DIY Network

Pests and Diseases That Plague Cherries

Kelly Givens explains some of the problems that can affect cherries and how to protect the harvest.

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birds love sweet cherries
Photo 4 of 4Birds love sweet cherries.

Birds(4 of 4)

Birds love sweet cherries; the only real solution is bird netting. Cover the trees with the netting when the cherries start to ripen, and secure the netting to the ground. Birds can also be a problem on tart cherries, but usually not to the same degree as with sweets.

A late spring frost can wipe out the harvest for a year. Where you plant cherry trees may make a difference. If possible, plant trees on higher ground, since frost settles in low-lying areas. Sometimes an elevation difference of only several feet can affect the temperature by 5 or 10 degrees Fahrenheit.

To protect against a frost that's predicted after fruit-bud set, put lightweight plastic or fabric over the tree to form a tent and add a heat source in the form of a light bulb or string of holiday lights. For safety's sake, use only UL-approved outdoor lighting and extension cords, and make sure that the light source does not touch the fabric and is not too close to the tree trunk or branch, where it might burn.

Harvesting

  • Cherries are among the earliest fruits for harvesting, being ready to harvest in late spring or early summer.

  • There are some crops, such as apples, in which sugars will develop in the fruit after it's harvested. But cherries don't get any sweeter after they leave the tree, so if you pick too early, you sacrifice some of the sweetness.

  • Cherries increase in size until they're ripe. Sweet cherries also become firm when ripe.

  • You can taste cherries to test for ripeness, or test by trying to harvest a few. When they're really ready, they'll be easy to pick. If they're not quite ready, they'll be a little harder to pull off the tree.

  • Sweet cherries are typically picked stem and all. They have a relatively thick skin, which helps protect them and allows them to last for a week or two after being picked. Tart cherries are usually picked without their stems. They have a thin skin and bruise easily and are more fragile than sweet cherries.

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