I planted five cherry trees early spring 2011 all grafted on to Gisela 5© root stock and sold by Raintree Nursery. I planted 2 sweet cherry trees, a Bing and a Rainier, and 3 tart cherry trees, a Surefire, an English Morello and a Montmorency. These dwarf cherry trees are created by grafting normal cherry tree tops onto patented root stock that ultimately limits overall height to approximately 8’ to 10’. This root stock was designed with the U-Pick market in mind as they can be harvested without the need for ladders and if you have a substantial quantity then the cost and effort to net the orchard would also be somewhat reduced.
They all flowered that first spring and produced a small crop of cherries. As the cherries were starting to ripen, we left for a few days to visit friends and when we returned the trees had been stripped of all fruit and there were a few broken branches. We do have a large grey squirrel population, thanks to leash laws, and there is a family or two of raccoons who augment their trash barrel dining with local fruit and vegetables. I wasn’t exactly sure who to blame but we have been on a rigorous squirrel trapping regime ever since. We relocated 36 grey squirrels last year and so far this year we have moved 24 grey squirrels along with 12 chipmunks and 6 red squirrels. Squirrels, like the rats they are, breed indiscriminately and as we trap down to the core family unit they seem to be happy about the increased food supply and very contentedly make more baby squirrels. So far the trapping seems to have paid off. The cherries have been left alone; the goumi trees are loaded with fruit again this year and so far I have harvested 5 quarts and expect to take another 2 or 3 quarts before the season ends. The prior two seasons the goumi berries were stripped clean a week or two before we would have harvested.
The Bing cherry did not flower this spring so there are no sweet cherries to protect. The tart cherries flowered and produced some fruit again this year. I have been told by the friend that convinced me to grow cherries that it really takes 4 or 5 years for the tree to mature and begin producing a consistent crop as long as the weather accommodates. I harvested my first two cherries yesterday, granted they weren’t fully ripe but I got a little excited.
Everything seems to be running a little early this year. I have been harvesting Prelude raspberries for over a week now and the Encore started a couple of days ago. I planted 10 Ouachita blackberry plants in the spring of 2011 as well and they have been flowering for over a month now and show little sign of letting up. The runners are loaded with small green berries. You might want to check with Butternut Farm to see when they will start picking sweet cherries as well as raspberries. Blueberry Bay Farms has already started picking raspberries along with blueberries and various vegetables.