I ended my last post with a wish that it would rain. And for good reason. We were getting dry here, with a spring that was several inches shy of normal rainfall. Those berries that weren’t irrigated were starting to show signs of stress, and the ponds were starting to get low already from the berries that were irrigated.
And then it rained. And rained some more. And as I’m writing it is still pouring. Over 3″ of rain here in the last 4 days. Which normally wouldn’t be a problem, except that we’re heading into the one and only crop that really hates rain: cherries.
Cherry trees grow well in our climate; you can find wild versions in most of the woods around here. Commerial cherries have been bred for beautiful size and taste, but they don’t have much tolerance for rain. As a cherry begins to ripen, it becomes highly vulnerable to splitting if exposed to too much moisture. It literally rips apart with a gash down the middle of the fruit.
This is one reason that the Pacific Northwest is such a good place to grow cherries, because several hundred miles from the Pacific, there is very little rainfall, and they have access to huge reserves of publically funded waterworks from which to draw irrigation water in just the quantities needed to keep the trees growing. Around here, we rely a little more on mother nature, and she isn’t always very reliable.
One option is to erect “high tunnels” which are essentially inexpensive greenhouses over the cherries. This keeps excess rain off the trees and helps control against birds. Inexpensive is a relative term here. It involves many thousands of dollars and makes some chores that involve tractor work more difficult. Still, some growers in Adams County are trying it. This might be the year those tunnels pay off for them.
We’ll see. Most of our cherries are still just beginning to turn color, so maybe the rain is early enough for them. If they don’t split, don’t rot, and the crows don’t get them, it will be a very nice crop. Stay tuned!