I ate one. I feel guilty, though. It was sweet and tangy, and ripened before the others.

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Mud up to my Knees.

Phew, that was a job and a half. I moved 200 plants in 2 hours. When the shovel and plant give that ‘slurp suck’ sound, you know they are too wet. About 100 of them were under water almost completely, and the other hundred were in boot deep mud, so best to move them now. Maybe I should have worn hip waders lol. I will not need to go to the gym this summer.

That’s likely the most rain we’ll get at one time for the next few years (5 inches in 3 days), so I’m confident I’ve done the right thing. All 200 were budding and some of them had leaves. I’m not sure if they would have suffered too terribly in that water, but better to be safe than sorry. I’ve got lots of land to put them in.

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Rain, Rain, Rain

In the past 96 hours, we’ve received well over 12 cm or 5 inches of rain.

On one hand, that’s a good thing, but if it doesn’t stop by tomorrow (June 17), I fear for a few things. Notably, my strawberries are struggling. Most of my ever-bearers are fruiting, with green fruit, and they don’t like it too soggy.

I netted my currants, saskatoons, and the four mature Haskap I’d planted 3 years ago (2 Borealis and 2 Berry Blue (TM)) and the 4 cherry trees (Carmine Jewel and Cupid) in the front yard, since the birds are already showing interest. I’ve got some kind of fungus on the currants, and I’ll sprinkle that with common sulfur (natural) today, as I’m not using chemical pesticides or fungicides. The strawberries had a little gray fungus late last year, and a couple of applications of sulfur really made a big difference. I got my first crop, the second one was a loss, and the third one in September was excellent! So sulfur works–at least to my mind.

I’ve got about 200 of the 9000 Haskap in the Thistle Orchard in standing water. Yesterday, I went down and marked off the site where that is happening, and today, I’ll transplant them to drier ground. I still have a couple of rows that I didn’t use in the initial planting–that I can move them to.

I also marked off the site of next year’s project. I’m intending to plant a further 5000 Haskap (or maybe something else.) in the 4 acres that are still available to me on the East perimeter of the orchard. I have two people interested in possibly investing in 1000 plants each; otherwise, we probably can’t afford the full 5000. Maybe time to write up some type of contract for managing their orchards lol!! Hadn’t really given that much thought. Too busy, I guess. I do want some changes in the pollenizers and maybe do one acre with the newer Honey Bee, or Aurora. Not sure yet which main cultivar will go in those 4 acres, though. We’re also giving some thought to planting a couple of acres of Carmine Jewel Dwarf Sour Cherries; I have 3 of them in my front yard, and they’ve only been there a year (maybe 2 years old or 3), and they each have enough fruit to make a pie! I cannot wait to pick them. Cherries would add a little variety to the Thistle Orchard, but that part of the orchard has not much protection from the North Wind, so I’ll have to think about planting a shelterbelt this fall, and maybe plant the cherries in the fall of 2014. We’ll see.

The Home Acre is doing well–it’s got excellent drainage. There is a little standing water in the NorthWest Corner, but it’s not reaching where the plants are, since there is a slight incline there. We’ll likely dig a small drainage ditch through that area, with the target being the NorthEast Slough. That should neatly avoid future problems there. All in all, I’d say the water issue has taught me something I probably already intuitively knew. Track your intended sites for at least one full season, and mark off potential zones of extra wetness in Spring and again in Rainy Season (almost always mid to end June here). Then plan for either drainage ditches/tile, or avoid those areas altogether. We actually observed the Thistle Orchard area through 5 years, but given it was a hayfield it was difficult to assess exactly where the problem areas were going to be. I think only 200 plants partly submerged, with time to correct them? not so bad, considering. I’ll move them today.

