Any success with Bing and Rainier cherries in zone 5?

languardJune 25, 2008

I've been doing some research on cherry trees, and would really like to plant these two varieties. However, I've read in some places that these can get a little tricky to grow right. Can anyone in zone 5 describe their experiences with these type?

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franktank232(z5 WI)

I'm growing Kristin and Lapins. I'll let you know in a few years!

    Bookmark   June 25, 2008 at 2:53PM
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In spite of the fact that sweet cherry varieties like Bing and Rainier bring premium prices at the supermarket, they are commercially grown only in a few places in the west and northwest. That should make anyone suspicious about trying to grow them in the east or midwest. If it were possible to grow them with reasonable success in warm, humid summers, somebody would be doing it commercially and making a lot of money.

Tricky would be an understatement.

Don Yellman, Great Falls, VA

    Bookmark   June 25, 2008 at 5:14PM
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Jellyman, I hate to disagree with you about this one, but my home state of Michigan is a MAJOR producer of both tart and sweet cherries, most of which are grown in the solidly Zone 5 region around Traverse City in the NW corner of Michigan's lower penninsula. I believe we're actually first in the nation in Tart Cherries, and I think we're third in production of Sweet Cherries behind Washington State and California.

The Traverse City Cherry Festival will be held in Traverse City, Michigan, next week. This event draws something like a half million visitors every year, its a "big deal" here in Michigan.

When I was a kid, there were a LOT of pick your own cherry orchards in Michigan that had both sweet and sour cherries. Unfortunately, farm consolidation, etc., has pretty much eliminated these -- almost all of the crop goes to commercial processing now, although some of it still is sold at farm markets and farm stands.

You probably DO have a lot of problems trying to get them to ripen without rotting in VA and other hot, sticky climates. Here, the only problem we have with them, alas, is the birds. I planted 4 of the superdwarf trees sold by Raintree a few years back, and am getting a nice crop off them right now, despite a heavy freeze when they were in bloom in late April. But, the ONLY reason I got a good crop was because they are small enough to cover and keep the birds out. I have a large, standard Bing-type cherry tree which the birds strip as soon as the fruits show a bit of color. I used to have a yellow sweet cherry as well, and the birds would strip it almost as fast -- so much for the catalog propaganda about birds ignoring yellow cherries!

SE Michigan

    Bookmark   June 25, 2008 at 10:58PM
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denninmi, the area in Michigan that you're referring to is RADICALLY different from the climate in Kansas City, where the OP is from. Don's climiate in VA is much more similar to Kansas City, IMO, than the cherry growing region of Michigan.

Another big risk is spring frost. A big reason that cherries are successfuly grown along the coast of Lake Michigan is because of the effect the lake has in the spring. That big mass of cold water keeps the coastal areas from warming up as quickly, keeping the trees dormant longer and therefore less susceptible to spring frosts. There is no protection like this in Kansas City. Trees there will be quite suscpetible to spring frost.

    Bookmark   June 26, 2008 at 3:48PM
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Yes, fruitgirl, I realized the stupidity of my reply after I posted it and thought about it a bit -- Zone numbers are pretty meaningless in a lot of respects. Technically, I'm a Zone 6, and so are a lot of places in Virginia, Tenn, Arkansas, etc. But, that doesn't mean I can grow Camellias and Crepe Myrtles and Winter Jasmine outside here like they can in Tenn and Virginia. I'm sure the hot, humid summers in KC, Mo are going to be a LOT different than the relatively cool summers in northwestern lower Michigan.

I'm sure you could still probably grow sweet cherries in these more humid climates, but it would probably take a lot of work in terms of keeping them sprayed with fungicides, etc. Even here, in wet years, brown rot can be a problem with sweet cherries in particular, less so with sour cherries.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2008 at 11:42AM
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I did not mean to disrespect your microclimate in the Traverse City area. I know this part of Michigan has been growing cherries for many years. I can remember my mother buying large metal cans of chilled tart cherries from Michigan and putting them up in mason jars. But this was in the 50's and that product is rarely seen now.

But even I can grow tart cherries with no problem. The sweets, however, are an entirely different proposition. I would guess that if Michigan is in 3rd place in sweet cherry production, it is a distant third, because of the relatively small area in which they can be grown.

Sweet cherries are a very appealing crop, and many beginners look at fruit tree catalogs and are fascinated by the idea they can grow them. But most cannnot, and I usually try to be as candid as possible about that. There is no point in planting and caring for a tree for years only to discover down the road that you have wasted your time and money.

