Friday, December 10, 2010

Do You Have Fruit?

Spending days and evenings indoors as of late I've had some time to think.  About gardening, what else!

I've been planning and scheming what my garden will look like next year, what projects I will take on, what are the priorities and where oh where to begin.  Throughout all this it's crossed my mind that we sure do spend a lot of money on fruit in this house.  This past summer I was paying $4 for a pint of local blueberries. While I'm happy to buy these berries locally it also tells me that I should be able to grow them myself.  I've got space, and acidic soil so why not plant some bushes?  Most blueberry plants that are available are the highbush sort which average about 4 feet high.  Some sources state more than one type is necessary for cross pollination so I would need to make room for a number of shrubs.  And of course you need enough space around the shrubs to allow for picking too.  I'm still trying to work out where I might plant these bushes and I've got a lot of other projects going on next summer so I think the blueberries will need to wait a year or two before I'm ready to commit to this.  But if you grow blueberries, any thoughts you might have on this would be appreciated.

Another fruit I'm thinking about is strawberries.

I think this indicates strawberries grow well here!
 In June and July we buy pint after pint after pint of local fresh strawberries.  Again, if they grow so well here why aren't they in my garden?  This is one project I'm determined to take on next spring when I expand my vegetable plot.  Fruiting plants generally take a few years to start producing so I would like to start some of these projects sooner than later.  I've done a bit of researching on what varieties are available and their qualities and I think I'm going to purchase Veestar which is a June bearing strawberry that does well in our eastern climate.  I'm specifically buying a June bearing strawberry as I took a class some time back with a horticulturist specializing in fruit.  Of course I can't find my notes on this anymore but as I recall he stated that everbearing strawberries were a bit like purchasing a variegated plant. Essentially a plant always wants to revert back to its natural state.  So often with variegated plants you will find new leaves and branches returning to their plain green form.  Everbearing strawberries are the same in that they will always want to revert back to being June bearing.  So you might as well just get June bearing to start with.  My only issue at this point is that the suppliers I've identified only sell strawberry plants in what I consider to be large quantities.  25 plants minimum.  Considering they need to be planted a foot apart I could only fit 4 plants in one of my raised beds which measures 4 feet by 4 feet.  At that rate I'll need over 6 boxes for all those plants!  I might need to find someone to share these plants with.

The third fruit we are considering are pears.  We made a really delightful salad the other day that included pear and hubby proclaimed, we need a pear tree, I love pears!  I couldn't agree more.  I know we have an overabundance of apple trees, but the truth is, apples are not my favourite fruit.  I cannot eat fresh apples by the dozen but pears are a different story.

I need a break from all these apples!
I've done some very preliminary research and it seems pears are finicky trees though. They bloom early, earlier than apples, and are therefore subject to frost.  They also require cross pollination so 2+ trees are required.  They can cross pollinate with apples but again, they tend to bloom before apples so you're better off with two pear trees.  There are a number of U-Picks listed throughout the maritimes that have pears so I'm sure they grow here but I have a lot to learn.  Is there anyone out there growing pears that has a favourite variety or tips on where best to grow them?  Avoiding frost pockets sounds like good advice considering they are susceptible to late frosts but are there any other tips I should know of?  Also, does anyone know of a Canadian supplier of fruit trees that will ship?

How about you dear readers, will you be planting fruit in your garden next season?


  1. Marguerite, I grow blueberries that are "half high" (Northblue) and I have four plants. They get about 3 feet high, and they are self fertile, so I didn't plant any other variety. Fruit is awesome -- prolific but a little tart. What I really love is the flaming red fall color in this low shrub. Very nice red (but they had septoria black spot the last two summers and lost leaves in early fall cutting the season of color short.) I also grow strawberries 'Mara des Bois' --- didn't know about the reversion to June bearing! Mine bore into fall this year, and boy are they sweet. I don't get many, though (8 plants, crowded into a container... I need to rethink this arrangement!) Good luck with your research and planning... what a sweet diversion for wintertime.

  2. I've been doing some garden planning myself for next year. In the spring we are planning on building a new raised bed in an L shape near the existing two 4x8 beds. The plan is to create a Fruit garden. I'll be looking for a grafted apple tree to espalier. I'll be adding a couple blueberry bushes and strawberry of course. Also planning on getting June Berries (also a factoid I learned from a nursery class. I'm really looking forward to spring!