I’ve got some holes in the leaves of some of the weaker plants in the Home Acre (mostly the little short ones with very tender shoots–the more robust ones don’t seem to be affected). I took a closer look with a magnifier, and can’t see anything actively crawling on them. There was a bit of a kerfuffle in the Haskap Canada site about the possibility of tent caterpillars in the Prince Albert area (100 km from here), but I’m not seeing any of those. Whatever it is, it’s tiny. Might be a type of aphid. I’ll take a sample plant in the house today, and see if I can find what’s causing it. If it’s just aphids, a little old-fashioned soap and water should do the trick, but I’ll have to wait until the rains stop.

It’s still cold (12C) all day, so I’ve spent the morning doing a little reading. Here is an interesting article written by Dr. Maxine Thompson, in 2003. Very interesting material in there!!

Dr. Maxine Thompson on Lonicera caerulea in The Encyclopedia of Fruit and Nuts, edited by Jules Janick and Robert Paull, 2003?

I also read more articles on different amendments people are using, and other interesting things that I’ve been wondering about.

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Bee Mean to Me…

Love this post on how plants respond to too much coddling. Might have something there!

Want to be a better gardener?

Be a little mean.

You’ve seen trees growing out of the side of cliffs. Or a ground cover inching itself across bare rock. Or plants causing asphalt to heave and crack.

In much-less-than-perfect conditions, nature finds a way.

That’s something to consider as we prepare to plant seedlings outdoors or think of imaginative things to do with plants.

That’s even something to think about if we just grow plants indoors. More houseplants are killed through kindness (i.e. overwatering or overfertilizing) than through neglect.

In fact, being a little mean to your plants–all of them–can have its rewards.

When you’re overly kind to your plants–in other words, giving them lots of heat, fertilizer and water as soon as they look a little dry–here’s what happens: their growth cells become fat and turgid, their leaves and stems stretch and loll around, they put on a lot of green and forget about flowering and fruiting.

But ignore them, let them dry out until they wilt, put them in a chilly spot at night and–YIKES–you really get their attention. Their cell walls thicken and stiffen, they “hunker down” and become stockier and they turn their attention to reproduction (producing flowers and fruit) because they don’t know how long they’ll survive.

To get my indoor seedlings even readier for the sometimes cruel outdoors, I even train a fan on them for a few hours a day. That causes their leaves to flutter around and sends the message that they’d better brace themselves for tougher times.

If you’re a little mean to your fruiting plants outdoors, you’ll be well rewarded. They’ll taste better. Fruit that has to struggle in lean soil in droughty conditions will have a more concentrated taste. Wine producers know that. That’s why when it rains in November in vineyards, growers do anti-rain dances and scream at the clouds to scram.

The same goes for herbs. Most herbs love to bake in gritty soil under a sweltering sun and will reward you with intense flavors and an aroma that will make your head spin..

A gardener with a “mean” streak often has a better garden!


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Haskap Days Coming Up July 19, 2013

From University of Saskatchewan Fruit Program

Haskap Days Agenda 2013
At the U of S Horticulture Research Farm

Friday July 19, 2013
Note: $25 charge, Bring own Lunch or contribute toward pizza order
Bring Boots in case of mud in fields. We have heavy clay soil that stays muddy in many areas for several days after rain.
Time Topic Speaker

10: 00
Introduction & Tour:
New plantings
Wild Canadian Plants
Russian Seedlings
Water damage
Breeding fields & Cultivars
Japanese Seedlings
Fruit tasting
Bob Bors
Head of Fruit Program
Lunch & Networking

Growers forum:
Weed control
General cultural practices
Open floor

See you there!

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Video from Planting Days – June 7/8, 2013

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Home Acre is the Place to Bee…

Home Acre is buzzing with activity and NEW.FLOWERS.ARE.ON.THE.PLANTS!!

Imagine my surprise when I went out a few days ago and found about 50 percent of the newly transplanted/less than a year old plugs were BLOOMING.

