Montmorency cherries (Prunus cerasus) are the most popular cherries in the U.S. for preserves and pies. Thriving in U.S. Department of Agriculture hardiness zones 4 through 7, the trees produce an abundant supply of succulent cherries by early summer. The self-pollinating trees tolerate temperatures down to minus 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Make the hardy tree a part of your garden plan to harvest fresh fruit throughout the summer months for delicious summer tarts and pies.
Test the pH level of the selected planting site with a pH testing kit. Sour cherries like Montmorency thrive in well-draining, slightly acidic soils exposed to full sun, with a pH value of 6.2 to 6.8.
Break up the soil to a depth of 15 to 18 inches. Add limestone to raise the pH level or rock sulfur to lower it. Also add shovelfuls of soil amendments such as organic compost or well-rotted manure to form a 4 inch-thick layer. Mix well.
Dig a hole over the amended site that is as deep as the nursery container but twice as wide. Lower the Montmorency cherry tree into the hole, spreading its roots in all directions. Position the tree so the graft union at its trunk's base is 3 inches above the surrounding soil. Adjust the depth of the hole, if necessary.
Add shovelfuls of soil around the tree to cover the planting hole, tamping it down with your hand to remove trapped air pockets. Space multiple Montmorency cherry trees 25 feet apart.
Water the tree deeply with a garden hose. Mulch the area around the tree using wood chips, saw dust or grass clipping. Leave a gap of 6 to 8 inches between the mulch and tree trunk.
Train the growing tree to a central leader system in the fall, or when the tree is 3 feet tall. Select a main trunk and lateral branches on the sides, cutting all branches in between. Keep the first lateral branch 24 feet above the ground, and space the branches 6 to 10 inches. Prune the tree annually to remove dead, dying or diseased branches and maintain its shape.
Inspect the tree for insects and diseases. Spray insects such as plum curculio or cherry maggot with insecticide. Apply fungicide to treat the fungal disease cherry leaf spot.
Things You Will Need
- Soil testing kit
- Limestone or sulfur
- Organic compost
- Garden hose
- Organic mulch
- Pruning shears
- Montmorency trees grow 8 to 16 feet high, and 10 to 20 feet wide.
- Feed the tree a slow-release fertilizer during growing season to provide essential nutrients and encourage healthy fruit.
- Plant the Montmorency tree in spring, once the danger of frost is over. The tree produces blossoms in April, and three bushels of cherries early the next season, that you can harvest by end June or July until August. Cut cherries with attached stems, and refrigerate immediately. Do not cut the small spurs attached to the fruit.
- Chase away birds that feed on cherries during fruiting period with loud noises, lengths of tin foil that reflect light, or scarecrows.