How to grow sweet cherries

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Growing a cherry tree will reward you with Growing a cherry tree will reward you with beautiful spring blossoms followed by sweet, tasty fruit -- if the birds don't get at them first. Photo Credit: D H Wright

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Jessica Damiano Jessica Damiano, Newsday columnist

Jessica Damiano is a master gardener and journalist with more than 20 years experience in radio, television, print

Planting: Early spring, in well-drained, fertile soil. Avoid southern or western exposures, which would promote early blooming and put crops at risk from spring frost damage.

pH range: 6.2-6.8

Years until fruit bearing: 7-10

Pollination: Many are not self-pollinating. For those, plant at least two different sweet cherry varieties for fruit production.

Pruning: In late spring, after the trees have flowered, when the size of the coming crop and placement of fruit is apparent. Prune employing the method for apple and pear trees but also cut the top off the central leader after the tree has grown 4 or 5 inches in the first year. Thereafter, prune only to remove watersprouts, crowded limbs and those that threaten the vaselike shape of the tree, aiming to keep branches with the widest crotch angles. This may not need to be done for several years.

Fertilizing: Apply 10-10-10 weekly in early spring until fruit begins to form, and again right after harvest.

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Harvest period: July. Netting may be needed to protect fruit from wildlife.

Storage: Keep refrigerated for up to a week.

Recommended varieties: Emperor, Francis, Hartland, Hedelfingen, Royalton, Stella

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