Big plans ahead for cherry business

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An Oamaru Cheery business has been taken over.
Sheryl and Warren Black have bought out Fred and Jill Field, who have been selling their “La Cherries” fruit from a stall in South Hill for more than 15 years.  Mr Field developed a system of growing cherry trees in bags, with compact, picker-friendly results. The Fields are now consultants, helping the Blacks as they head into their first harvest. The Blacks have planted 1200 cherry trees at their Deborah property, Evergrow Orchard, south of Oamaru. “We have had a lot of help from Fred and Jill,” Mrs Black said. “We have learnt about keeping cherry trees small and close together using root restriction bags.” The bags meant the Blacks could transport the Fields’ mature trees and transplant them while dormant.  Tunnel houses would be installed over the top of the trees.
“The tunnels give us huge peace of mind,” Mr Black said. “Frost won’t be an issue and we won’t have to worry about rain splitting the cherries, or the birds eating them.” The Blacks are growing rootstock for grafted trees from cuttings and seed. A propagation shed designed by Mr Field, with heat pads and automatic misting, allows cuttings to be grown year-round. Beehives have been set up to pollinate the plants. Mrs Black, who has kept bees for three years, said they “love the sea of cherry blossoms. With luck, we’ll be able to sell honey, as well as cherries.” Evergrow’s fresh cherries will be sold this summer from the South Hill site the Fields used. Grafted cherry trees and horticultural bags used above or below ground to keep fruit trees manageable will also be for sale.
“They [the bags] increase the fruiting, while reducing the need for pruning, fertilising and watering,” Mrs Black said. “They can be used for ornamentals and vegetables, too. They grow great spuds.” The Blacks, who previously lived in Dunedin and Riverton, have two children, Ella (3) and Jonty (1). “We moved here in 2011 and love it. “It’s really up and coming. The people are great and so is the weather.  “It’s the perfect climate for cherries, too,” Mrs Black said. Sister-in-law Suzanne Black has been hired to help in the orchard, and Mr Black also runs a logging business.