I've got the cherry tree blues...

thomis(7)April 25, 2012

For five years now I have experimented with cherry trees. I know enough not to try sweet cherries here in central NC but I've been told that tart varieties can be grown with some success. I prefer the tart varieties anyhow. So far I have tried Montmorency on both Mazzard and Mahaleb as well as the dwarfing Gisela 5 stocks. I have one of three trees remaining on Gisela 5 and it is looking ROUGH. One of them grew amazingly well and fruited for three years and then suddenly died last summer. The one remaining tree has leafed out somewhat on the top branches and even had a few blooms and the rest of the buds were swollen but it has looked like that for a month now. I've also tried Surefire (lasted 1.5 seasons) and I have an English Morello that is hanging on for dear life, but it just won't put out new growth. I have plenty of success with apples (see my page), persimmons and other gardening so it's not like I'm stumbling around in the dark. The two tart varieties that I haven't tried yet are the Nanking Bush and Early Richmond.

I know Arbor Day is not an excellent source but they're the only ones I can find that still have available Early Richmond for 2012. They offer it in "standard" and "dwarf". I'm going to try one of each. Does anyone know what rootstock their "dwarf" and "standard" trees are grafted on?

I'm also interested in hearing your experiences growing tart cherries in the southeast.

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hoosierquilt USDA 10A Sunset 23 Vista CA

May I ask a dumb question? Why won't sweet cherries do well in central NC? I am growing sweet cherries here in S. Calif (zone 10a) just fine, but I am growing very low-chill varieties - Minnie Royal and Royal Lee. Is there something different about central NC??

Patty S.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2012 at 2:46PM
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Scott F Smith(6B/7A MD)

Patty, the heat and humidity make them very unhappy. I am in a somewhat better climate but my cherries often lose their leaves in midsummer, they get toasted by the heat. Bacterial canker tends to kill them soon as well. I have removed many cankers from my cherries; somehow I have never lost one but I have come very close!

Thomis, I would recommend trying a location with afternoon shade rather than looking for a different variety, I don't think Early Richmond will do much better. Shade from the hottest part of the day can make a real difference. Also make sure you know what cankers look like and remove them pronto -- in a month your tree can be dead if you miss one. My trees look a bit odd in spots with big chunks removed but hey they are alive!


    Bookmark   April 25, 2012 at 2:55PM
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First, what is happening to your trees?! Is it disease, heavy soil, what? It shouldn't be winter damage, unless they're getting sun scald and splitting trunks from cambium freeze-thaw. I don't think it's the variety you're growing, it sounds like a widespread cherry problem.

I wouldn't order from Arbor Day, you'll get a little twig. You'd be ahead of the game waiting until next spring and getting a little older tree by mail.

I have Danube, Surefire, and a Crimson Passion bush cherry. All are too young to report on flavor, but they're hardy for my zone 5 winters. But you should contact some Master Gardeners in your area, before you buy anything else.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2012 at 2:58PM
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Nanking cherries aren't true cherries, though they taste quite similar. They're much more heat tolerant and disease free than normal cherries, so that's a good option to try.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2012 at 3:01PM
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Just like Scott said, its the humidity and heat. And bacterial canker definitely claimed the majority of the ones I've lost. One of them died; it was a complete mystery. Just turned brown and in ten days was dead. Maybe something in the roots that I couldn't see. I do have heavy soil, which adds to the difficulties. I have a hard time growing apples on mm111 due to collar rot. Bud 9 seems to handle the heavy soil much better.
Scott, I will try to get some in the ground where there is afternoon sun.

i may take a pic of the remaining cherry on gisela 5 this evening if i can remember.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2012 at 4:19PM
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Randy31513(Georgia 8b)

Here is a little hope for you. I grow tart cherries here in South Georgia zone 8b so it is not the weather. The biggest enemy is cherry leaf spot. You have to spray on a regular schedule or you will keep loosing leafs and stunt the growth. Watch for cherry black knot as well.

I have a five year old English Morello and a year since planting Northstar a descendant of the English Morello. I one of those Carmine jewels on the way just to see if it will grow here.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2012 at 7:56PM
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I have a couple cherry trees on Gisela 5 here in central NC too and have had about the same experience as you thomis and scott.

This spring I planted a cherry on Krymsk 6 and two on Krymsk 5 as I've heard these rootstocks take the heat better. I've also heard they may not be as disease resistant, but thought I'd give them a try anyway.

