List of Upcoming Events and Products
|Shelterbelt & Eco-Buffer Workshop: June 29, 2023|
|Conifer Tree Seedling Program Deadline: June 16, 2023|
|Recreational Stewardship Fair: July 22, 2023|
|Verbenone Repellent Pouch – to deter Mountain Pine Beetle attack. Limited supply of pouches are available and sold in packages of 10 at a cost of $60.00+GST. Click here to learn more.|
|Caring for My Land funding Program (C4ML) |
|Join the Landcare email list:|
Most Recent Ag News Article
June 7, 2023 - Fruiting Plants (trees, shrubs, whatever)
In recent years, there has been a resurgence by homeowners interested in having yards that include spaces with plants that offer more than ornamental value. In most cases, this means planting a range of fruit trees, shrubs, or other plants somewhere in the yard/garden.
In Alberta, it can be challenging to grow fruiting plants, but, according to Rob Spencer, horticulturist, it is not impossible.
“Our winters can be hard on woody and perennial fruit plants, as they are exposed for prolonged periods to drying conditions. Depending on where you live, occasional winter warming periods can cause some harm.”
The sudden transition between summer and winter often does not allow trees and shrubs to have enough time to shut down properly, which can result in winterkill and winter injury. Late spring frosts kill blossoms, and early fall frosts can ruin produce.
Spencer says, “If you are considering fruiting plants, you have a few categories to choose from.” This includes berries, fruiting shrubs, and trees.
Some of the more common fruiting plants include things like strawberries and raspberries.
“Strawberries aren’t overly complicated,” says Spencer, “as long as you understand certain characteristics.”
Most strawberries are started from bareroot crowns, or perhaps transplants, not from seed. There are essentially two kinds of strawberries. June-bearing strawberries (a.k.a. short-day plants) set their flowering/fruiting structures in the shorter days of late summer, meaning that they will produce fruit the following year, typically in early July. This type needs an establishment year.
The other type doesn’t really care what the day lengths are and are referred to as day neutrals. They grow, flower, fruit and do everything else basically at once. They can be grown as a single year crop or can be overwintered.
Strawberries need plenty of water and nutrients, as they are shallow rooted. They are also sensitive to frost and to extreme heat. But, says Spencer, if you can get them established, they’ll keep going for many years, and can be refreshed by digging them out and restarting some of the younger plants if the patch gets overgrown.
Spencer recommends raspberries for the yard with some space. Raspberries are pretty simple, needing lots of sun, some water and nutrients, and no wet feet. Spencer cautions that it is important to recognize the differences between the types of raspberries.
“Most of our raspberries are summer-bearing raspberries, with a 2-year growth cycle. They grow vegetative canes in the first year, which overwinter and then produce fruit in the second year. Pruning out the spent canes is necessary for this type. They also need to be protected from winter warm-ups.”
Another kind of raspberries are fall-bearing, meaning they start their canes in the spring, but those canes will switch to fruiting once they get big enough. This makes for a later crop, but less risk of winter injury.
Spencer says that when it comes to fruiting shrubs, there are a range of options. Not all fruiting shrubs are entirely hardy here. Saskatoon berries, black currants, Haskap/blue honeysuckle, dwarf sour cherries, and a range of other cherry-type shrubs give you some choices. Blueberries are generally not hardy here, but low-growing hardy types might survive.
There are a few things to keep in mind with fruiting shrubs. Basically, all hardy fruiting shrubs need some time to establish before you can enjoy their fruit, but that establishment time varies. Most of our fruiting shrubs are fine as stand-alone specimens, but some (e.g., Haskap) require a second, different plant to serve as a pollinizer. Some fruit bushes are nice tidy little plants and will stay that way for a long time. Others (e.g., Saskatoon berries) can become very large if they aren’t regularly pruned to remove the bigger branches.
“When it comes to trees,” says Spencer, “some of the most popular summer tree fruits need a milder or better climate to grow than what we get each year. We can’t grow peaches, sweet cherries, or some of the better-quality plums, apples, and pears. However, it is possible to grow fruit trees in Alberta. We just have to be picky in choosing varieties of fruit trees that are more cold/dry winter tolerant than others and that mature in a shorter season.”
Since a fruit tree is a more significant investment, spend some time researching the varieties and their suitability for the area. When choosing plants, try and find varieties of fruit that are listed as hardy to Zone 3 or colder. Some Zone 4 material might be okay in some situations, but if you start with Zone 2 or Zone 3 stuff, you have a better chance of success. It is also important to consider when the fruit will mature. If the fruit never ripens before winter hits, you won’t ever get to enjoy it.
While you are researching fruit types, Spencer suggests that you note when the approximate bloom time occurs, since that can also be important. A number of different fruit trees require another tree species to provide pollen. Some are quite specific.
Apples or crabapples offer lots of choices when it comes to varieties that cross-pollinate each other. They require at least another variety to provide pollen, but you can have 2 apples, or an apple and a crabapple, or something like that. If someone else in the area has a tree, you are set.
Pears are pretty simple, requiring 2 different varieties to be productive. Apricots should have 2 varieties or 2 plants. Plums are quite complicated in achieving a good fruit set. Certain species pollinate certain other species. Bloom time is very important, as you have to have flowers at the same time. If you are going to choose plums, do your research, otherwise you’ll have a nice tree and no fruit.
Trees will need proper care during establishment. Avoid areas that are exposed to lots of wind, in all seasons. Avoid areas that are prone to excess water, or that drain poorly or have a high-water table. Avoid fertilizing beyond the mid-point in summer. Plants need to have sufficient water throughout the growing season, but most need to have the water stopped in later summer to properly shut down before winter.
There are lots of good fruiting options for the Prairie Garden. Do some research first before you go shopping, and your chance of success will be much higher.