Tuesday, February 16, 2016

End of Season Review - Fruits & Berries


This past season, the garden was a flurry of activity when it came to fruit.  Not only did we have the most bountiful harvest since the trees were planted, but we also made several new additions to the garden.  These included 3 apple trees, 1 nectarine tree, 2 blueberry bushes, 2 haskap (aka honeyberry) bushes, 1 row of red raspberry canes, 1 row of yellow raspberry canes and 2 rows of blackberry canes.  We were even able to harvest a few small raspberries before the first frost.

Raspberries

This post will focus primarily on the crops that provided us with fruit this past year.  I'll be doing an overview of all the new plantings in the spring, when things start to wake up.

The plum & cherry tree are relatively new, both being planted in the summer of 2010.  We had a very small plum & cherry harvest in 2013 but in 2014 we ended up with zero fruit.  Best guess is that we had a killing frost at some point in the early spring.

This past year we harvested approximately 1 kg (2.2 lbs) of cherries – this is an estimate as in the excitement of it all, I completely forgot to put them on the scale.

A few had some cracking, but otherwise perfect

The plums, however, were weighed.  And what a harvest it was!




By way of comparison, the last time we harvested plums back in 2013, they weighed in at 726 grams (1.6 lbs) total, with Shiro comprising over 1/2 of the harvest.

Shiro Plums

The harvest in 2013 was actually a bit higher than the numbers indicate, but we had a big issue with the plum curculio, so a good portion of the plums – perhaps half – were disposed of.  And that was the other big surprise this year – no plum curculio damage whatsoever!  Unfortunately, the Japanese beetles somewhat made up for it as they chowed down on many of the almost ripe plums.

The plums on the right sustained too much Japanese Beetle damage to eat;
the small one in front of the basket is a French Prune,
my favourite for eating out-of-hand

Thankfully, there were so many plums that we still had plenty to eat as well as turn into an incredibly delicious jelly (the BEST jelly ever!) and plum sorbet.

Plum jelly packed in 125 ml jars

There are 5 varieties grafted onto the plum tree but only three of them bore fruit - Burbank, Shiro and French Prune.

Burbank Plums

In terms of taste, Burbank was good but Shiro was a bit bland.  Almost all of those went into making the jelly & sorbet, together with a good portion of the Burbanks.  My favourite for fresh eating, by far, was the French Prune - the few that we harvested barely made it back to the kitchen.

French Prune plums
 
And last, but certainly not least, were the strawberries.

Bowl of strawberries in early July

They did very well this year – up from last year’s total of 2.6 kg (5.8 lbs).  Not too shabby at all!














Most were eaten fresh, but I did place a few packets in the freezer.  Although not as good as fresh, they are still far superior to the tasteless ones at the market which are not worth bothering with at all.  Boy, the aroma when I open a packet…just heavenly!


Overall Impressions & Plan for Next Year

I'm calling this past year quite the fruity success, both in terms of harvesting and setting the stage for future harvests.

The strawberry bed will be in it's 3rd year of fruiting this summer, so I should really be starting a new one.  But, in the interest of slowing down this year, I have decided to wait until 2017.

One task that I will not be delaying is installing hardware cloth around all of the tree trunks.  We have not had much rabbit damage on the trees up until now, but all it takes is one hungry bunny.  The new plantings do have those white, plastic guards around the trunks, but they are unlikely to be as effective as metal mesh.

I’m not really sure what to expect from the berry canes in terms of growth habit but suspect that I may have to erect some type of support for them so that they don’t go sprawling all over the place.  And I’m hopeful that I’ll be harvesting more than a few berries from them next season.

When it comes to all of the new plantings, my main concern is, of course, that they make it through their first winter ok.  We have had a relatively mild winter season so far, although we did have some extremely cold temps this past weekend.  But it’s more the up and down temperatures that have me worried – those can wreak havoc on new and old plantings alike.  Won't be too much longer until I find out if everything pulled through - and my fingers will be crossed until then.

“Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things” ~~ Robert Brault

22 comments:

  1. As I've said before, what a weird world! I've gotten no deciduous fruit or berries for a couple of years now because it is too HOT, not too cold! There hasn't been enough chill hours to break dormancy on my pluots and some apples. And even to hot or too dry for good citrus except my lovely lemon tree. I am so jealous of your berries. What's a haskap aka honeyberry? Never heard of it. What does it taste like?

