A Fruity Look at 2017

The Berries

High on the priority list over the next couple of weeks is cleaning up the raspberry and blackberry runs.  I mulched last year but the grass & weeds just keep taking over as I’ve never had enough time to edge...you would think I'd know better by now.  The raspberries are doing well regardless, but the blackberries have taken a beating - I'm sure our hot, dry weather last summer didn't help matters.

The blackberry canes are so small that if it weren't for the flags,
we wouldn't know where the runs are.

Amongst the grass and weeds, there are signs of life from some blackberry canes

Raspberries - doing ok even with the grass encroachment.

I’ve lost quite a few blackberry canes and those that are left are struggling.  I’ve already ordered another round of drip irrigation and plan on adding the berry runs to the drip system once they are weeded, mulched and edged.

The old strawberry bed was ripped out last year, so I needed to order some new plants.  I placed the order in early spring and they arrived the first week of May.  This year, I decided to try a completely new variety – St. Laurent.  This particular strawberry variety is June bearing and, according the suppliers website, produces strawberries that are very large with good flavour.  The plants are also supposed to have excellent productivity.

Bare-root strawberry plant

The plants were transplanted a couple of days after I received them.
The strawberry bed, shortly after transplanting

It will be difficult to pick off all the flowers this season, but I want this bed to last a good long time so that is what I will have to do.  On the plus side, no need to deal with netting it this year :)

The last two fruits in the berry lineup are the blueberries and haskaps.  The blueberry bushes are struggling - a lot - with barely any growth.

Our soil is alkaline so I prepared a special bed for them filled solely with compost and peat moss.  In addition, I gave them a dose of elemental sulphur this spring.  We’ll see if they pick up but if I don't see some improvement this year, I will likely resign myself to the fact that we just don’t have the proper conditions here and pull them out.

The haskaps, on the other hand, are doing well and one of them even flowered this spring.

Unfortunately, the other variety didn't so it's unlikely we'll get any berries.

The Fruit Trees

The figs (and many of my transplants - ugh!) have gotten off to a rough start this year due to a couple of very windy days.  The figs are recovering from the battering and now that the danger of frost has passed, I will be placing them in their summer home on the hilltop.

The nectarine tree bloomed profusely for the first time this spring.  We did have a couple of late frosts, but the tree is small enough that I was able to cover it up with a double layer of Agribon, which I spoke about in a previous post.  I thought this had saved the blossoms as they seemed ok when I uncovered the tree, but when I examined the tree just this morning, it doesn't look like any fruit has set.  Oh well, there's always next year.

The cherry & plum (Shiro and Burbank varieties) were also in bloom when frost hit, but they were too large to cover.  I had assumed that this would mean no harvest this year, but it appears that quite a few cherries and plums have set.  All of these trees are in different areas, so perhaps their micro-climates made a difference.  Another possible explanation would be that the cherry/plum blossoms are simply be more resilient than the nectarines.

Sometimes, however, it’s not about the frosts.  The French Prune and "Mystery Plum" were in full flower last week (unfortunately I missed the photo op) and have not been affected by frost.  In prior years, I have only harvested a handful of plums from the French Prune and not one plum has every been harvested from the mystery variety, which is smack-dab in the centre of the tree.

One possible explanation is that I have never thinned the Shiro and Burbank plums, which set their fruit earlier.  By the time it was the later varieties turn, the tree ended up dropping the majority of fruit.

Five-In-One Plum Tree

Another explanation may have to do with pollination.  I've already spoken about the fact that I'm not 100% certain if the middle section of this tree is another plum variety (i.e. Mystery Plum) or if it's part of the French Prune graft.  If it's all French Prune, that would explain the minimal yield as plums need pollination partners.

Just a side note if you are considering purchasing a three-, four- or five-in-one tree, sometimes, the varieties grafted onto the tree bloom at different times, which makes the tree look a bit odd when in flower.  In my case, half the tree blooms in late April while the other half blooms about 2 weeks later.

Last but not least is the potential for the first apple this year - or apples, if we are lucky :)

I planted 3 semi-dwarf apple trees in the spring of 2015 and 2 of them are currently in bloom.

Granny Smith
In terms of blooming, the Granny Smith is precocious and even bloomed in the year of planting.  Of course, all those little apples were picked off so that it's energy would go into developing a strong root system.  This is the first year of blooming for the Haralson, which is definitely a thrill - the timing is right on the money when it comes to these two trees pollinating each other.

The Honeycrisp has not developed as quickly as the other two, which is expected as it's described as a low-vigour tree.


It doesn't look like this one will be blooming this year which is ok since it still needs to concentrate on putting on some more growth.  Honeycrisp is supposed to bloom a bit later but still overlap the blooming period of the other two trees.  If I find that this is not the case, I may have to plant an additional variety.

When it comes to the fruit trees, every year it’s a waiting game.  First we wait to see if any fruit will set. Then we wait again to see if that fruit actually reaches maturity without being snatched, infected or infested.  Nature’s desserts are never a sure thing.


  1. Hi, Margaret! I'm wondering what variety of blackberries you have?

    They do very well out here in the West with our hot, dry summers and alkaline, clay soil. You've no doubt heard of Knott's Berry Farm? Mr. Knott developed some excellent berries for our location. My favorite is Olallie. I don't do anything for them (no irrigation, no fertilizer, a bit of pruning to remove the ugly primocanes in fall). They come back every spring. Then the mockingbirds get to them before I do.

    1. I think I need to say that the blackberries are ripe now and They can become weeds very quickly if given enough water. In the forest they grow next to streams in the shade of large deciduous trees. I wonder if you can find a variety especially adapted to your climate (cold winters, hot summers)? (I bet you already have!)

