This section is from the book "The Standard Cyclopedia Of Horticulture Vol2", by L. H. Bailey. See also: Western Garden Book: More than 8,000 Plants - The Right Plants for Your Climate - Tips from Western Garden Experts.
In commercial importance, the cherry is least of the fruits of the temperate zone grown in California on a commercial scale-not considering the quince and nectarine, of which the product is almost insignificant. This is not because the finest cherries cannot be grown, but because the avenues for the disposition of the product are not so wide as for other leading fruits. Recently there are indications that these avenues will be widened, for, in the year 1912, 244 carloads were profitably shipped in a fresh state to eastern markets, and in 1911 a product equivalent to 243,010 cases (each containing two dozen 2 1/2-pound cans) of canned cherries were disposed of to advantage. In 1910, there was large shipment of barreled cherries in sulfur water to eastern bottlers who put up maraschino cherries in competition with importations, but this business seems to have transgressed the pure food laws and declined. Until it is demonstrated that such distant demands will increase, present plantations will not be largely extended. Cherries are costly in picking and packing, and the chance of low price in a local market, over-supplied whenever the trees do their full duty, the grower does not enjoy.
Cherry-drying has never seemed warranted on a large scale, because of the large amount of labor required to the pound of product; and the grower has had no recourse when the canner and local consumer would pay only the cost of picking and boxing. A good shipping demand seems, therefore, the measure of the extension of California's cherry interest, and the early ripening of the fruit, which permits its sale during the blooming season of eastern cherry trees, is the leading surety of such demand. On several occasions early varieties have been shipped from the Vacaville district overland, on March 31, but the usual opening date is about two weeks later, and thence onward later varieties, and from later regions, may be shipped until July, if found profitable.
Plate XXVI. Sweet cherry in flower and fruit.
But, although there is plenty of good land upon which to multiply the present total of t hree-quarters of a million trees, the cherry regions of California are restricted. It is one of the most exacting of all trees, and is profitable only when its requirements are respected. About one-half of the present acreage lies in valleys opening upon the bay of San Francisco, where deep and moist, but well-drained alluvial soil fosters strong and sound root-growth, and modified atmospheric aridity favors leaf and fruiting. On similar deep and moist soils, however, the sweet cherry enters the hot interior valleys to certain limits, chiefly along the river bottoms. It abhors dry plains. In dry air it usually refuses to fruit, although, if the soil be moist, it may make stalwart tree-growth. In foot-hill valleys it sometimes does admirably, both in growth and fruiting, and in mountain valleys, above an elevation of 2,000 feet, on good soil, and in the greater rainfall, and even with the snow flurries, which are experienced every year at proper elevations, the tree becomes very thrifty and profitable to the limits of local markets.
The tree seems to have no geographical limitations in California; wherever suitable soil and weather conditions occur, it accepts the situation-the Dukes and Morellos succeeding under conditions too trying for the Hearts and Bigar-reaus, but the latter, only, are of commercial account.
Cherry trees are grown by budding upon Mazzard and Mahaleb seedlings-both being largely imported. It is customary to plant out in orchards at the end of the first year's growth from the bud, though two-year-old cherry trees can be more successfully handled than other two-year-olds. The trees are headed at 1 or 2 feet from the ground, cut back to promote low branching for two years, and then allowed to make long branches, and not usually shortened-in, so long as thrifty and healthy. The tree, in a good environment, is, however, a very hardy tree, and will endure pruning to almost any degree. There are many trees which have made a very broad but not usually high growth, bearing 1,000 pounds of fruit to the tree, and a few others which have even doubled that figure, while others have been dwarfed and trained en espalier. The commercial orchards are, however, uniformly of low trees, approximately of vase form in exterior outline, and with branches curving outward without shortening.
The cherry is very readily grafted over by the usual top-grafting methods, and large orchards have been thus transformed into varieties more acceptable for canning or shipping. Comparatively few varieties are grown. Early Purple Guigne, Chapman and Knights Early Black are grown in early-ripening localities. Black Tartarian, Lewelling and Bing are the mainstay for black cherries. The Napoleon Bigarreau (locally known as Royal Ann) is the ideal for a white cherry, and almost excludes all others, although the Rockport Bigarreau has some standing. Of all the varieties grown, the Black Tartarian and Napoleon (Fig. 909) constitute 70 per cent of the crop, and probably 90 per cent of the amount marketed.
Fig. 909. Napoleon cherry. - Sweet. (X 1/2)
California-grown cherries attain large size; the can-ner's requirement for fancy fruit is a diameter not less than 7/8 of an inch, and for No. 1 not less than 3/4 of an inch. Wholesale prices usually range from $40 to $60 a ton for black and $80 to $120 for white, but occasionally canners have paid as high as $160 a ton for white cherries. The higher rates can be expected only in years of short crops.
Edward J. Wickson