This week I started to harvest cherries, but not before I had to deal with spraying, pruning, insects, diseases, mammals and birds who relish this delicacy just as much as I do. Cherry trees need attention throughout the year, even during the winter months. First I make sure to remove any skeletonized fruits in case there are a few left on the plant. Beginning in late November, I spray with either horticultural oil, Bordeaux mix or lime-sulfur to make sure overwintering insect eggs and fungi are eliminated.
I’ve trained my dwarf cherry tree, and other dwarf stone fruits (other than the espaliered ones) into vase shapes to maximize sun exposure, making it easier to spray, harvest and protect the fruit.
Cherries are susceptible to insects and diseases and need attention as soon as they start to bloom, if one wants to harvest a decent crop. The most damaging disease is brown rot, which can be prevented by spraying copper or Neem oil, however, birds and squirrels are the real threat once the cherries begin to ripen. Even though I cover the tree with bird netting and secure it at the base of the trunk, this year I removed 5 birds and one squirrel from inside the netting, and wasn’t able to find a single hole anywhere – maybe my eyesight is failing me.
Is it worthwhile doing all this work, some people ask, and I always reply: of course, it’s not only the organic/fresh fruit that I enjoy, but the challenge of growing it that makes it fun.
Sempre avanti eternal giovinezza,
Nick Mancini, The Organic Italian