Wild cherry (Prunus avium), also called sweet cherry, is a deciduous tree that grows 40 feet tall and produces a 35-foot rounded spread. Known for its attractive timber, this plant can be difficult to grow to maturity due to its susceptibility to rots and cankers. This tree overwinters in USDA zones 5 to 8, where temperatures stay above -10 degrees Fahrenheit. It prefers cool, dry climates without early spring frosts. Knowledge of how to grow this tree will help you produce timber.
Obtain a cherry seedling from a certified disease-free nursery. Make sure the wild cherry is propagated onto a Mazzard rootstock, as this produces a large tree (which means more timber). This will ensure that the tree gets a disease-free start.
Choose a protected, sunny area to plant the wild cherry. This tree can survive in part shade but will grow larger in full sun. Dig a hole with with a spade twice the width as the root ball, and at a depth the same height or slightly shallower than the root ball.
Cut off all dead and broken roots with pruning shears. Place the cherry tree upright in the middle of the hole and backfill half the soil. Pour water into the hole to settle the soil, backfill the rest of the soil and water deeply again.
Water the cherry, keeping it moist through the first growing season. After that point, allow rainwater to moisten the cherry tree. Help it out during the summer months, watering deeply once a week during times of drought. Do not water after September 1, as this will encourage root rot.
Fertilize the wild cherry each year in early spring, right after growth begins. Use a low-nitrogen fertilizer such as 5-10-10 as nitrogen can encourage brown rot in cherries. Follow the directions on the package for application instructions as each brand will differ.
Prune the wild cherry to form the best timber starting at the age of 4 and extending until the tree is 10 years old. Only prune in June, July and August to avoid disease. Each year cut clean through the lowest branches and remove any forks (favoring a strong leader). Also cut through large branches, thinning out the tree, leaving 2/3 to 1/2 of the tree intact.