The sour cherry tree is a self-fertile tree that grows with a robust stature, much rounder than the sweet cherry. Like the sweet cherry, the sour cherry produces rich green foliage with white blossoms. However, the fruit of the sour cherry is bright red with no deep-red color variations. Truly a late bloomer, the sour cherry tree is the last stone fruit to bloom each season.
Select a planting location for the sour cherry tree. Choose a location that receives at least 8 hours of full sunlight each day. Ensure that the planting location is well drained as the sour cherry tree will not tolerate wet feet.
Prepare the planting location. Dig up the area to loosen compacted soil and promote aeration. Incorporate an equal amount of organic compost into the soil to improve the soil's moisture retention. Do not add fertilizer.
Dig a hole for the sour cherry that is equivalent to the width and depth of the tree's root system. Position the tree in the center of the hole and fill the hole with the soil. Ensure that the completed planting area is elevated from the surrounding surface. Plant multiple sour cherry trees approximately 12 to 16 feet apart.
Water the newly planted sour cherry tree to promote a good establishment. Provide the tree with 1 to 1 1/2 inches of water. Irrigate the tree once each week with the same water levels. Increase the irrigations during the hot, dry summer periods and decrease the levels during the rainy periods.
Prune the sour cherry tree in the late winter as the buds develop. Remove any dead, dying or wilted branches, stems and foliage to redirect the tree's energy. Thin the interior branches to promote good air circulation and light penetration throughout the tree.
Feed the sour cherry tree in the late fall and midsummer. Use a well balanced, slow release fertilizer such as a 10-10-10 or 12-16-12 combination. Distribute the fertilizer evenly around the sour cherry tree and approximately 1 foot from the trunk. Water in the fertilizer with at least 1 inch of water and according to the usual irrigation schedule.
Begin harvesting the sour cherry tree in late June to early July. Harvest the cherries when they have a full, bright red color. Hand-pick or shake the tree to remove the fruit. Store the fruit at room temperature if intended for immediate use. Can or freeze the sour cherries for long-term storage.