Well, we are nearing the end of summer and, while no one wants summer to end, there are benefits at this time of year … berries.
Years ago, my husband found a small blueberry bush on the hill behind us and wanted to transplant it into the garden. It didn’t make it, I am sad to say, but then it had its proper environment where it had been in the first place. We now leave the wild berries where they are and go to them.
Berry picking, for me, is a sort of relaxing time in the middle of a busy season. It is often also a social time as a group of us get together to pick either blueberries, highbush cranberries or lingonberries (a.k.a. lowbush cranberries).
There is just something satisfying about gathering fruit from nature. And everyone has “their spot” to pick. And to share it with someone else may mean that the berries will all be gone before you get there. So, the first time I was invited to go picking wild berries with a friend, I was thrilled. And now it has become an annual event.
The Yukon has a wide assortment of berries just growing wild. From the strawberries that are ready in June, to the lingonberries that are ready in September.
Although it seems more fun to pick wild berries, it is possible to grow a variety of berries here in the Yukon: saskatoons, raspberries, currants and gooseberries to name just a few. It does, however, take longer to establish these perennial plants in the Yukon than in other places with better growing seasons.
And I have also noticed that the plants aren’t as large, either. One of my first experiences connected to berries was during a conversation the first summer here.
The person was describing the height of highbush cranberries as about their knee level. I had just moved from Saskatchewan where the highbush cranberries were well over eight feet.
I have since found highbush cranberries here that are comparable as they are in a sheltered spot with lots of water, but for the most part they are only knee-high.
But, like fruit plants anywhere, there are some common needs of berry plants. They like an acidic soil and constant moisture. Applying compost around the base of a plant will help it to have nutrients on a continuous basis.
Constant snow cover also helps to prevent the roots from freezing during a warm snap in January. A warm corner or building will help to hold heat during the spring and fall or even an early frost.
I have tried different fruiting plants in the past and for one reason or another I haven’t had much success. I successfully wintered a pear tree through two winters, one of which reached minus 52, but it succumbed to an unexpected heat wave one summer.
I planted some cherry trees that wintered fine and even survived dry summers, but when the chickens discovered them, they were toast. Even with lots of snow cover, sometimes they are in danger.
One year I had some that had been stripped off at ground level by a snowplow that went a bit too far. And this year, after showing my husband that one had made it through the winter as it was putting out leaves, he accidentally tilled it up as it was on the edge of the garden.
So, protection for your plants is vital (as it isn’t always the winter that kills).
A mulch of sawdust or shavings will not only keep moisture around the roots but will discourage weeds. Fencing to prevent animals; in my case, livestock, from damaging plants may be needed. And a fence will also highlight the fact that something exists there under the snow.
Whether wild or in our gardens, berries are a treat.