I thought you might be interested to hear how things went in our quest to grow cherries organically this year:
- We have four producing cherry trees at this time. Two sweet cherries ('Bing' and 'Rainier') and two pie cherries ('English Morello' and 'Montmorency'). We also have a young 'Montmorency' that isn't producing yet.
- In the spring, my husband Bill hung some sticky yellow "indicator" traps in the trees. They are a way to know if cherry fruit flies are in the area. When cherries start turning from green to yellow, that's when they start causing trouble.
- As soon as he started seeing the fruit flies, he began spraying Bull's-Eye Bioinsecticide, which we purchased from Garden's Alive. It contains spinosad (a soil bacteria that is harmless to humans) as the active ingredient and is considered organic. It's really important to follow the label directions and not overuse it in the orchard because you don't want to run the risk of having the fruit fly adults and larvae develop a resistance to it.
- Bill has since decided that he probably waited a little too long to start spraying because he thinks the fruit flies were active before he started noticing them in the traps. He's making some notes to remind himself of this for next year. Even so, we had a minimal amount of insect damage.
- We also purchased some bird scare ribbon, which I've written about recently (Keeping the birds out of the cherries and Update on cherry trees) and discovered that it worked quite well in scaring away magpies and starlings. We did get the occasional robin but otherwise, it worked amazingly well. We definitely got a larger harvest this year from all of the trees. Every time we finished picking cherries from a tree, we immediately removed the bird scare ribbon from it because you don't want to run the risk of having the birds get used to it. That's very important!
- Unfortunately, about a week ago, we had quite the hail storm which caused damage to a few of the 'English Morello' and to most of the 'Montmorency' cherries. Even so, our harvest from the former was our best ever. Those are what's peeking out of those canning jars in the photo. ;o)
- We discovered that the 'Rainier' variety tends to do really well, which I believe is because of the pale fruit color. We think the color confuses the fruit flies into thinking they're not ripe enough to lay eggs in. It also confuses the birds somewhat for the same reason: the cherries just don't look ripe to them.
- We didn't experience any other problems with the cherry trees this year, such as diseases. We did notice one interesting thing, though: the spinosad apparently wiped out the ants that had been going up into the tree as there was a small amount of aphids on some of the branch tips. So that was a nice side benefit.
- We've frozen some of the sweet and pie cherries and canned 14 quarts of pie cherries for future cherry pies and other desserts. Looks like there will be plenty for at least one cherry pie per month!