head back branches that are too long or too high. Generally only a light pruning is required. Pruning allows light penetration, good spray coverage to the interior of the tree, and air circulation in the middle of the tree.
Sweet Cherries tend to form whorls of branches. The whorls may contain from 3 to 5 limbs. When pruning, reduce the whorls to 2 to 3 branches.
Do not injure the fruiting spurs when harvesting. Do not pick cherries too early as once picked the flavor will not improve. They should be left on the tree until fully ripe. Once the stem is removed the fruit rots fast.