Dwarf cherry trees provide the benefits of a larger tree, including fresh fruit and aesthetic value, without taking up as much space in your yard. Your dwarf cherry tree will not require much maintenance, as long as you plant it in a sunny area with good water drainage. Avoid planting in wet, muddy areas, which can lead to root rot. Once your tree is established in the yard, regular watering and minor pruning will help keep the tree healthy and productive for years to come.
Fertilize your tree in the early spring for the first few years. Apply a general fertilizer to the ground around the tree’s dripline (area below the tree’s branches) and cover the ground with a thick layer of mulch. Stop fertilizing when the tree starts to bear fruit, unless a soil test indicates your soil is lacking vital nutrients.
Prevent grass and weeds from growing around the base of your cherry tree, especially in its first few years. Pull grass and weeds with your hands and apply mulch to keep them from growing back.
Water your tree as needed when rainfall is insufficient. Dwarf cherry trees do not need a lot of water, but the ground should stay fairly damp. If it rains regularly, your tree should be fine without supplemental water, but if your grass or other plants need watering, your tree probably does too. Mulching the ground around the tree will also help keep the soil moist when water is scarce.
Watch your tree for signs of disease. Most pests and diseases that affect cherry trees only cause minor damage, but a few can damage your tree and its fruit. Cherry leaf spot and brown rot are two diseases, both caused by fungus, that can affect the health of your tree. Leaf spot will cause purplish-brown spots to appear on the leaves, which will eventually fall off the tree. Brown rot will cause brown, rotten spots to appear on your cherries, which will rot quickly and become inedible. Both can be treated by removing the affected leaves and fruit and throwing them away, which prevents the fungus from spreading to healthy parts of the tree.
Harvest your cherries when they are evenly colored, slightly soft and sweet. Taste a few cherries to determine whether or not they are ripe before you harvest the whole bunch.
Wrap the trunk of your dwarf cherry tree with white plastic tree guards in the late fall to protect it from winter damage. You can buy tree guards at your local garden store.
Prune your cherry tree in the early spring to increase the tree’s productivity. How much you prune or train your tree is largely up to you; the tree will stay healthy with minimal pruning, but reducing the tree’s branches according to the central leader system will lead to higher cherry yield. The central leader system involves training the branches to grow in layers, like a Christmas tree. For more information on this pruning technique, see the article in the resources section.
Whether or not you train your tree to grow in a certain formation, you should remove damaged or sick branches in the early spring. Use sharp garden shears or a hand saw to remove the damaged branch near the trunk of the tree.