How to Grow and Care Sand Cherries
Sand Cherries are resilient to most climatic conditions and can survive as far North as Zone 2 and in warmer parts up to Zone 8 hence it is not necessary that you live in a cool place to grow them whilst they also make a great choice as a fruit tree for any home garden.
There are many varieties of Sand Cherries and most of them are grown for their flamboyant blossoms and would rarely produce any fruit.
It would be prudent to study a bit about the Sand Cherry if you are interested in growing the varieties that bear fruit but the most commonly found variety is the purple leafed Sand Cherry which does not bear fruit and is an ornamental plant.
The Nanking Cherry which is the one that is very popular and produces edible fruit in a bunch but it is a another species of Sand Cherry and if you have no option it could be your answer.
The Sand Cherry is endemic to certain parts of the large land mass of Canada and grows in the wild and can be seen in forests and whether it is domestic or wild, it produces smaller fruit than the normal Sweet Cherry, and are quite tart and would be not everyone’s choice when eating it straight from the tree.
They grow more like a shrub than a tree and would spread to about seven feet in width and about the same in height when maturity sets in.
Where to begin
The place that you select to plant the Sand Cherry must have direct Sunlight though shade from the dipping afternoon Sun could also be ideal.
The roots grow quite far and wide but would not generally interfere with foundations or other underground structures though other nearby trees could face the brunt hence keep ample space between it and other smaller trees.
The planting hole should be expansive to hold the roots after you have opened the root ball and spread them out which needs to be done with care and sufficient peat moss and sand to help optimum draining would help if it is heavy soil that you have.
Proper tree care
It is very comfortable in dry weather hence regular watering may not be a requirement but when there are extremely dry weather conditions prevailing periodic watering would be needed.
When the Sand Cherry is young and recently planted it would be advisable to water it regularly until the roots have taken effect and the plant could be considered as on its own.
Excessive leaf growth would result in lesser fruit hence any fertilizer employed should be low Nitrogen formula and it should be administered in spring as any new growth would be damaged in the winter.
To keep the bushy plant healthy it may be necessary to give it an yearly trim but cutting off dead branches and removing any dead pieces of wood around and pruning is ideally done in spring again before the first leaf buds appear, keeping it for later could cause fungal infestation such as “Black Knot”.
Growing in containers
A large 10 gallon container would be ideal though a larger one would sustain a larger bush and if you intend growing it in a container that large it may not be necessary to find only the dwarf varieties as you could always manage any plant by pruning, removing dead branches, clipping off new shoots and even by controlling the amount of fertilizer.
If you grow then in areas such as Zones 2 or 3 you may lose it during the winter for which the best would be to shift it away from cold outside to a sheltered area or wrap the container well with burlap.
Taking it indoors may be difficult also it needs the cold winter months to bloom lavishly during the following spring.
Pests and diseases
It is a low growing fruit and will attract deer and other mammals who are able to get at the fruit either from below or by climbing up the tree.
Picking the fruit just as they ripe would be best if not a fencing or bird netting would be advisable to keep the animals and birds away.
The disease common to Sand Cherry is also common to other fruit trees like apricots, plum and many other types of cherries where a thick black growth would be seen on the branches often attacking where the bark is seen to be damaged.
Cut the infected branches about 6 inches below the “Black Knot” to ensure all the infested areas are removed and ensure proper disposal, do not compose it or throw away as it would take the disease elsewhere or even back to your garden.
In humid weather conditions, the low growing bush could contract powdery mildew on the leaves which looks like white dust but does not rub off and to treat this condition avoid getting the leaves unnecessarily wet and if you have other plants around your Sand Cherry move them around and give this plant more space to breathe.
Harvesting and Storage
When the fruits turn a dark purple it indicates that they are ripe which happens in early summer and as they prone to stain taking care of the rich juicy fruit from spoiling your clothes should be a priority during the harvesting season.
They are very tart and are delicious in jams and jellies hence they are not preserved for very long periods but you could keep some in the refrigerator for just about a week.
They could be dried or frozen like other cherries or it could also be preserved in brine but would need to pit them first as they are known for their extra ordinarily large seeds.
They have a life cycle of about 15 to 20 years and the fruit production could be drastically reduced towards the end of its life term and depending on how you care for it you may get a few more years of good fruit production.