  3. My son grows blueberries on his property, though they are a different sort, with heat-tolerance, than what you grow up there. It is a wonderful thing to get that spring harvest! So exciting for me, even though it isn't my property. We live in prime strawberry land here where I live. There are many large strawberry growers in the area. However, our harvest time is March, and the risk of frost in winter scares me from growing them. Local news stations are always interviewing the strawberry farmers when inclement weather is headed our way. Actually, these farmers have become seasoned pros at fighting Jack Frost.

    We love, love, love apples here. Most of us in this family have never seen a tree loaded with apples ever in our life! (Husband is from Michigan, so of course, he has.) Consider yourself lucky!

  4. I have a ton of raspberry bushes on my property but plan to add blueberry bushes and my all-time favourite - elderberry bushes. But I'm not sure yet what kind of soil I have so will have to get that sorted first. Strawberries I love but don't like the bending over part:)

  5. Laurrie - how true, blueberries are more than just for fruit, the shrubs are quite lovely. Everbearing strawberries are tempting (right into the fall you say?) but I also know how busy I am with other plants in fall so it would also be nice to have plants that produce fruit when other plants are just starting to grow.

    Laura - I think I might have mentioned this before but check out Derry's Orchard in Langley for grafted apples. She also sells mason bee kits which will pollinate all that fruit you'll be planting!

    Floridagirl - One of the things I like about planting other fruit is having an earlier harvest. We found ourselves overwhelmed in fall, it would be nice to have fruit in spring. I do love our apples but I think I'm feeling a bit tired out after months of nothing but apples :))

    Jane - I just looked up elder berries and Macphail Nursery has them. It's a nice looking shrub but looks like you'll have to compete with the blue jays for the berries as it's a favourite for them! That will be my next hurdle, how to protect fruit from all the animals.

  6. Sadly, I have never had the sunny space for fruit, but if I did, I would grow strawberries. I have a few currant bushes with limited room for anything else (in the sun).
    Are you sure about the foot apart rule? My mother had strawberries in her small garden and I am sure they were more crowded than that. She also grew raspberries in a small plot.
    I am no expert but 25 plants does not sound like too many plants to start. Who knows, a few might die. You could always freeze the surplus berries.
    Winter is a great time for planning. Some people go to Florida. Me, I dig out the gardening books!

  7. Marguerite your over production of apples reminded me of Diane Keaton in Baby Boom ;o) could you perhaps exchange some with other gardeners for crops they might have an abundance of,
    there were some blackcurrant bushes in my garden which I have taken cuttings from and am gradually increasing the number, I share them with the birds but this year the wind took them when they were still green,
    I've heard that blueberries would do well in my acidic soil and have thought of trying them so am very interested in your post and the comments, I wonder though how do they cope with coastal (salty) winds,
    thanks for this post Frances

  8. Jennifer - I had considered as well that some strawberry plants might die so more is better but even so I don't think I'll kill that many! Seems everything I've read gives slightly different figures but a general amount of 12 inches apart appears to be what's recommended. After having crowded plants this past summer with poor results I'm inclined to give them as much room as they please. Nothing will tell like experience so I guess I'll go ahead and see what happens.

    Island Threads - I know exactly what you're talking about! Bottles upon bottles of apple sauce. I have finally hit the point of not wanting to see another apple. Hopefully in years to come our apples will be a little healthier and I'll feel better about giving them away. This year there was lots of fungal/insect issues and I didn't feel great about passing them on. Most of the blueberry production on our island seems to be inland so I'm not sure how blueberries will do with salt spray. We're much closer to the ocean so it's something I'll find out when we do plant some shrubs.

  9. I wish I could help your fruit dilemma. At the farm, they grow all kinds of fruit like you mentioned, but all the plants have oodles of space and sunlight. All the berries grow in thickets sort of , but there are so many of them, picking is not a problem. I guess they should be trimmed back somewhat, but they produce so well. They have extremely well drained soil and it is very acidic because of all the evergreen trees and needle mulch. They spray the fruit trees too.