This section is from the book "Commercial Gardening Vol3", by John Weathers (the Editor). Also available from Amazon: Commercial Gardening, A Practical & Scientific Treatise For Market Gardeners.
The management of the orchard subsequent to planting depends to a certain extent upon whether the land is arable or pasture. If the trees are planted in a hop garden, as is frequently the case in Kent, or if the intermediate ground is planted with bush fruit, the ordinary intensive cultivation and high manuring of the Hops or bush fruit will suffice for the Cherries. If the Cherries are planted on pasture the grass should not be allowed to grow within 4 ft. of the tree, since, if otherwise, it robs the young tree of moisture and plant food so necessary for its development. The grass round the young trees should be dug in, and dung at the rate of one load to eight or ten trees spread over the dug ground. The dung serves to prevent the grass from growing again as well as to manure the tree; and in dry summers it acts as a mulch and keeps the soil moist for the roots of the tree.
1 Fifth and Ninth Reports of the Woburn Experimental Fruit Farm.
Manuring the trees with dung should be repeated each year for about six years, after which time the grass may be allowed to grow again round the tree.
Cherry trees begin to come into bearing about the sixth year; if, therefore, the trees were originally planted in a Hop garden, the Hops should now be grubbed and the land be sown down to permanent pasture. If the Cherries are interplanted with bush fruit it is usual to let this continue for a longer period, gradually grubbing the bushes as the Cherries need the space, and finally laying down to permanent grass.
The normal state of a Cherry orchard in full bearing is one in which the soil is in permanent grass. The grass should be so managed that it draws the ground as little as possible. It should be grazed with sheep or pigs throughout the year as closely as possible, and it should never be made into hay, nor should the grass be allowed to seed.
The sheep, whilst being grazed under the trees, should be fed with extra food, either roots or corn, both for the purpose of manuring the trees and also because the quality of the grass under the shade of the trees is poor, and sheep will not thrive upon this alone. The value of such feeding should amount to from £3 to £5 per acre per annum, and the value of the manurial residues, about £1 per acre, will suffice for the manuring of the Cherries.
Excessive pruning not only retards the development of the tree, but is liable also to produce the exudation of gum from the stem and branches, and result in an unhealthy state of the tree. Summer pruning is never practised, because the fruit buds form naturally without it.
In view of these considerations it is sometimes unnecessary to prune at all, except to shorten the branches after planting, leaving about 6 in. or 8 in. of young wood. If the tree is not well balanced, and there is a vacant spot in its framework, the branches next to this vacancy should be so cut that the last bud on the branch points towards the vacancy, so that when this bud develops, the resulting branch helps to fill the vacancy and to balance the tree.
When good trees are planted it is rarely necessary to prune them more than once. The trees, however, should be examined each year to see that they are developing uniformly.
When the orchard comes into bearing it will still be necessary to examine the trees occasionally. Dead wood and ladder-broken wood must be cut out. Wherever two branches cross and rub against one another one of them should be cut off. Some trees grow too thickly in the centre; this growth also needs cutting out, since it hinders the free circulation of air through the branches, and also, as we shall see later, it is upon this centre growth that the black Cherry Aphis begins to develop in early summer.