Everything is growing like crazy, responding more favourably to Nature’s rain than my watering efforts (as always), and the plants really seem to appreciate our efforts at maintaining a clean orchard. I’ve spent countless hours in the past 20 days weeding between the plants themselves, and we’ve also run the cultivators (simple chain-type) between the rows and around the edges every 10 days (so twice thus far). I certainly don’t need to water.

Here is a photo of the Tundra Benchmark plant–it’s nearly SIXTEEN INCHES TALL. That’s four inches of growth and it’s BLOOMING!


The rest of the plants in the Home Acre are doing very well. I’ve perhaps marked 20 or so as ‘not expected to survive’ but every day I go out there, yet another one of those has a little leaf or a bud, showing me that they don’t intend to give in as quickly as I did! I’m now only counting perhaps 10 that are still without leaves or buds, and I expect the final count will be closer to 5. I did have one death due to vole (the voles are digging in the North edge, next to the slough), but I am surprised there aren’t more!


Today, it’s raining buckets (3 inches or 7 cm  forecast over the next 4 days!), so I’m contenting myself with paperwork, book-keeping, and keeping Canada Revenue happy…I also picked a wheelbarrow full of rhubarb. I have five rhubarb plants, and I was able to freeze large freezer bags full, and make 10 cups of jelly. I love the colour of rhubarb jelly. I cannot wait to make my own Haskap jelly! In this batch of rhubarb jelly, I added a few sprigs of mint while it was steeping, and 1/4 cup of lemon juice, and a little sprinkle of nutmeg. I like to play with different things, and this batch is tasty. I cannot wait until it jells enough. Toasted homemade bread with rhubarb jelly is probably one of the most delightful foods. Fresh!



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Pollen Bee Nests and Wild Bees—Hear the Buzz!

I purchased several Native bee habitats (man-made) and read up quite a few articles on them. I’ll give a run-down of the information I found, but suffice it to say, it’s put my surroundings in a new light. Just this morning, I yelled ‘don’t walk there!! The bees are nesting in the ground there!!’ and Peter laughed. But they were!! I learned some new words. ‘Snags’ or fallen rotting trees. They are a favorite spot for wild bee nests. If you keep your ears open, you’ll hear wild bees humming around in the distance, along the slough sides, along the edges of the woods, in wood piles, and in grassy areas where the voles hang out. Look into wild flower plantings, and consider the benefits of maybe a shelterbelt of flowering shrubs, or between row plantings of flowering/nitrogen-fixing clover!

I purchased several of these pollen bees’ nests.



They are to be posted on trees and so forth around the orchard, and will provide homes for essential pollinators and make a tremendous difference to the orchard productivity! Of course, there is a lot of material near the Home Acre that allows for natural habitat for them, but the Thistle Orchard is located in an old hay field/pasture, and really only has the one tree line at hand, with a pond 1/4 mile to the South, and a natural slough several hundred yards to the East. We will install several of these along the tree line, and also look for ways to improve the natural habitat of the wild pollen bees. I do not have a lot of faith in honey bees provided by man as being early enough in the cold of the Spring. Even my daily wanderings in the strawberry patch in mid-May would suggest that the wild bees are far superior to honeybees at this task. I intend to plant both clover in between rows along with a selection of wildflowers at row ends, and flowering shrubs (most likely lilac and sea buckthorn) in the shelterbelts, to attract the wild bees and encourage them to nest nearby.


I’ve read several research articles on wild bees and find them very interesting, and certainly think this is the way to go with my orchard, given the coolness of the Spring when the man-made colonies fail. Here is an excerpt from one of them on enhancing habitat for wild bees:

A few methods for maintaining and enhancing wild pollinators have been suggested here. These have included: the maintenance of warm, sandy sites for andrenid and halictid bees as well as maintenance and construction of nesting sites for bumble bees and Osmia bees. A few more general considerations for the maintenance of native pollinators are: 

  • the encouragement of a diversity of flowering plants around … fields;
  • the maintenance of a diversity of field and forest types (meadows, woodland of various ages, forage and other flowering crops) around ..fields;
  • planting of flowers (esp clovers) for bees;
  • establishment or maintenance of windbreaks to encourage pollinator survival and activity;
  • maintenance of water and mud for sustenance and nest building;
  • the maintenance of smaller fields, so that bees do not experience feast or famine from one year to another;
  • a vigilant use of pesticides, especially during the pollination period.



