How to grow loads of cherries, keep the trees from getting too big, and encourage fruit growth rather than leafy growth.
In Victoria’s Yarra Valley with a view of the Warramate Hills, 20,000 cherry trees are thriving. There are 38 different varieties that ripen at slightly different times, and Jane is here for picking time, which lasts from early November to late December.
Peter Foster has been a fruit grower all his working life and manages this 50-hectare property. As a commercial crop, they are known to be difficult to grow with too much rain causing the fruit to split. Cherry growers go to a lot of trouble to keep their cherries dry to prevent this water damage, even using helicopters to dry them off.
The cherries are picked by hand before moving to an automated sorting machine that washes the fruit and trims the stems. Cameras take 3 photos of each cherry to monitor colour, size and defects and they’re monitored by hand to ensure strict quality control. They are then packed into boxes, ready for sale.
Peter says the trees aren’t too thirsty, with a good drink once a week enough for the backyard cherry, and “you want it to stress a little bit to get the cherries on it… treat them a bit mean” as lots of water will produce lots of green growth but won’t encourage prolific fruiting. Chill factor is also important, with the trees requiring “700 hours of 8 degrees and lower” over winter to set fruit.
Cherry ‘Lapins’ is a good choice for the home gardener as it is self-pollinating, readily available, and easy to grow without a trellis in the right conditions. Peter recommends planting trees in July when they are dormant and giving a hard prune back to 5-centimetre-long branches to encourage shorter, bushier plants where you can reach the fruit.
In spring and autumn, they feed with pelletised chicken manure and cover the soil with tree prunings and straw mulch.
Cherry ‘Lapins’ Prunus avium cv.
Filmed on Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung Country / Yarra Valley, Victoria
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