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    1. A haskap looks like an elongated blueberry and apparently tastes like a cross between raspberries and blueberries, but opinions differ on that. I say "apparently" because I've never seen them in the grocery store or market so I've never actually tasted one. They are also considered a super superfood, having more antioxidants than even blueberries - here's a link about them -
      https://haskapa.com/about-haskap/health-benefits/
      I think growing them, however, is a bit trickier than a lot of these websites have you believe - many people seem to have a hard time getting them to grow and produce.

      I've heard how the warmer weather on the west coast is wreaking havoc on fruits that rely on a certain number of chill hours. Since consistency seems to be lacking in the weather, I'm thinking this means that you are due a nice bit of cold soon...and hopefully a bumper harvest as a result!

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  2. Oh, fruit! Yummy! This makes me long for summer berries. We have a few Mulberries here at the house, but many more, along with Black-Cap Raspberries and Blackberries up at the cottage. I hope all your new plants will make it through the rest of winter just fine. :)

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    1. Thanks Beth - We have a mulberry in our front border, but I've always thought of them as ornamental and haven't ventured a taste yet. But this summer, I'll make sure to give it a go.

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  3. You have a really nice assortment of fruit trees and berries. It is a continually guessing game whether the fruit will be successful or not but sure is nice when it is! Nancy

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    1. So true, Nancy - I'm sure this has always been the case to some degree, but nowadays even moreso.

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  4. Looks like you've set yourself up for a nicely varied harvest of different fruits.
    I'm with you on the widely varying temps. I lost ALL my peach trees two years ago, and my plum tree last year due to early warm-ups, followed by intense freezes. My dear-we live in interesting times, and sometimes I wish they weren't so darn interesting.

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    1. Oy - nothing quite as devastating as losing trees that you have nurtured for years. And then having to start over and do that 3 or 4 (or 5!) year wait once again. Yeah, as I get older things being interesting, definitely becomes LESS interesting ;)

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  5. Strawberries are one thing I will sorely miss from the allotment so I'm going to have to see if I can find room in the garden for a strawberry bed, if not then I'll have to grow them in containers.

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    1. I do hope you can squeeze them into your garden - strawberries are pretty much near the top of the list of fruits that are infinitely better from the garden than from the market.

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  6. Looks like you're all set for a great fruit harvest this year pending no surprises from Mother Nature. Can't wait to see how it all works out.

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    1. These days, Mother Nature seems to be nothing BUT surprises! We can only hope that there are more good ones than bad :)

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  7. I love the idea of the different varieties grafted onto one tree. I must look into that. My plum tree experiment failed miserably but mainly just a bad location. You certainly had a terrific harvest!

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    1. The 5-in-1 plum is a great idea, but it does have it's glitches, such as weaker grafts dying off (which is happening to one of mine) and more aggressive varieties taking over the others. The benefit, of course, is that you get a variety of fruit from one tree, which not only saves on space, but is a big plus when you would prefer to have smaller quantities of different varieties.

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  8. Your harvest looks very healthy. Do you grow them organically? We took down our plum trees this year and are starting over. They were diseased and frankly not pruned properly. I took a class this winter on pruning and feel much more confident now about growing fruit trees. I wish we could grow our own cherries but alas it is not the right conditions here.

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    1. Yup, everything is grown organically. My main line of defense is netting, picking up any dropped fruits & removing Japanese Beetles by hand - which I didn't do a good job of this year. I do have some concerns about my plum tree as well - I found some black knot on one of the branches this past summer, which I pruned off. I'm hoping that it doesn't spread to the rest of the tree. I took a class on pruning a while back as well - even so, I'm always hesitant when I cut off those branches. It think it will be a while yet before I can prune with confidence.

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  9. Our plums tend to produce a bumper crop every other year. We didn't have any maggotty ones this year either which I pit down to late fruiting and flowering. A couple of days ago all the plot fruit trees were given a winter wash which also helps.

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    1. I've heard of that happening with different fruits - I would much rather have a moderate supply each year, but I suppose I'll have to take what I can get!

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  10. I have not had much success with fruit trees, but have done better with container-grown soft fruit, especially Blueberries. My favourite fruit is definitely the Raspberry though.

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    1. Having never grown raspberries before, I'm quite looking forward to seeing them grow and leaf out this spring. I'll probably have to purchase some netting as well - I have a feeling I won't be the only one interested in them.

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  11. What a great year for you! I'm hoping our raspberries are ready for their trellises this year. My plan is kind of a wire framework around the row. This is what my parents had in their garden and it worked very well.

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    1. Thanks Julia - after waiting for so long, it feels great to finally have made this much progress. A wire framework sounds great. Our berry canes run down the slope of a little hill, which may make things a bit complicated, so I'm still mulling over the alternatives.

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