I’m going to look into perhaps adding some wildflowers to the mix, although in my experience, clover has that ‘buzz’ when it’s in bloom. You can hear it for miles!! If I install beehives for ‘tame’ bees, I won’t rely on them to pollinate the Haskap. They will be an added feature, and their honey will more likely be clover honey than true ‘Haskap’ honey, since they’ll most likely not even fly in mid-May! I’m doubting the validity of ‘Haskap honey’ having very much Haskap in it at all in this zone (1b).


What’s in a definition?

Pollinator versus Pollenizer

If you want to sound as if you know what you are talking about, learn the difference! Curtis Braaten (Haskap Central Sales Ltd.) encouraged me last year to refer to a plant as a ‘pollenizer’ and the honeybee as the ‘pollinator’. I thought the concept (and the distinction) a bit ‘la-dee-da’ at first, until I did more reading.

Now, it annoys me to see even propagators of plants refer to their plants as ‘pollinators’!!

From Wikipedia:

Plants are sometimes mistakenly called pollinators. For example, …. nursery catalogs may say variety X should be planted as a pollinator for variety Y, when they actually should be referring to it as a pollenizer. Strictly, a plant can only be a pollinator when it is self-fertile and it physically pollinates itself without the aid of an external pollinator, as in the case of apomictic species like some rowans and hawthorns.

I don’t think it particularly matters if you spell ‘pollenizer’ as ‘pollinizer’ though. That’s just a local spelling difference, and we’ve also seen ‘polliniser’ in the UK readings.




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Planting Weekend in Review

Garth Sander, owner of Willow Ridge Orchard (being established this week!), came out to help on Sunday. He loved to drive our new tractor, and made the straightest rows of us all. I think his doggy, Max, has a built-in GPS…Thanks, Garth!! Your tireless dedication and your inspirational conversation (and endless questions hehe), really made a gloomy day a lot brighter!


IMG_1442 IMG_1441 IMG_1440 IMG_1439 IMG_1438 IMG_1437 IMG_1436 IMG_1435 IMG_1434 IMG_1433 IMG_1432

In total, the tractor was running 17 hours, meaning we were averaging around 550 plants an hour, in pouring rain and drizzle and 25-30 kph winds.


Relieved (and proud!) it’s over.

All in all, the weekend was well-organized, and we were very glad we did the trial acre 2 weeks ago. It was really helpful for deciding how to schedule things. The other suggestion I would have, if you can’t do that, is to go and watch someone else plant their orchard (and help them!) and take from it what you will. Garth Sander did that with us, and he’s planting today in Chitek Lake. We went to his place last night; he’s where we were Friday–stressing over details that he really can’t change at this point, and wondering if it will all get done. It does. Magically. Sort of like having a child….when it’s over, you tend to just look at your new baby in disbelief, and forget instantly all the hard work you did to get to that point.

Do your due diligence. I spent months (2 years, really), reading every single thing about Haskap I could get my hands on. That, and things like row management, mulching reviews, research on things like fertilizers, I read the organic manual cover to cover, I read others’ blogs and articles. Took copious notes and made some decisions and also decided to try some new things. The Mechanical Planter? Nice frill, but not really entirely necessary if you have enough bodies who can plant by hand! and know how to do so efficiently (call tree planting companies or re-forestation people!) Garth is having people plant by hand today, since the planter isn’t that efficient on the narrow berms he’s built. Don’t let the naysayers discourage you. Realize the plants MUST go in the ground, MUST have a water source, MUST be nurtured. The water source? Mother Nature is best. It rained all weekend, and in the next 3 days, we are supposed to get another couple of inches. I don’t have to worry about watering until well into July! And maybe never again, this year!

