Tuesday, February 19, 2013


Around this time two years ago I placed an order for several fruit trees with the Green Barn Nursery in Notre-Dame-de-l'Île-Perrot, Que. after hearing owner Ken Taylor speak at EcoFarm Day 2011.

I situated the orchard near the beehives to encourage cross-pollination. Unfortunately, before the bees could work their magic, a pack of marauding (or perhaps just hungry) deer chewed back all the new foliage on the young trees.

Last spring I installed what I lovingly call my redneck deer fencing, made cheaply with t-bars, chicken wire, baling twine and old CDs. Ugly but effective it keeps the deer away, and out of 10 trees planted and then mauled, nine recovered (one of the heartnuts is still under observation) and the mulberries even produced a wee harvest of juicy red fruits.

But the trees will take several years to yield any sizable harvest, and while the orchard is an important step towards self sufficiency, I want to diversify (and increase) fruit production on the farm. So this year I'm planting berries (and a few grapevines).

As the focus of the Green Barn Nursery is on cold hardy and disease-resistant plants and trees (you can source peaches, paw paws, kiwis and seedless grapes from these folks!) and they've done much of their extensive field testing in the same planting zone as the farm (zone 5a) I'm fairly confident that the cold weather won't kill off these plants. (However, I can't speak for the groundhog/deer/rose chafers that have been plaguing me for the last few years!)

It's been hard (really hard) to narrow down my choices because there are so many possibilities (currants and haskaps and seaberries, oh my!), but I'm trying to keep my workload manageable while getting a good cross-section of species established. I'm also trying to balance the initial upfront cost of the plantings against the eventual savings at the grocery store, both in dollars and food miles.

So in no particular order, here's this year's fruit order (with comments about the variety from the nursery):
Polar green seedless grape (2): "Our best and sweetest green table grape for northern climates. Mid-season".
Redliance seedless grape (2): "A mid-season variety that produces large pink seedless grapes that have excellent flavour. Good for eating fresh for for making juice or jellies Stores well."

Purple raspberries (Royalty, 25): "Late season purple raspberry with very large and firm fruit. Non-suckering."

Elderberry (2): "These disease and pest resistant plants are easy to grow. They tolerate wet areas and will form a berry thicket. In the spring an elderberry's magnificent flowers are edible. Its berries have a very high vitamin C content and are great to eat or make into wine, jams or pies."

Strawberries (Clés des Champs, 25): "A mid-season hardy variety that produces a good sized berry that is very firm and keeps very well. These shiny red berries have a very delightful taste and are a favourite for small market production."

Goji berries (4, for my dad): "Native to Tibet, this ‘superfood’ can grow in almost any soil type even depleted soils as long as it is well drained. The oblong bright orange-red fruit is most commonly dried, tasting like tart raisins but they can also be eaten raw or cooked."

While I'm excited to harvest the fruits from these plantings, taste isn't my only motive. Sure, I'm reducing our reliance on bought sources of food, especially berries, which can be cost prohibitive (though we love our local berry farm where the kids and I go to get strawberries for our annual jam making), but I'm also making an investment in this farm and my place in it.

While annuals, such as vegetables, grow and die in one season, it's going to take a lot of work for me to get these properly established this year (especially if faced with similar drought conditions as last), and I won't get to reap the benefits of this work for a full 12 months. It takes a certain faith to put the work in now for an uncertain reward in the future. Over the past year, since recognizing my tendency to get in over my head, I've taken to living within my safe little box, doing things only when I know they'll work out. But it can be horribly claustrophobic in there. And I think fresh berries are a good reason to climb out of my box, don't you?

All images courtesy of Green Barn Nursery (http://www.greenbarnnursery.ca/)


David said...

Fiona, I too am expanding my garden. I haven't quite got to the berries just yet. My critters will be a force to reckon with as well. I too have a groundhog that I have named Nebraska Phil after the famous groundhog in Pennsylvania that comes out of his den to decide if winter is over. Nebraska Phil was undecided as the morning of Groundhog day was overcast and the afternoon was bright sunshine. So the rule is if the groundhog sees his shadow there will be six more weeks of winter and if he doesn't winter is over. So Nebraska Phil's decision was either it's over or it isn't. That's really just like Nebraksa weather. It just can't be figured out.

Have a great time planning your garden.

P.S. Nice to see you blogging again.

fiona@fionacampbell.ca said...

Hey Dave, Great to hear from you! Yes, the critters are tricky indeed -- last year I had skunks in the beehives, groundhogs in the garden, woodpeckers in the mountain ash, and rose chafers in, well... everything! And I don't think it's just Nebraska weather anymore -- I don't think weather anywhere can be figured out!
P.S. It's nice to be back, though I sure am rusty!!

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