PRUNUS CHERRY of the family Rosaceae.
Prunus Avium. Sweet Cherry
Prunus Cerasus, The Sour Cherry
Cherries have a very short growing season and can grow in most temperate latitudes. The peak season for cherries is in the summer. Here in Australia and New Zealand they are usually at their peak in late December and a welcome addition to Christmas festivities.
The Young and Orange districts produce 70 per cent of the cherries grown in New South Wales and approximately 50 per cent of Australia’s total. We recommend dwarf trees for small gardens.
Cherry trees grow on most soil types — except heavy clays — provided that the soil is friable and well-drained. They do not tolerate ‘wet feet’. The topsoil should have good depth and be well structured. Although cherry trees do best when grown in cooler temperatures the fruit buds are sensitive to spring frosts, covering the tree can help.
Avoid soils in which tomatoes, potatoes or other solanaceous crops have been grown during the previous 10 years, as cherries are susceptible to the Verticillium wilt fungus. For bees to be able to carry out pollination protect from wind and create a wind break if required. Rain can cause extensive losses due to fruit splitting with some early fruiting varieties are particularly susceptible. Avoid pruning in our wet winters because the trees will be more susceptible to bacterial canker infection. Light pruning carried out regularly, after harvesting in summer, is preferable to encourage larger fruit size and increased tree vigour.
Varieties of sweet cherries can be either self-fertile or cross-fertile. All cross-fertile varieties should be planted together and arranged to attract bees for pollination. Flowers are usually white petalled and buds contain 1 – 5 flowers. When ripe their skin and flesh colour can range from pale yellow to shades of red so dark they appear almost black and the stone is free and semi-cling, depending on the variety. Bird netting (use a fine mesh) is recommended during the ripening period to protect fruit from birds, flying foxes and possums. A cherry tree will take three to four years to produce its first crop of fruit, and seven years to attain full maturity.
Cherries are usually eaten when fresh. The firmer, sour cherry, is best for cooking, bottling and making jams.
Varieties suitable for the Sydney Basin
Ron’s Seedling Dark red to almost black when fully ripe it has a strong, sweet flavour. The firm flesh makes it a favourite with cooks for bottling, jam or any preserving. It is slightly prone to splitting in heavy rain due to its relatively tough skin.
Simone Self-fertile, large black heart shaped cherries, firm flesh, heavy cropping, pollinates with Ron’s Seedling and Lapins, but will also set a good crop planted on its own
Stella A medium-large dark red cherry. It’s a heart-shaped cherry which ripens later in the season, in good time for Christmas.
Sunburst Early Dark red, very large fruits, luscious and tasty, late December maturity, fair degree of self-fertility, very suitable for subtropical climates