Be passionate about this Little Purple Berry. I am. Peter is. You have to be. If this is purely a ‘money-making’ venture, and purely being done with an eye to profit, you stand a greater chance of failure because your heart won’t be in it. Part of your heart should be in the soil. We’re intending to work hard, but also enjoy what we are doing. Nothing is as satisfying to me as growing things. It’s in my blood.  Spread the word about the Haskap. Be positive and upbeat in all your dealings, and be fair with people. Share your exuberance and excitement, but try not to overwhelm people with information unless they ask.

Take care of your land and soil, and surroundings, and it will give back 10-fold. Look into as much sustainable practice as you can fit in there. It’s a new ‘buzz’ word, yes, but it applies to all we are doing. Our belief is the soil is bountiful, but must be replenished in kind. Look around for local sources. For example, we have two rather ‘wild’ horses across the road (owned by an 81 year old man who rarely visits them). I can spend a lot of time over there, scooping up their manure, and aging it in my compost pile. I don’t think it’s necessary to ‘brew’ that compost; it will get heated as compost does, all by itself, and spread in furrows and worked into the ground next to the plants.  Nature will take care of the rest! We have lots of access to things like grass clippings, legume clippings, natural sand, straw, worms. Water is plentiful here–quite a few natural ponds and some dug sloughs and a well! Native bees? That’s research I’m doing now. I’ll post on it later.

If you take photos or use photos, give credit where credit is due. Don’t take a photo of a raspberry orchard (or a grape orchard) and use on a Haskap blog or flyer! If at all possible, use your own photos. I appreciate that we don’t all have access to Haskap products and even ripe berries, but using others photos without crediting is wrong. Be honest in your dealings with people, and fair in your business practices.

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Lunch at the Has-Kafe!

Terrible start to the morning; started raining about 10 p.m. last night, and slow drizzle and some rain until 7 a.m. which would irretrievably clog the furrow maker. Much discussion ensued, and we decided to wait a couple of hours.

At 8 a.m., we decided to make a pass and see how it would actually go. So with Peter at the helm, Alec running boxes, and Margie and Collin on the planter, we managed to plant one full row of 170 plants, with 3 stops (every 50 plants) to take the accumulated mud off the furrow maker plow, which somewhat delayed production although we were able to proceed at a tidy 510 plants per hour–well on target!!

After several rows, we decided that the field was somewhat drier in the middle and it would be prudent to maybe try a full row before de-clogging, and that seemed to work.

As of noon, we have 2040 plants in the ground!! The target was actually 3000, but we were delayed by two hours.

It’s drizzly and miserable, but we are made of stronger stuff, with everyone in raincoats and rubber boots, we were fairly warm and comfy and not complaining.

Now, to make an assessment. Packing boxes full of the plants after trimming the tops, and making sure they were separated for ease of access, and then loading several boxes in the front end loader, with one ‘runner’ filling the trays? That worked very well. That same runner would also walk behind the planter and assure all plants were firmly in the ground, and there was a plant every 30-32″. Every couple of rows, we’d switch off duties, so each person would get a turn on the planter, and acting as runner or plant provider/unpacker, in turn. We finally were able to achieve a full row of 170 plants in about 12 to 13 minutes–with an ultimate goal of 10 minutes, or 6 rows/1020 plants an hour. Probably a little optimistic given the weather, but doable if it were warmer and drier out and there wasn’t so much clumping dirt everywhere. Pre-marking the rows last night was a worthwhile activity.

More later. Lunch is over. Hotdogs and cherry cheesecake (which Margie made) and lasagna in the oven for supper. Lots of hot coffee and drinks, and we’re ready to re-convene.

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