Tuesday, 21 January 2014

GROWING CHERRIES IN CONTAINERS

Only a few years these most delicious of stone fruits were beyond the confines of the patio or small garden. Even the so-called semi-dwarf rootstock ‘Colt’ was too vigorous for a pot, and if you wanted to grow it in a fruit cage it had to be festooned. But then along came Gisele 5….
Gisele 5 is a revolutionary new rootstock for cherries trees, it is genuinely dwarf, and it raises the enticingly practical prospect of Cherries in pots. For many of us it is an absolute necessity to net Cherries against birds. Our beaky friends simply adore them and they won’t wait for them to ripen with the result that your long awaited burgeoning yield of handsome, slowly colouring fruits will disappear as if by magic overnight [or at least in the wee early hours of dawn whilst you sleep the sleep of the innocent & blameless – the early bird etc] The great thing about growing dwarf fruit trees in pots is that they are easily mobile, easily protected or netted, and easily harvested.
THE PRACTICALITIES – Size matters. When choosing your container make sure it is not less than 20” in circumferance and not more than 30”. You might think that getting one giant-sized container would be a good thing for the tree but it’s not. If you under-pot it will quickly become pot-bound and stop growing, but if you over-poit it’s nearly as bad. The unused compost gets stagnant and stale andf the roots can’t breath. So stick within those parameters & you will be fine. Whether it’s plastic, clay, resin doesn’t matter it’s really up to your personal prefernce [and pocket]
The soil should ideally be a John Innes no 2 or similar. This is a soil-based compost and it has more heart than a peat based one. You can use the latter but you would need to re-pot every 3 yrs or so wherease with a soil based it will last 5yrs or more as long as you provide additional feeding, which is a given. We like to use osmocote tabs here on the nursery as you only need to unsert one tablet and it’s slow release properties last all season. Seaweed extract such as Maxicrop also works well and can be applied as a foliar feed or a granular gently worked into the top of the compost.
Regular watering is absolutely key to success. Even if it has rained aim to water every day from April-September. Unless it is a torrential downpour the water won’t get through the soil because of the overhead canopy of the foliage. Regular watering will result in the biggest most juicy fruits, will result in consistent growth of the tree and also prevents splitting of the fruits, which can be a problem with a Cherry.
Pruning consists of that which is normal for all Cherry trees, but because Gisela 5 won’t grow all that much it can be scaled down as appropriate. Often after 2 or 3 years you won’t really need to do any pruning aside from removal of dead wood in later years.
Abide by the above rules of thumb and you will have a highly productive tree capable of giving extra luscious fruits for 10 yrs or more. The ultimate size would be around 5-6’ in height.
COLUMNAR CHERRY TREES
Are also an ideal choice for a container. These elegant, very upright trees live up to their name and form simple columnr shaped specimens. Very easy to prune, simply trim the side laterls back to 3” in the summer. The cherries are borne all up the stem. Cultivation is as described above.
VARIETIES
There are many, many Cherry varieties in commerce and some of the classic old heirloom varieties are wonderful. However they do not compare when it comes to reliability and it’s best to stick to these more modern self fertile varieties. They make excellent sole trees or used to partner one another. All are dark red or near black and have very fine eating qualities.
Sunburst; Stella; Summer Sun; Lapins; Syliva are my picks. If you like a ‘white’ Cherry then look out for ‘Vega’ – it isn’t self fertile but it will partner with any of the above. You can also grow the cooking cherry ‘Morello’ on Gisele and it’s ideal for a slightly shaded patio as well. Self fertile.
Pictured is 'Stella'

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