    2. Yum - ripe blackberries! I've not heard of Olallie but with it's minimal care, they sure sound like the perfect fruit. Well, except for the mockingbird bit - maybe netting is in order so that you can enjoy some too!

      The variety I'm growing is called "Black Satin" which is supposed to suit our area and be thornless - not sure about the thornless bit as the canes I planted definitely had thorns so wasn't very impressed by that. Even in Ontario blackberries are supposed to have a tendency to spread - I think my problems have more to do with lack of care than the variety...bad me!! I planted the canes in 2015 and they didn't have a chance to get established before they were hit by weed/grass competition and drought.

      I remember when I first planted them, I was paranoid about how close I got to one of the veg bed areas - well, guess I didn't have to worry about THAT! I'm hoping that once I clean them up and add some drip irrigation, things will pick up. At the very least, I would like to get some good growth this year - maybe even an actual blackberry!

  2. I've always found that fruit growing is very hit and miss, even more so than veg growing. Fruit seems to be a law unto itself and will produce fruit if it feels like doing so. My little plum tree had leaf curl last year and it didn't produce one single blossom this year so I'll be without fruit a second year there, whereas both my little apple trees are laden with tiny fruit, fingers crossed that they don't all drop off and that some survive. I grow my three small blueberry bushes in containers, they did really well last year but it looks as though only one will produce a decent harvest this year, the flowers on the other two are sparse. The thing I do miss from my allotment are strawberries, you look to have a good size bed planted up there so you should be picking plenty for your needs when they do start producing.

    1. That is so true, Jo - while there is the odd vegetable that is challenging, it seems as if every fruit is susceptible to a myriad of issues. And since most take several years to get established, it's especially disheartening when you don't get any fruit after all that waiting/anticipation.

      On the bright side, I've had good luck with strawberries so far and the raspberry plants don't seem to be diseased so that's a blessing.

      How exciting - the possibility of apples! My trees are still in flower but it won't be long before I find out whether any fruit has set. Perhaps we will both be lucky and enjoy some delicious, freshly picked apples this year :)

  3. Wow, so interesting with the science of growing fruit. Trees are such a long term investment but it's great that you'll get some new apple and plum varieties this year.

    1. Fingers crossed that I do get some fruits and something else doesn't get to them first!

  4. Co-incidentally I published a fruit post today. I have never thought of blackberries as being easy to damage. When we took our plot it was covered in bramble and various other above head high oerennial weeds. It took some taming and we still come across roots. When I was a child I used to go for walks with my granddad and pick wild blackberries from the hedgerows. Maybe our climate just suits them.

    1. I think that blackberries spread a lot here too, but with the two drought-ish summers since we first planted them in 2015 and weed/grass competition, they really struggled. We have had some good rains this spring - too much, in fact! - so I'm hoping that gives them a good boost. Unfortunately, it will also give the grass/weeds a boost so I had better get to the patch sooner rather than later.

      And such wonderful memories with your granddad - to be cherished.

  5. Fruits are never a certainty for us either. Blueberries are a challenge for us here for sure. We've replanted several this year in hopes of finding more that do well here. Half are doing quite well, but the other half not so much. Our cherries have struggled to give us a meager amount. So today we are going to an orchard where they will have LOTS of sweet and tart cherries. The afternoon should be 'the pits' to say the least! ;-)

    1. If the blueberries don't work out, I may try again in a few years, planting them in pots and burying the pots, that type of thing.

      I'm very excited to get some cherries this year, after going without last summer. Better get that netting on soon, though :) Ha, ha - have fun pitting :)

  6. I didn't realize you had so many fruit trees. Looks fantastic. We lost our strawberries last year from the drought. I am going to replant them this fall (too late to do it now). We also lost our big fig tree from beetle damage. So I feel like we are starting over with all our fruiting plants. Our blueberries are looking okay but we had a late season frost which damaged some of the fruit set. I am looking forward to reading more about your berries. But you have lots of weeding to do :(

    1. Ugh - you said it! And a couple of them spread via rhizomes (bindweed and yarrow) so those are particularly problematic in the berry patch. Hopefully I can at least get them under control with the edging so that they don't compete with the canes.

      Oh, that's so sad about your strawberries and especially the fig tree. It's always something when you are growing fruit. Unfortunately, so many of the diseases are not curable but if you catch it early enough, sometimes you can keep it from taking over, at least until you get another tree established.

  7. I planted everbearing strawberries this spring and have to pick the blossoms off until August. Always so hard to do! Maybe you could try your blueberry plants in large pots and that would take care of the soil problem. Mine did not do well at the other house and they were in the ground. Toying with the idea of two pots here with them in. Nancy

    1. Trying to grow blueberries in a pot or large container is certainly something to consider. I would have to sink the pot into the ground, though, as otherwise it would probably not survive our winters with all the freezing and thawing. Yes, pinching off the strawberry flowers is hard, but next year we will both reap the yummy benefits :)

  8. I had to look up what a haskap was. Sounds interesting, I didn't know there were edible honeysuckle berries. The article I found said haskaps can taste like a cross between blueberry and raspberry,though if it's a bad crop they can taste like tonic water.

    1. I can't wait to try my first berry - hopefully the varieties I have are the good tasting ones!

  9. Good luck with your blueberry patch, I gave up trying to grow them and rip up the whole bed few years ago as no matter how much I try to amend the alkaline soil in the patch it just was never enough.

    1. I filled the raised bed with peat moss and compost. Since they are shallow rooted, I thought that would be enough - unfortunately, that doesn't seem to be the case.


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