Regardless of the method of propagation used, Cherry trees need soil that drains well. Moisture levels are particularly critical as harvest time approaches — too little water and the berries will be small and shriveled, too much and they will split. Fertilizer and compost should be added each spring, and pruning is necessary to remove old and damaged branches. Cherries will grow almost anywhere in the country. Early Richmond, Meteor, North Star and Montmorency do well in USDA Climate Zones 4 through 9.
A cutting may be taken from a tree to start a new one. In this method, a twig or small limb is cut from the tree and stripped of all its lower leaves. After dipping the cut end into a rooting hormone, it is placed in a growing medium until the roots form and it can be placed in its permanent home. While there are several different media used for rooting, some of the most common ones are sand, peat, perlite and leaf mold or compost, as well as mixtures of these. Cuttings from cherry trees are usually taken during the summer months. Although they can be grown outside or in a greenhouse, those started outside will often be placed in a greenhouse over the winter months. It may take several months before substantial root growth occurs.
While many backyard gardeners prefer sweet cherry trees so they can sample the fruit right off the tree, those who like pies, jams and jellies usually prefer sour or tart cherries. Not only are sour cherries better for cooking, they are self-pollinating, more tolerant of warm weather and require little care once they are established.
Many of today’s sour cherry varieties are the result of grafting. One of the most common types of grafting is the whip graft. With this type of graft, a small branch called a scion — approximately 1/2 inch in diameter — of a sour cherry tree is cut from the plant using a diagonal cut about 1 1/2 inches in length. This branch is then bound using grafting tape and a grafting compound to root stock from a sturdier or more disease-resistant variety of cherry, which has also been subjected to a diagonal cut of approximately the same length. The resulting cherry tree will be identical to the plant from which the scion was taken, while a plant grown from seed may show some variation from the parent plant.
Cherry trees can be easily grown from seed. To do so, the seeds should be removed from the ripe fruit at harvest time and can either be sown in the fall or stratified and planted in the spring. To stratify seeds, place them in a mixture of equal parts sand and peat moss, then place them in a container like a coffee can, cottage cheese container, plastic jar or plastic bag. Be sure to put some holes in the lids of the containers for air, then place them in the refrigerator to duplicate nature’s cold seasons. The seeds should be left in the refrigerator for 90 to 150 days in temperatures of 33 to 41 degrees Fahrenheit before planting in the spring. Stratification is necessary to break the hard seed coat just as outdoor winter conditions would do.
Carolyn Kaberline has been a freelance writer since 2006. Her articles have appeared in local, regional and national publications and have covered a variety of topics. In addition to writing, she's also a full-time high-school English and journalism teacher. Kaberline earned a Bachelor of Arts in technical journalism from Kansas State University and a Master of Arts in education from Baker University.
One other sour cherry worth mentioning is the Evans cherry. It was selected by Dr. Ieuan Evans from the University of Alberta. It is a tree rather than a bush that grows to 3.7 – 4.3 m (12″ – 14″). Average fruit size is 4.4 g. It is also self-fruitful and does not require another cherry for pollination. Fruit ripens in August and is bright red in colour. It has a strong tendency to sucker often well beyond the width of the tree, especially if the roots are disturbed.
Sour cherries are high in vitamins A, B6, C and fibre. Check here for detailed information from the USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference.
Dwarf sour cherries are widely available at greenhouses throughout the prairies or from distributors on this list: Distributors of USask fruit program plants
This chart lists the dwarf sour cherry cultivars developed by the University of Saskatchewan fruit program.
See ‘Recommended Cultivars for Eating’ tab.
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The Canadian Food Guide recommends that roughly half of the food on your plate should be fruits and vegetables.
Dwarf sour cherries trained as shrubs begin producing fruit once they are 4 or 5 years old. If trained as tree, they begin producing fruit at 5 or 6 years old.
Dwarf sour cherries have been bred to grow to 2 m (6′) tall and should be pruned into a shrub form on the prairies and far north. Sour cherries pruned into a tree form are less cold hardy and more likely to suffer winterkill.