When we moved here in 1988, we took on a cherry orchard that looked like a war zone...it was, of course, just after the hurricane of ’87 and two thirds of the old trees, planted in 1930, were horizontal!
There were still a few left, some Early River, Florence, Noir de Guben, Emperor Francis and Napoleon, most still standing today. However, after one aborted attempt with a forty foot ladder, it was decided to grow cherries on dwarf root stock.
Today we have nearly 2,500 trees, mainly on Gisella 5 or 6 rootstock. We grow a sequence, from the first Early Rivers to the last Regina. It goes like this...
Early River, Merchant, Hertford, Van, Vanda, Stella, Techlovan, Kordia, Giorgia, Summersun, Zoe and Regina.
They start fruiting about the second or third week of June and finish in early August.
Many people see cherries appearing beside the road in May and ask us why ours aren’t ready. The answer is that the roadside ones are from Turkey or France, which we would NEVER sell!
Our rustic “Cherry Hut” has been beside the A262 for over 20 years and is a well known and much loved landmark amongst cherry aficionados. Many folk say that our cherries are the best in Kent. We just like to think that we sell what we would like to eat...and we eat a lot! We sell in 0.5 kg or 1.0kg punnets but will prepare a tray to order for a celebration. We also send about 40% of the crop by lorry to the markets in London or further north. Occasionally we send special orders by courier.
Cherries are labour intensive and costly to grow. Establishing an orchard to first fruiting takes at least 4 years, then you have to cover against rain and net against the birds...they like cherries as much as we do! Everything is hand- picked and has to be carefully handled, then cooled in hot weather to stop premature softening.
At the end of the season, the nets and covers are removed and stored away. The trees are pruned and sprayed against diseases such as canker and posts and wires are repaired. Time for a brief rest before everything kicks off again!