I’ve planted fruit trees at every house we’ve owned (we’re on our third). At the last place I planted a North Star Dwarf Cherry Tree. I was impressed that there were 2 or 3 tart little cherries the same year I planted it from a bare-root twig. So when I started choosing fruit trees to plant at the new place, I knew I wanted another North Star.
Planting Cherry Trees
Before you purchase and plant cherry trees on your property, do some research to make sure you are planting the best varieties. How much space do you have? The North Star dwarf cherry tree is expected to reach approximately 10 feet tall and wide. That’s large enough to give a nice amount of fruit for our family, but small enough that we should be able to pick it without too many trips up a ladder. I also have a Montmorency Cherry tree that will get much larger, in the 15 – 20′ tall and wide range. I do have a concern about trying to get the fruit from the upper branches when that tree reaches full size. However, I have plenty of space for it to grow without getting scrunched or shaded by other trees.
Sweet and Sour
Do you want pie cherries or sweet cherries? I would love to have both, but our property is in zone 5b and can get below -20 degrees Fahrenheit in the winter. Sweet cherries might be ok here, but I decided to play it safe and just plant pie cherries. Sour cherries are more winter hardy than sweet cherries.
Check Your Drainage
Cherry trees don’t like wet feet. Make sure the soil is well drained where you want to plant your cherry trees. Heavy clay soil that holds moisture can cause problems for your little cherry trees, so check into that before you start ordering your fruit trees.
Many cherry trees are self fruitful, meaning they don’t need another variety of cherry tree nearby for cross pollination. If you have room for only one tree, do your research to make sure the variety you choose is self fruitful. You will get better production if there are at least 2 varieties that are compatible pollinators close by, but for most families one tree will be enough.
Diseases and Pests
So far I haven’t found too many issues with the North Star cherry tree. There are some suckers that need to be pruned. Those suckers have attracted ants and their aphid flocks. But the tree doesn’t seem to be any worse for wear. Over the next few years I will need to train the branches to increase the crotch angles so the mature branches will be stronger. The Montmorency tree has the same issue. I’ve also noticed that it’s having some issues with powdery mildew on the leaves this year, but there are still some nice cherries coming in.
This is the first year that I have picked more than 2 or 3 cherries from either of our cherry trees. There weren’t enough to make a pie or jam, but we had a few handfuls to eat fresh almost every day for a week from the North Star. Now the Montmorency fruits are ripening up and I’ll be picking them for fresh eating in the next day or two.
Most of our fruit trees are in our chicken pasture, and get small amounts of chicken manure scratched into the soil each year. The Montmorency cherry tree has put on a great deal of green growth this year, at the expense of fruit production. So I think that next year I’ll try to rotate the chicken pen to leave the cherry tree outside the chicken poo range. Hopefully we’ll have a better harvest with that change.
The North Star cherry is planted in an herb and flower bed in a protected spot between the house and barn. It has full sun every day and a nice bed of mulch, but it received no extra fertilizer this year. Next spring I will add some fertilizer with a higher middle number for fruits and flowers. A 5-10-5 fertilizer does nicely. Apply fertilizer in the spring when the leaves begin to unfurl. Never give your fruit trees fertilizer in summer or fall as it will encourage weak growth that is susceptible to winter damage. Your fruit trees may not need fertilizer every year.
You may need to cover your cherry trees with netting to prevent birds from eating all the yummy fruit as it begins to color up. I haven’t put netting over my trees yet and so far the birds haven’t been a serious problem. It probably has something to do with our little black bird killer, Kit Kat.
For best keeping qualities, pick your cherries with the stems on in the cool morning. Wash just before you use them. Store any that are unused in the refrigerator. Next year I hope to have enough to make cherry jam, pie, and put some in the freezer. I’m already drooling. 🙂