Country Living Series

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Bridal cherries and ripening raspberries

Back in June 2014, we planted two cherry bushes.

We preferred a bush over a tree since a bush is, conceivably, easier to net. Birds are notorious cherry-lovers, and netting a tall tree is too difficult. When we lived in Oregon, we had two beautiful mature cherry trees, but in ten years of living there we never got a single piece of fruit thanks to the diligence of the avian visitors.

So bushes it is. Besides, we could plant bushes in a large tire in the garden.

The variety we chose was Carmine Jewel dwarf. According to various sources (here and here, for example), it's extremely cold-hardy and a heavy producer. It's classified as a "sour" cherry, but has a high sugar content and makes for excellent fresh eating.

We had reserved two large tires for the bushes.

After planting, we gently wrapped thin slivers of rubber around the bush and anchored it with baling twine, so the wind wouldn't knock them over.

The bushes did well for the first few weeks, and then one of them got covered -- and I mean blackened -- with aphids. I made a spray mix of chopped up garlic, peppers, and water, and two or three times a day I spritzed the bush with the spray, saturating the leaves and seriously annoying the aphids. It took a few weeks, and I thought I lost the bush, but finally the pests were conquered.

The following year, the stunted bush that had been affected by the aphids was about half the size of the healthier bush, but both plants grew and thrived, and I had no more aphid issues.

This year, for the first time, the bushes exploded with blossoms.



Minute cherries, about 1/4 inch across:

The cherries have been ripening and looking just lovely.

And then -- what a surprise -- the birds found them. Robins and cedar waxwings were particularly enticed.

Both these species are among my favorite birds and welcome in the garden. I didn't want to do anything that would harm them ... but I didn't want them eating my cherries either.

But the biggest culprit of the cherries, as it turns out, are the chickens, who often find their way into the garden when I'm weeding or watering. Most of the time they're fine, but boy were they gobbling those cherries.

So in order to save our first crop of cherries, Don and I needed to net the bushes. We chose to use a surplus mosquito netting, the kind that drapes over beds (found it at a thrift store). The netting was so large that we cut it in half.

The netting looks uncannily like bridal veils. After the wind pulled one of them off, Don anchored them with screws.

Hopefully the netting won't cut off too much sunlight. The cherries are thiiiiiis close to being ripe -- a couple already are -- so we'll see what happens. At least the birds can't get to them any more.

Meanwhile the strawberries are starting to decline in volume (at last!), but now the raspberries are picking up.

These are Younger Daughter's favorite, and she's been going out two or three times a day and picking a bowlful.

As the berries ripen, we'll start picking enough to start freezing.

Now the blueberries are starting to ripen as well. Gotta love summer's bounty!


  1. Sour cherries are my favorites. I planted 5 in the orchard. North Star and Montmorency. the N.S. produce several times more cherries than the M.C. but only 1/3 of tree growth!
    What is really lucky is there is a mature Mulberry tree just outside the orchard which fruits just before the cherry trees. Birds flock to the Mulberry and leave the cherries alone. There's a sweeter sour cherry you might also try called Bali. Good to zone 3 and has large fruit.

  2. You get some very beautiful birds up there!

  3. Our strawberries all got eaten by the beasties, but I'm getting the black raspberries and mulberries now. The girls and I are each supposed to pick one sandwich bag per day, then I'll make a batch of jam. Then we'll pick a few more days, and I'll make another batch of jam. Rinse and repeat til there are no more berries, or I have enough jam for the next two years... I love berry picking this year. It's been so dry that the skeeters aren't nearly as bad as usual. It looks like it will be a good year for the blackberries, too. There were none last year. I have no producing blueberry bushes. I have to go to the u-pick berry farm for those. Someday...

  4. Have you found that planting in tires allows you to get an early start on gardening? I was wondering if the black tires help to heat the soil, and allow you to plant in them before you would be able to plant in the ground.

    1. Yes and no. Most of the time I depend on weather for planting, i.e. if it's still dropping to freezing at night I won't plant. However the tires definitely heat the soil more rapidly. We're having a cooler summer this year (thankfully!) and despite occasional drops into the mid-30s, the plants are all thriving because the soil stays warm.

      - Patrice

  5. Patrice,
    could you give me the mixture for the aphid spray. We recently discovered that we have A LOT of them. They are in several trees and we are even finding them on the weeds in the garden. GRRR
    Thank you

    1. I didn't really have a recipe, I just winged it. In the blender, I whipped up garlic, pickled hot peppers, and water, then put it in a spray bottle. Feel free to add anything else you might think would irritate bugs but not harm the plants.

      - Patrice