Cherry trees are an excellent choice for your forest garden. Not only will you be treated to a wonderful yield of delicious cherries, but you will also have a beautiful display of blossom in the spring. When you choose the right varieties, cherries can do well in a zone 8 Texan garden. Aside from providing delicious fruit, cherry tree flowers can also be of benefit to insects, especially bees, and help to increase the biodiversity of insect and animal life in your garden.
Choosing a Cherry Tree
It is essential to be aware when choosing a cherry tree that some varieties are sweet and others are sour. Sweet cherries can be eaten raw, and yet it is important to note that not all sweet cherries are self-fertile and many will need a companion tree to bear fruit. Sour cherries generally are self-fertile and will do fine as a single tree.
Planting a Cherry Tree
Cherry trees prefer deep, fertile, and well-drained soil. The soil pH level should be between 6.5-6.7 and full sun.
- Sweet Cherry trees do not do well as undergrowth situations. Sweet Cherry trees do not like shallow, sandy or waterlogged soil. Bing and Lapins are sweet cherry varieties that can thrive in zone 8.
- Tart Cherry trees, will tolerate a limited amount of partial shade. Montmorency and North Star are options for sour cherry trees for the region.
Caring For a Cherry Tree
Cherry trees will do best when planted between November and March, to the same depth as they were in the pot. Cherry trees should be mulched with organic compost in late February, and if you desire to use commercial fertilizer stakes, this is the time to place the fertilizer stakes just outside the drip line if the cherry tree.
The area around the tree (inside the drip line and a couple of feet outside the drip line) should be well mulched on top of the compost and kept clear of grass and other competing vegetation. It is essential to deep water your cherry trees frequently and keeps them well-mulched for the first couple of years to ensure they thrive.
A guild of comfrey and beneficial herbs and flowers around the base will help cherry trees to become established and keep them healthy.
If you want to shape your cherry tree, then the pruning should be pruned once established during the summer, between late July and the end of August. If you choose to prune be conservative in your pruning and be aware of the type of cherry tree you are pruning:
- Sweet cherries form on wood that is one year old and older.
- Tart cherries form almost all their cherries on growth from the previous season. With the tart cherries, you will have to make sure that you get the balance when pruning between one-year-old fruiting wood and new replacement branches.
The sugar content in sweet cherries increases dramatically in the final few days of ripening, so it is essential to wait until the fruits are entirely ripe before harvesting. Sour cherries will come off the stem when ripe and ready, while sweet cherries should be tasted to determine whether or not they are ready for harvest. Take care when harvesting not to damage the fruiting wood spur, which will produce more fruit next year. Leave stems intact if you plan to store cherries for any length of time.
Sweet cherries are best eaten straight from the tree, as soon after harvesting as possible, while sour cherries can be cooked into a range of preserves and desserts.