The Cultivation And Handling

Sweet cherries are most profitably grown on high, comparatively light, sandy, gravelly or even stony loams, while sour cherries do best on somewhat heavier soils. The former are set 22 to 24 feet apart; the latter 16 to 20 feet. Both respond to care in cultivation which, in brief is: early spring plowing, frequent cultivation until the first of August with a cover-crop sown just before the last cultivation. Cover-crops are various-a favorite one in New York and Michigan is a half bushel of oats or barley, and twelve pounds of clover or twenty pounds of winter vetch. In Delaware and New Jersey the cowpea is much liked as a cover-crop. Cherry trees are usually headed 2 or 3 feet from the ground with a tendency to head them lower-half the above distances; in the lower-headed orchards there seems to be no inconvenience in tilling with modern implements. Nearly all commercial growers form the head with five to seven main branches about a central trunk, but some prefer to remove the central stem, especially in sweet varieties, leaving a vase-formed head.

After the head is formed, the subsequent pruning is exceedingly simple, consisting of cutting out an occasional injured or crossed branch and now and then head-ing-in a long whiplike growth.

In soils well adapted to cherry-growing, commercial fertilizers are little needed. Good cultivation, the yearly cover-crop and an occasional dressing of stable-manure furnish an abundance of food. If, with this treatment, the trees fail to make sufficient growth, and if the drainage be good, the grower should experiment with fertilizers containing potash, phosphoric acid or nitrogen to see which, if any, his trees may need.

Low headed and spreading growth of sour cherry.

Fig. 907. Low-headed and spreading growth of sour cherry.

Old sweet cherry tree, on the Chesapeake peninsula.

Fig. 908. Old sweet cherry tree, on the Chesapeake peninsula.

Cherries are picked with stems on, the sweet a few days before fully ripe, the sour when practically mature. Some growers guard against breaking the fruit-spurs for the next year by using picking scissors. Cherries are variously packed in boxes and baskets but the container is usually a small one and much art may be displayed in placing in layers, facing, and in making the package in all ways attractive. Fruit for canning must be carefully picked but is sent to the cannery in trays holding one or two pecks.

Napoleon cherry.   Sweet. (X 1/2)

Fig. 909. Napoleon cherry. - Sweet. (X 1/2)

The chief commercial plantations in eastern America are found in New York, New Jersey, Delaware, northern Ohio and western Michigan. Sweet-cherry growing is precarious because of natural obstacles, and sour cherries are so easily grown that through very abundance their sale is often difficult. Yet with both success has been attained by many, the profits ranging as high as $300 to the acre.

Special Difficulties

The cherry is attacked by a dozen or more fungi. Of these, three are serious pests. The brown-rot, Sclerotinia fructigena, attacks the flowers, leaves, twigs and most disastrously the fruits at ripening time. Leaf-blight, Cylindrosporium Padi, produces diseased spots on the leaves, which for the most part drop out, giving a shot-hole effect and eventually causing the foliage to drop prematurely. A common and striking disease of the cherry is black-knot, Plowrightia mor-bosa, characterized by wart-like excrescences on shoots and branches which at maturity are black; affected parts sooner or later die.

The text-books give no less than forty insect enemies of cherries, of which the plum-curculio, Conotrachelus nenuphar, the peach-borer, Sanninoidea exitiosa, and the San Jose scale, Aspidiotus perniciosus, on sweet cherries, must be combated. All of the pests named, both fungi and insects, are more destructive to plums and peaches, and the reader is referred to these fruits for treatment which is much the same as for the cherry.

Sweet cherries suffer severely in the South and the Mississippi Valley, and somewhat in the North, from sun-scald, either directly from the sun's rays or from alternate freezing and thawing in winter or spring. The injury is manifested by the bursting of the bark and the exudation of gum on the south and west sides of the tree. Some immunity from such injuries may be obtained by protecting the trunks with boards or other screens. "Gummosis," or a flow of gum from the wood, often follows injuries of various kinds and the work of insects and fungi in both sweet and sour cherries.

Types And Varieties

There are now about 600 varieties of cherries grown in America and Europe, and the names of as many more that have passed from cultivation remain. These are variously grouped, but the following simple classification takes in the common orchard sorts:

A. Prunus avium

(1) The Hearts

Large, heart-shaped, soft-fleshed, sweet cherries, light-colored as represented by Governor Wood and dark as in Black Tartarian.

(2) The Bigarreaus

Large, sweet, heart-shaped and colored as in the previous group but with firm, crisp and crackling flesh. Well represented by Napoleon (Fig. 909) and Yellow Spanish as light-colored members of the group, and by Schmidt and Bing as dark sorts.

(3) The Dukes

Somewhat smaller cherries than the Hearts and Bigarreaus, softer in flesh, light-colored and usually sour or nearly so. This group is placed under Prunus avium, but there can be no doubt but that the widely varying Dukes are hybrids between Prunus avium and Prunus Cerasus. May Duke and Reine Hortense serve as illustrations of the group.

aa. Prunus Cerasus.

(1) The Amarelles

Rather small, light-colored, sour cherries with colorless or nearly colorless juice, produced on upright trees, represented by Early Richmond and Montmorency (Fig. 910).

Montmorency cherry.   Sour. (X 1/2)

Fig. 910. Montmorency cherry. - Sour. (X 1/2)

(2) The Morellos

Also comparatively small and very sour but dark in color and with dark-colored juice and trees with a drooping habit, represented by English Morello and Louis Philippe.

In spite of the great number of varieties, the cherry, of all stone-fruits, seems most fixed in its characters. Thus, the difference between tree and fruit in the cherries of the several groups is comparatively slight and many of the varieties come nearly true to seed. So, too, cherries, although probably domesticated as long ago as any other of the tree-fruits, are now most of all like their wild progenitors. Notwithstanding this stability, there are probably rich rewards to be secured in breeding cherries by those who will put in practice the discoveries of recent years in plant-breeding, and will hybridize especially the various groups of the two species now cultivated and introduce wholly new blood from wild species. So little effort has been directed toward improving cherries, and the material seems so promising, that it would seem that with proper endeavor the coming generation may have a new and greatly improved cultivated cherry flora.

U. P. Hedrick.