We’ve built our house 8 years ago. While my wife did most of the heavy lifting in terms of planning the inside, I was excited to have a completely blank canvas on which to landscape. Of course, I had birds on my mind while I landscaped, putting a focus on plants that provided a nice mix of cover and food.
It wasn’t ALL just about the birds, however. My wife likes roses…hence, I had to have roses somewhere. For me, I was looking forward to having a garden, as well as having some fruit trees. I planted a number of serviceberry (Juneberry) shrubs, and while I knew they were edible, the primary reason I planted them was to attract fruit-eating birds. Cherries, however, are for me! Cherry pie is, as I’m sure you know, the most perfect food ever created. I bought 4 cherry trees, 2 dwarf sour (pie) cherries, and 2 full-size Montmorency cherries (the main sour pie cherry).
The trees were quite small when I bought them, and for the first 3 or 4 years, there were only a few cherries. As they started to get big enough for the expectation of perhaps SOME kind of cherry harvest, we had a big windstorm take down one of the full-size cherries. Down to 1 Montmorency, and 2 dwarf cherry trees! About 4 years ago, the trees were still relatively small, but I was able to gather a very modest harvest. By VERY modest, I mean enough to make 1 cherry pie, and about 2 jars of jam. That year, given the relatively small number of cherries, the birds probably ate more cherries than I was able to harvest. Still, it was a success! Real cherries from my yard! I anticipated greater harvests as the trees matured!
The last few years have resulted in no cherry pie. No cherry jam. No cherry cobbler. In other words…no cherries, or at least not enough to bother picking. The problem? We live in South Dakota! We are always subject to some late, hard freeze or frost. In 2 years, we had extremely warm March weather and the cherries bloomed very early. That was followed by colder weather that presumably killed the blooms. Another year it was just a very late, hard freeze that likely did the blooms in. What would 2015 bring?
We had a rather ho-hum winter, not all that cold, not all that late, and not all that much snow. Spring and early summer have been fantastic, with plenty of warm, sunny days, periodic rainfall, and most importantly…no very late, killing frost. The result of the favorable weather? Ever since about mid- to late-May, you could tell that a massive harvest was possible! All three cherry trees were just LOADED with blooms, followed by growing and ripening fruit that was so abundant, some of the branches were weighed down and almost touching the ground.
As the first of the cherries started to approach ripeness, the first of the American Robins showed up to start munching. Then a Gray Catbird. Then several of each species. Occasionally a small flock of Cedar Waxwings would stop by for a cherry desert. NOOOOOOOOOooooooooooo!!! My first ever bumper crop of cherries…was it going to be all for naught? Man vs. bird…who was going to win!?!?!!?
Well, thankfully for this bird loving man, BOTH bird and man won! While the Robins and Catbirds are certainly getting their share, there are more cherries than 5x as many birds could eat. I’ve picked gallon after gallon of delicious pie cherries, often picking side by side with Robins and Catbirds casually munching away mere feet from where I was picking.
Given South Dakota’s weather, I certainly don’t expect this kind of a harvest to occur every year, but it’s been a perfect harvest in 2015 for both man and beast!