What can you tell me about growing tart cherries in the South?
Answer: I’d say your chances for growing tart cherries successfully are good to very good. The tart cherry, Prunus cerasus, is much better adapted to the upper South than is the sweet cherry, P. avium. Note that sweets and tarts are separate and distinct species. The biggest banes of sweet cherries–brown rot and bacterial canker–are only minor problems on tart cherries.Leaf spot and powdery mildew on the leaves will probably be your biggest problems. They usually don’t appear until after harvest. They don’t hurt the fruit but can weaken the tree if they get so bad that they defoliate, which, in the South, is not uncommon. Sulfur works on both and baking soda products, like Kaligreen?, are good for powdery mildew.Regarding rootstocks, there are some newer ones that might do well for you, but the standard seedling rootstock Mahaleb will probably do fine in your sandy loam soils. If you have any doubt about the drainage at the site you choose, you might want to berm up the soil a little (just 12 to 18 inches higher than the surrounding ground should suffice). For more information on the newer rootstocks, consult the ATTRA publication Cherries: Organic Production at https://attra.ncat.org/attra-pub/summaries/summary.php?pub=460. There is a chart summarizing their characteristics on page 5.All soft fruits are perishable, and I’d say cherries are no better or worse as long as the stems remain on the fruits. The problem is that when picking, the stem often pulls off right where it joins with the fruit and leaves an open, juicy scar. So, first, try to pick so that the stems remain on the fruit (some will get away from you). Secondly, refrigerate as soon as possible after picking. And, lastly, have a marketing plan in place that will allow you to get them to your buyers as soon after harvest as possible. I’ve fooled around with several tart cherry varieties over the years, and I have yet to find anything better than the old Montmorency. It’s self-pollinating, so you don’t have to get other varieties, but you’ll probably want to just for fun!