Don Yellman, Great Falls, VA

    Bookmark   June 27, 2008 at 12:02PM
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As you said, they grow well here in the NWest. Some fruits are hard here because of the late frost, but cherries do well. We are more of a desert climate, not much rain from July to Sept and it can get quite cool in the evenings. I have many fond memorys as a child climbing into a tree full of ripe fruit and eating till I was full.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2008 at 1:27PM
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Scott F Smith(6B/7A MD)

Dennis, neither Bing nor Ranier is grown much in Michigan, Bing cracks and Ranier is not hardy enough. The same goes for Kansas City. Plenty of other varieties will work, however. Call up a good nursery such as Cummins and they will help you pick good varieties.

I have found sweet cherries to be OK as far as ease of growing. They in fact have been easier than apples or plums since they don't get fireblight and they don't get OFM. The main problem has been birds. My Hedelfingen was almost ripe a few days ago but I looked this morning and there was not a single cherry left on it. I have not been netting them but I think next year I will start that. My Black Gold rotted a bunch this year due to the wet spring. That is the first rot problem I have had. Last year I had a moth infestation but I sprayed spinosad this year and no moths. Occasionally they will get mildew in July/August since they dislike the heat, but a summer oil spray clears that up right away.


    Bookmark   June 27, 2008 at 3:47PM
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cinsay(z5 OH)

Well, I don't know too much about the specific varieties Bing and Ranier but I did live in Michigan as recently as three years ago. We used to go cherry picking just north of Grand Rapids for both sweet cherries (couldn't tell you if they were Bing but Ranier was definitely one of the varieties for sale) and tart. They were fairly cheap and the orchards fairly large. But that may not be much in terms of agricultural significance for an entire state. It was zone 5 and not influenced by the lake that far inland. Didn't even get lake effect that far inland as I recall.

Now I'm in a zone 5/6 area, also too far from a great lake for a beneficial microclimate. I recently saw an old half dead sweet cherry tree. It had not been cared for in quite some time. But it was covered by nicely flavored but small sweet cherries. It didn't seem to be suffering from a bug infestation - more like the trunk had split and lost a large limb.

Long story short - if you have time and space, it might be worth an experiment. If your zone 5 suffers from late frost then cherries might be few and far between. I'm thinking of experimenting with cherries myself these days.


    Bookmark   June 29, 2008 at 12:48AM
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We Michiganers use to raise aBing Cherry tree to keep the birds away from the sour cherry trees. We had a Bing Cherry tree that was around 80' tall and we only got a hand full each year because of birds. One year we did get a half bucket full.

    Bookmark   June 29, 2008 at 9:39AM
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franktank232(z5 WI)

Here is what MSU has to say about Bing growing in MI:

"Bing - Mid-season. Nice quality fruit; good trees; fair yield; cracks badly. Comments: Cracks too much to plant in Michigan"

    Bookmark   June 29, 2008 at 10:11AM
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Scott F Smith(6B/7A MD)

Cindy, I used to pick cherries in Michigan as a kid and they were always Black Tartarian. What a wonderful cherry! Best flavor and no cracking problems. Too bad that the softer sweet cherries are now completely out of fashion.

Just north of Grand Rapids it may be warm enough for Ranier to survive, but I doubt anyone is growing Bings there. Often they call any dark cherry a "Bing" and any light cherry a "Ranier" or "Queen Anne" but they are really growing other types.


    Bookmark   June 30, 2008 at 1:47PM
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I think Scottfsmith is right about that -- anything reddish/black is called a 'bing' in supermarkets or farm stands, and anything yellowish is a 'Rainier' because those are the two variety names that consumers know.

Actually, I have heard that 'Rainier' is so expensive to buy in the stores because it doesn't grow well anywhere -- hard to grow.

I looked up some cherry statistics on the USDA website -- Michigan is first in the nation (by far, we outproduce the next 3 or 4 states combined) in Sour Cherries, and are now 4th in Sweet Cherries (we were 3rd, but Oregon pulled ahead of Michigan -- Washington is first, California second. New York and Utah are 5th and 6th.) Just thought this was interesting.

If I order any more sweet cherry tries, I would try the newer varieties as well. The ones I got from Raintree a few years ago seem very good - not splitting or cracking, and no brown rot despite a very rainy June.

    Bookmark   June 30, 2008 at 3:39PM
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franktank232(z5 WI)

The cherry crop in Wisconsin this year is said to be 1% !!! of last years crop. I read that it was drought that did a big number on the trees last summer. They grow mostly sour cherries here (DOOR COUNTY) and a few sweet cherries.

I'd love to go to Michigan and pick cherries off the trees... too far of a car ride from here.

    Bookmark   June 30, 2008 at 4:23PM
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Thank you all for the responses. Definitely picked up some good info from your discussions. For better success I think I'll switch cherry types. Bing and rainier are quite tasty, but I do want to make sure I have cherries to eat in a few years *crosses fingers*. The other two kinds of cherries I've been considering are Lapin and Stella. Do they have a good taste like the Bing and Rainier?

Again, thanks for all the responses so far.

    Bookmark   July 1, 2008 at 11:59AM
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