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Posts Tagged ‘southern ontario’

The black raspberries have mostly settled in so I thought it was time to talk a bit about the findings so far.

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I put in a number of plants in early 2016 and was given another group last spring so we have a mix of 1 and 2 year olds. Last fall was busy so we didn’t do much in the way of care or clean-up on them either. They are planted in bed that has partial shade to almost full sun. It was were the neighbours hooked up to the sewer system so while it was well dug earth, it wasn’t really improved.

This variety fruits on the second year canes so there was only a very light crop last year. This year was a different story!

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We’ve been getting an average of 1-2 cups a day for most of the past couple of weeks. There are still some left to ripen but most are finished now. I expect we’ll only get another 6-8 cups.

While they are very productive, getting the fruit is a bit harder than picking the fall reds. The branches are very high, so some easily rise above 5′ to 6′ high in beautiful arcs, and all are equipped with vicious thorns. The light picking last year left my hands and arms really scratched up so this year I made some armour. A pair of older leather gloves had their fingertips cut off and a bit of brown faux leather was used to make a pair of bracers. They may not be pretty but they work. I’m still getting a few scratches around my elbows and some clothing snags, but am otherwise unscathed. To be clear, this isn’t me being overly sensitive, some sort of protection is a requirement. Even the birds have left them alone.

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The fruit itself has a surprising, unique flavour that is significantly different from the red. I’d always wondered why “blue raspberry” flavour had no bearing on any raspberry I’d ever tried but it’s clear it was based on fresh black ones. While they are pleasant fresh, they are, in our opinion, best used as a cooking berry. They cook up with solid, yet juicy texture and a deeper, richer “raspberry” flavour. The colour is also lovely. The red ones tend to both get a bit mushy and their red colour can also end up looking grey when cooked and mixed with other things. With the blacks, they cook to a rich purple with deep reddish juice. The smaller, drier fruits also hold together better and they work more like a blueberry in terms of being easy to be mixed in and still hold on to their shapes. They make a lovely pie.

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Overall, the black raspberries have made a well timed addition to the fruit collection. They are a great cooking berry and their timing has fallen in a fairly empty period. The strawberries are done and the blueberries are just starting so it gave us a nice bit of small fruit coverage. The plants seem low maintenance. We’ll need to remove this years fruiting canes in the fall and intend to do a deep leaf cover again. While they are extremely well armed, it is possible to pick around them and they have fended off both birds and other berry thieves.

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For the first time, I’m trying to grow some potatoes. My general philosophy about food gardening is to stick to growing stuff that either has a very high value or where there is a significant taste/quality difference between what you can grow and what you buy. Also, things that just aren’t available to easily buy. Permaculture is preferred as is ease of growing/care/harvest.

Perennial herbs are the best example of paying for themselves. A few dollars for a pot of something like thyme, lavender or lovage and you have a permanent and constant supply of stuff that can run several dollars or more for a tiny amount, if you can find decent quality at the store. Most herbs are also extremely low-effort too. Put them in and forget about them until you want some!

The small fruit plants like the raspberries, haskap and strawberries are ones where you save your money over the long term. Even in season, raspberries run $2-$3 a pint and we’ll pull 2-6 cups a day off the hedge, often for 1-2 months, and have for years. Aside from some fall clean-up and feeding, they also need very little care. (they taste better too and we know they are pesticide free)

Tomatoes are a case where there are some savings overall in growing them, but the big value is in the quality difference between homegrown and what’s available in market. There are few cases where you can now find some of the more interesting and exotic varieties at some farmers markets, but generally, the best tasting tomatoes are too finicky or fragile to be grown commercially. There’s a reason something like 80% of home veggie gardens include tomatoes!

This has all be a long-winded way of saying that I generally don’t bother with potatoes. They are something that is easy enough to find at the seasonal markets for great prices and good quality so I haven’t been giving them garden space before now. They only went in this year because the bed beside the store is partially shaded and it just doesn’t work out that well for most of our priority crops. Last year, I put in some sunchokes and hope to eventually have them take over about half (the most shaded section) of the total bed. They’re not there yet so I needed to fill the space for this season and found a nice bag of assorted, slightly exotic, seed potatoes. One of the types is a deep, beet level purple and I was wondering if it would be hard to tell which is which, but looking at the plants as they come up, it’s really easy to tell which ones are the purples due to the deep red veining on the leaves. They went in in a random mix and we might end up trying to dig some as early as July, in the hopes of tiny, tasty baby spuds. I’ll update as the experiment continues.

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Last year, I’d taken the pruned bits from my hardy kiwis and potted them up. All the surviving pots were buried in one of the beds for the winter.

This past week I pulled them out and moved all the living ones to new, single pots. They all had good sized root balls so I’m optimistic about the process. I have 12 plants with 11 being female and one male. That ratio isn’t ideal, but the males seem more fragile.

We took pretty heavy damage on the older ones from bunnies this winter. They had been fine the 2 years before but this winter saw 3 eaten back to smaller than they were when I first planted them. A couple more lost 20% to 40% of their branches. One had the bark cleared off the top of most of it’s base but it seems to doing alright so far. The smaller of my 2 males got the worst, but he’s still alive. I don’t know if was due to how cold this past winter was, but clearly, I’ve got to come up with some form of bunny guard, going forward.

The plan now is to keep the babies in their new pots for at least another year then I’ll look at putting them in the ground. It’s still a bit early for me to take a new round of pruning, so I don’t know what this years crop of newborns will be. At the rate things are going, it’ll be a few more years before I’ll have extras to share.

 

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