Cherries and the Management of Fruit Trees

Cherries from the tree

Originally uploaded by themiliones

When I bought my house in the winter time, we knew that the yard came with a lot of trees, which we liked, and that many of them were fruit. We have five fruit trees on our lawn, and two fruit trees that live in a neighbors lawn that hang over ours.

So, our fruit trees were all overgrown. I spent a bunch of time recently working with Marty Camberlango of City Gardens on pruning our overgrown fruit trees, and I paid him to help me.

The fruit trees are now pruned, and now I know all sorts of new facts such as that stress makes fruit trees overproduce.

When our cherries came in last year we picked them early because I was mostly afraid of birds and other animals eating them before us. I picked them and they were a little sour and tart, which I loved. We picked a ton, and I gave a ton away. I was so excited to own a house with a cherry tree with real cherries that I wanted to just pick them all!

Soon afterward we noticed little flies on our cherries. And then the cherries that we left on the tree, just to see how they would ripen further, developed tiny little maggots which were quite annoying.

We learned this year that the cherries were attacked by something called the cherry fruit fly. We put up with it by throwing away all of the cherries left on the tree. This was very sad.

I try to operate, always, with the least invasive techniques in my yard. I have never used an herbicide, fungicide or insecticide in my life. I am completely against them. When I had leaf miners on my chard I opted for a covering to protect them from the flies.

I spent weeks this year weighing my options.

1. Cover each cherry with insect netting
2. Cover the entire tree with insect netting
3. Hang small fake looking cherries (bright red balls) in the tree to attract mature flies and kill them
4. Throw away all of the cherries for one season, including the ones on the ground
5. Use a fly strip attractor and then once you see it lay black plastic down on the ground so that the rest of the flies can’t emerge from the soil
6. Chickens – in our front yard – confined somehow just to the area around our cherry tree
7. Apple maggot attractors – they give off a pheromone to attract apple maggot flies, but how would I know they would attract cherry fruit flies? There was no guarantee.
8. Spinosad – a organic pesticide that is non-toxic and made out of fermented soil that is sprayed on the cherry tree weekly
9. Really, really bad chemicals that kill everything and maybe even make people sick
10. Pick all the cherries when they’re not ripe yet so that they don’t have maggots

I decided I wasn’t going to just putz around here. I was going to get something that would kill them. I read article after article and everything pointed to spinosad. Everything. All the research on this damn fly suggests that spinosad is the cure – real research. I spent my Sunday mornings reading articles in agriculture journals and extension websites.

Then I went around to a few places, and called around too. No one carried spinosad. In fact, businesses suggested either those apple maggot balls, apple maggot attractors or the really, really bad things.

What is the moral of the story? Well, I’m going to have delicious cherries this year. They’re going to be safe to eat and they’ll actually be ripe. Also, if you have a cherry tree, or know someone who does, let them know about this article so that they too can have safe cherries that they can share with everyone.

3 thoughts on “Cherries and the Management of Fruit Trees

  1. I did love that show, and I’d totally forgotten about it – so now I get to re-find an old love! Great!

    The thing about the chickens is that might be more invasive than spinsad. That and I don’t have the cash to get a chicken set up started in time before those damn flies hatch out of the ground.

    As much as I would love to use chickens, I’d have to borrow someone’s set up or get one for free. Know about any situations like that?

    There’s an opportunity – backyard chicken rentals.

  2. That is so sad. I have an indoor coffee plant and somehow my room gets a bunch of bugs. I don’t even know what kind of bugs they are, and I don’t want to put the plant outside because it’s too cold.

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