Dare to Bee Different

Haskap orchards have not really been around all that long in Saskatchewan. Trial plots were set up in the 1997-2007 years in conjunction with University of Saskatchewan researcher, Dr. Bob Bors. Experimental work focused on cultivars and the merits of the different ones created in the trial plots at the university, and by propagators/growers who were interested in the research and development of this new berry. Focus was not on things like mulches, row covers, inter-row plantings, soil amendments, and things of that nature. First orchards were using plastic and fabric mulch with varying success. It quickly became evident that insect pests were not really going to be an issue. I find that true in my own 4 plants that I’ve had growing for 2 years. I never see anything chewing on them. The Berry Blue (TM) ones seem to show that characteristic sunburn look near the end of the summer, but the leaves fall off, and they come back with renewed vigour in the spring, presumably unaffected by that dark leaf. If it’s fungus, it certainly does not hang around and re-infect in the spring!

One focus for me this year is researching merits of different plant spacing. The Home Acre has 30″ spacing between the 900+ plants there, with 11′ spacing from row to row. There are 14 rows, and each has between 48 and 65 plants; some rows are shorter because of the rock pile and the mountain of dirt from the old slough in the NorthEast Corner. We still haven’t decided what the spacing will be in the Thistle Orchard. Every morning we wake up, and say ‘okay, it will be this, or that’ varying from 30″ to 48″”!! I suspect we’ll go with 32″ to 36″. Looking at the 4 plants I have established in 2011, and seeing how they are pretty much completely filling a 3 foot radius as they go through their third year, I cannot see 30″ as being that reasonable, but of course, no one has done that yet, so I’m ‘daring to Bee different’ and trying it out. Mathematically speaking, I can then plant the remaining 9000 plants on about 7 acres, with 11′ row spacing, and 32″ plant spacing. I have plenty of extra land (the Thistle Orchard plot actually measures about 22 acres of cleared, accessible land), so there is lots of room for turning zones, access routes, fencing lines, and so forth. The 11′ row spacing will allow the mechanical harvester to fit neatly in the rows and leave plenty of room for the tractor as well. Originally, we were looking at 14′-16′ row spacing, but BEI International assured us that we would not need that much room, particularly for the model we are considering (pull behind BEI Model 500). They advised 11′, with the knowledge that the plants will ultimately spread sideways and cover 2.5 feet or so on each side of their centre line (assuming an end diameter of no more than 5 feet). That leaves 6 feet clear in the middle, which easily seems achievable.


The Model 1500 is a self propelled over the row harvester. It allows a shorter row center to row center.

The Model 500 is a tow behind over the row harvester that requires a tractor to pull it. The width of your tractor is a bigger factor than the width of the Model 500. The Model 500 is typically used in 10 foot row centers and requires about 25 feet at the end of each row for turning.

If you are planting a large number of acres 10 foot row center and 30 feet at each end of the row is proper for mechanical harvesting.

Max Lint
BEI International, LLC
01-269-637-8541 Ext. 105
01-269-637-4233 Fax
01-616-204-8274 Cell

11 foot row spacing or 18 rows per acre (give or take, since I’m putting a shelterbelt midway through the orchard, and leaving 2 rows open for that)
Plant spacing 32″ There are ~2500 available inches in 209′ so 2500/32 is ~78 plants per acre/row 78 x 18 is ~1400 per acre.

I have 9000 plants to plant, so 9000/1400 is ~6.5 acres. If I leave the shelterbelt area open, I’ll need just about 7 acres ready up there, and there is far more than that available. I have a rough plot plan, and it works out to a bit of a trapezoid, with 450 foot rows at the West end and 750 foot rows at the East end. The North end is straight along the tree line, and the South end will be angled from the long edge of the 750′ to the short end of 450′. We roughly marked that out a few weeks ago, and finely cultivated that several times, with a final pass proposed along with edge marking on Thursday. The plants will be picked up on Thursday and Friday morning, and the crew comes Friday to help! Main planting will be on Saturday, with two additional people (should be 7 or 8 altogether), so we hope for 500 plants an hour–keeping the pace with runners providing plants for the trays as they empty, rotation of workers through different stations (unpackers, loaders, runners, water fillers, gas fillers, tractor drivers, quad/trailer drivers) and the tractor hopefully moving almost all the time. So exciting!

Another focus is going to be on what to put between the rows. I have bags of Dwarf White Dutch Clover seed I had planned to use, but we have decided to veer into sustainable practice, and apply for organic certification in 2 years. Whether that seed will qualify is unknown to me at this time, but I doubt it. Another possibility is planting some certified organic legumes, and mowing them down before they flower, incorporating the trimmings into the soil. Excellent for fixing nitrogen and good green manure. I do not think anyone has done that yet, although the practice is common enough in crop rotation circles. For now, we are trying to access some organic flax straw to use as mulch. That might be more difficult than I think it is, but we’ll see. Until we make a final decision on that, we’ll lightly cultivate for weeds with the chains/tractor for between the rows, and handweed/hoe around the plants themselves. I actually have been walking the rows every day with my trusty scuttle hoe, and just keeping it maintained that way. Of course, 8 acres is a lot more than one acre….but I can walk the Home Acre in about 2 hours and just flick the hoe out at any newly emerging weeds as I walk, and that’s working for me! Prior to planting the orchard, I was walking at least 2 hours a day anyway, keeping our dog fit (that was my excuse, but I love to walk so Deke provided me with the reason to get up early and go out there).

Our Dog, Deke, 3 year old chocolate lab

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