Whether your taste preferences run toward sweet or sour, fruiting cherry trees (Prunus spp.) can be delightful additions to your edible landscape. Depending on the species and variety, cherries do well in home orchards from U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 4 through 7 across the U.S., with some varieties flourishing in USDA zones 8 and 9 in the Pacific Northwest.
One essential aspect of cherry care is a regular spraying program -- those tiny fruits don't tolerate much damage from diseases or pests. When you give your cherry trees proactive treatment with an early dormant spray, preventive fungicide and added TLC if problems arise, you can enjoy a bumper crop of homegrown cherries from your own trees.
Late-Winter Dormant Spray
One of the most important sprays of the cherry season needs to happen long before your cherries bloom or bear fruit. Spraying in late winter or early spring with a dormant horticultural oil treats many cherry pests that lie in wait, ready to cause problems later.
This spraying takes place while cherry trees are still dormant or before their buds break in spring, and treats the eggs and larvae of overwintering pests such as mites and aphids, as well as scale insects. To treat cherry trees with a dormant horticultural oil concentrate, follow these simple steps:
Shake the horticultural oil concentrate well, and then add 2.5 to 7.5 tablespoons of horticultural oil per 1 gallon of water in your sprayer and mix thoroughly. Follow your product's label guidelines for the targeted pests, and reserve higher ratios for heavy infestations.
Spray the tree so that all surfaces are thoroughly wet, including trunks and branches. Spray the undersides of limbs and tree crotches where pests may hide.
Preventive Fungicide Spray
Once the buds on your cherry trees begin to swell and open, a preventive fungicide spray helps protect healthy foliage and developing fruits from the many fungal diseases that can affect cherries. You can continue these fungicide-only sprayings until the blooms drop their petals, a time known as petal fall__. A copper-based fungicide helps control cherry diseases -- including brown rot, mildews, rust and leaf spots -- and provides season-long coverage. To treat cherry trees with a liquid copper concentrate fungicide, beginning as the buds swell, follow these simple steps:
Shake the liquid copper concentrate well, then add 1 tablespoon to 4 tablespoons of concentrate to your sprayer for each 1 gallon of water, and mix well. Follow your product's label, and reserve the higher amount for active, spreading infestations.
Spray to fully cover all parts of the tree, including upper and lower surfaces of branches, leaves and developing fruit.
Apply spray as the buds swell, and then repeat when the buds begin to show color, when they open fully and again when the petals fall.
Repeat every seven to 10 days, as needed.
Season-Long Pest Control
Cherries are susceptible to a number of insect pests that vary from region to region. Treat insect pests after petal fall, as needed, with products that target specific pests. Control is especially important when you live in area near commercial cherry farms and your backyard trees can have an impact on commercial crops. In some regions, home gardeners have a legal obligation to treat for specific cherry pests. Before planting home cherries, check with your local County Extension office for more information on specific pests and recommended or required controls in your area.