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Sickly Morello Cherry Tree - Underwatering?

I bought a bare root 2 year old Morello cherry on Gisela 5 dwarfing rootstock which was delivered at the beginning of December 2021 and immediately unpacked and loosely planted in our veg plot for about a week before planting in the final position as part of our lawn/orchard. The tree looked great out of the box with a well-developed root system and had plenty of buds etc. The tree initially seemed OK with plenty of blossom and the start of a good crop of cherries, but then started to deteriorate; most of the lower leaves have turned yellow and dropped and none of the leaves seemed to have matured properly. Many of the cherries have shrivelled and dropped.

The yellowing always seems to start down the centre of the leaf, spreading laterally before dying off. The soil here in south Lincs is fertile but I added some Growmore together with some extra fertile soil from the veg plot when I planted it

See attached photos of the tree, taken about a week ago. I went back to the nursery to ask for advice and they were pretty adamant that it was due to underwatering at the time of the buds bursting when the tree is stressed but the root system is inadequate to fully support the growth.

I am now watering it regularly but with no signs of recovery.

I’d be grateful for advice from you regarding whether underwatering is the cause of the problem and if it is likely that the tree might recover next year. Or would I be better to give up and buy a new tree in the autumn?


  • Pete.8Pete.8 Posts: 10,284
    It probably was caused by the tree being stressed due to lack of water.
    You should always maintain a completely clear area of at least 1m around the base of the tree. That grass is soaking up the water and nutrients that your tree needs.
    It's still alive, so with some tlc it should recover completely.

    Don't be tempted to feed it anything until it has recovered. Then each spring put a 4" layer of home made compost or well rotted manure of some kind in the area you have cleared around the base of the tree. 

    With a bit of luck the birds will soon have a tree laden with tasty cherries :)
    Knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit.
    Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.
  • DovefromaboveDovefromabove Posts: 83,870
    edited June 2022
    Totally agree with @Pete.8 .... drought stress exacerbated by competition for moisture from surrounding grass.  Clear a 1m circle of grass as Pete says, and pour on two buckets full of water every other day for the next four weeks ... poured on gently so that it soaks in ... whether it rains or not. 

     Then reduce it to twice a week until mid August at the earliest.  

    Next year start watering at the beginning of March ... 2 buckets full, twice a week ... poured on gently as before.

    Before the first spring watering sprinkle Fish, Blood & Bone as directions on pack, and water well ... then mulch with well rotted farmyard manure again as Pete has advised.  Do not let the manure touch the trunk of the tree.  

    Do the above and it should be fine  :)

    Gardening in Central Norfolk on improved gritty moraine over chalk ... free-draining.

  • oscaratooscarato Posts: 10
    Many thanks guys, lesson learnt! I’ll strip back the grass and follow your watering/feeding instructions 
  • DovefromaboveDovefromabove Posts: 83,870
    Looking forward to a photo of a happy cherry tree next summer 😊 🍒 

    Gardening in Central Norfolk on improved gritty moraine over chalk ... free-draining.

  • oscaratooscarato Posts: 10
    Me too!!
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