All of my trees receive full sun with no shade. I probably should have done as scott suggested and plant them were they could get a little shade. By end of this summer maybe I will be able to give a comparison between Gisela 5 and Krymsk rootstock with respect to tolerance for the heat and humidity.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2012 at 8:33PM
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Randy31513(Georgia 8b)

I find it hard to believe it is hotter and more humid in NC than it is in South GA. It is not the weather.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2012 at 9:22PM
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I can't see any signs of bacterial canker. Any other ideas?

    Bookmark   April 26, 2012 at 9:19AM
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Scott F Smith(6B/7A MD)

That looks like a tree sitting on a very unhappy rootstock. I think NC orchard may be on to something about gisela not liking the heat. Its been good for me but my cherries get partial shade in zone 7. You may want to also look into what the soil is like there, maybe that is making the problem worse.


    Bookmark   April 26, 2012 at 9:42AM
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IF you have a problem with heat and humidity, then why use rock multch, with a black trunk wrap, in a wide open space?

You can try "nurse plants" - plance that take some of the abuse before the plants you want get up to shape. These are usually nitrogen fixers. It could also provide a bit of shade for the tree.

Use organic multch. Wood chips can soak up nitrogen, but its way better for keeping the soil cool, rather then rock (which absorb and slowly radiate heat).

    Bookmark   April 26, 2012 at 5:15PM
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alcedo 4/5 W Europe

typical Monilia laxa infection

    Bookmark   April 26, 2012 at 5:18PM
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I think my Hudson cherry on Gisela 5 below may have the same issue as yours. I have one limb at the bottom of the tree in particular were many of the buds appear as if they have opened, but no leaves emerged, or if they did, they wilted soon after emerging. I searched the web for Monilia laxa. I couldn't find much, but some of the images and descriptions I found do seem to support what I'm seeing on my tree. I have a Black Gold next to the Hudson that seems to be unaffected and has leafed out beautifully this spring.

alcedo - Do you have any additional info on Monilia laxa and possible controls?

    Bookmark   April 26, 2012 at 8:33PM
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alcedo 4/5 W Europe

spray w Daconil(chloorthalonil)fungicide

    Bookmark   April 27, 2012 at 3:38AM
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Randy31513(Georgia 8b)

Alcedo, that is a new one on me. I looked it up and does seem to be a match with the pictures.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2012 at 6:59AM
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This is brand new to me as well. Alcedo nailed it and I looked it up. Turns out there is a great deal of info out there on monilia laxa.
The good news is there is at least some comfort getting a positive ID on something affecting your fruit trees. At least I know what it is and how to deal with it.
The bad news is I'm already spraying a half dozen sprays for a half dozen pests and diseases on my apple trees. This is the main reason I haven't planted peaches because I'm told they require a whole different spray regimen.

I was planning to order another round of young cherries to try in a different spot but now I think I'm going to hold off. I have a few questions that I wasn't able to find answers for when reading up on m. laxa:

Is it too late to spray the fungicide at this point?
Is the try toast or will it recover?
Can m. laxa spread to pomme fruits?
I'm already spraying a fungicide for CAR, Rally WP (DOW Agroscience). Will this fungicide have no affect on m. laxa?
The fungicide I found in the attached link mentions vegetables and melons but not fruit. Should this be a concern?

Harvestman, where are you? I'm sure in all your years and miles of spraying you have come across this? What's your input?

Here is a link that might be useful: CHLOROTHALONIL found on eBay

    Bookmark   April 27, 2012 at 7:45AM
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Scott F Smith(6B/7A MD)

NC, your tree does look like it has brown rot shoot blight (thats the common name for that condition; monilia laxa I'm not sure is even in the US, is monilia fruticola or some such that is here in the US). Thomis, I don't see any sign of it on your tree, and given how late in the season it is I am pretty sure the whole problem is the rootstock. Brown rot acts on the growing leaves and your tree is not putting out the energy to grow them. I don't think alcedo realizes how far along the season is here now, my cherries have 6" shoots on them.


    Bookmark   April 27, 2012 at 9:22AM
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thomis - i feel like i could have made your exact post verbatim, with the exception that i live in Maryland not NC. i have well over a dozen fuiting trees and shrubs in my yard that all do well, but have had a horrible time with cherries. bacterial canker is what i believe i've lost all my cherry tree attempts to ... but it doesn't seem to have any affect on my other stone fruits. i have a couple of nanking cherries on order right now, and i do expect to have better luck with them from what i've heard, but i know its not going to be the same as having a real cherry tree.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2012 at 6:55AM
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I am in MD too. So far I have good luck with Carmine Jewel (4 year old). Nanking cherries are doing exceptionally well in my sister's garden here in MD. They are very productive and fruit heavily every year. I added them to my garden last year, still young but, but they loook very happy.


    Bookmark   April 28, 2012 at 10:56AM
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