As a couple with a predisposition toward all things growing, we don't exactly take typical vacations. It started pretty innocently with our trip to Sonoma Valley that resulted in us bringing wine home by the caseload, and has kind of snowballed from there. It's always fun for us now to try to bring home some of the local flavor of whatever region we're lucky enough to visit. Last summer that involved a trip to Wisconsin's Door County, an area famous for its cherry orchards.
Neither one of us really knew how much we loved tart cherries until we arrived at Choice Orchards and started picking. Having arrived right at the peak of the cherry season, the orchards were loaded with bright red fruits. They were tangy and juicy, and effortlessly pulled off the trees by the handful. We didn't stop until we'd filled several buckets.
When all was said and done (after two trips to the orchard), we ended up bringing home a whopping 35 pounds of cherries. What we did with them is perhaps a tale for another time, but we were certain of one thing: we absolutely wanted to grow this fruit in our own backyard. We didn't actually have a backyard at the time, but we do now! We ordered a dwarf Montmorency cherry tree from the Arbor Day Foundation this spring, and this past weekend it arrived on our doorstep.
Inside the package, our bareroot tree was packed with moist paper around the roots, and it looked like it had handled the trip well. We placed the tree in a bucket to soak, and got started digging. We cut a circle of sod about 3 feet in diameter, then dug the hole about 12 inches deep.
After soaking the roots for 3 hours, we centered the tree in the hole. We started with a small mound of soil at the base, to support and spread the roots. Then it was simply a matter of filling in the hole with the material we'd just dug out. It's tempting to add some enrichment to this soil, but you're actually better off leaving it as-is. This will encourage the tree to send out long, strong roots to find lots of nutrients. We gently firmed the soil as we went, being careful not to pack things down too much. When the soil around the tree was just about two inches below the surrounding ground, we stopped. This creates a basin in which water can collect to help keep the tree hydrated.
Finally, we covered those remaining two inches with a nice layer of mulch. In addition to looking nice, this is a permeable material, so rainwater can filter through the mulch into that aforementioned basin. We gave the tree a good soaking from the hose, which should be sufficient for a while unless we get a really dry snap. In that case, we can water about once a week to ten days, during the first year.
That may not look like much more than a stick in the ground right now, but we have high hopes for it. With any luck it will be producing fruit within three to five years. We'll have to do some pruning to help develop the proper shape and we'll keep an eye out for fruit tree diseases and pests. We might not get 35 pounds of cherries out of our one tree every year, but it's a lot closer to home than Door County.
This post has been shared with Simple Lives Thursday.