The Final Year of Research
This year we experienced out first real production from the berries. several varieties produced well, while several others did not produce well at all. The less productive varieties where the same varieties that froze back to the ground last winter. Some varieties produced a late crop in September, but these were hurt this year by a lack of water – our irrigation went off August 2, about a month earlier than usual. We did have a couple of rains later in the season, but it wasn’t enough and the berries clearly suffered from the stress caused by lack of water.
The link below takes you to the embedded data table where we tracked all of the harvest from the last three years. Each variety was trapped in each harvest was recorded. Also we took several measurements of berry size by counting the number of berries required to fill Half pint container. Please note that the link below contains a spreadsheet with two separate sheets one she is for the quantity harvested, the other sheet is for the berry sizes.
Summary of Findings
Overall one of the biggest overall conclusions was the importance of frost hardy varieties for our area. Even in the mild winter of 2011 – 2012, several varieties froze to the ground greatly reducing the following years harvest. Another important conclusion from the commercial harvesting perspective, is that blackberries are much easier to pick than raspberries. The thornless BlackBerry varieties we grew were exceptionally easy to deal with and harvest off of. In addition, the consistently large berry size of the BlackBerries meant that filling pints of berries went much more quickly. As I add to the Berry patch I plan to plant mostly BlackBerries from this point on.
The Berry Varieties – Observations & Results
- Heritage Everbearing
- Polana Everbearing
- Killarny Red Raspberry
- Triple Crown thornless Blackberry (very long canes, ends died back)
- Chester Thornfree Blackberry (very long canes, even more died back)
- Encore Summer Fruiting Raspberry
- Nova Summer Fruiting Raspberry
- Bristol Summer Fruiting Black Raspberry
- Encore Summer Fruiting Raspberry
- Nova Summer Fruiting Raspberry
Size and Ease of Picking
The raspberries were generally small and it took an average of 109 raspberries to fill a 6 oz container. The blackberries were consistently larger, with the smallest blackberry matching the largest raspberry. It took an average of only 41 blackberries to fill a 6 oz container. In addition, the thornless blackberries were truly thorn free, almost soft to the touch. they were a pleasure to work in, for all stages of production – pruning, trellising and harvest. Unless the market becomes saturated, I would plant these thornless blackberries over any of the other berries. Chester stands out as the biggest producer in out trials. On the raspberry side, Kilarny was the clear winner, producing early and over a long period with large berry size. Bristol, the only black raspberry in our trial, was also a large producer, and although the berries were small on average, they were borne in exposed clusters, making them a bit easier to harvest.
These pictures show the drought damage on some of the berries this year.
The berries came back very strong this spring. We thinned out the canes while they were still dormant and several varieties showed strong growth, although several also froze back to their bases. This winter was relatively mild, with low temperatures never below 0 so the die back was surprising and I am considering a protective cover over these more sensitive varieties (see below). Several varieties were frozen back to their bases and some varieties came back only partially up the cane. Here is a summary:
- Heritage was frozen back to the ground., all new growth is coming from the roots and we will need to thin these as they are very thick.
- Polana was frozen back and came back from the ground
- Kilarny showed strong early growth with no winter freeze damage.
- Triple Crown gap crown came back strongly but longer canes were partially frozen, these were very long canes and the top half are frozen.
- Chester was frozen back even further down, lower on the canes.
- Bristol showed little sign of any damage.
- Nova showed little sign of damage.
- Encore showed little damage.
The slideshow below shows each variety. The photos are in pairs, the 1st being the row end label, the next being a shot of the canes around May 21st 2012.
No slides are available.
Summary of Progress
This spring we completed the trellis building project and set up the berries for trellising. Over the summer we have continued to tie the berries to the T shaped wire trellises – setting the stage for next year’s harvest. Some canes have reached the top wires (at 5′) and continued to grow feet beyond (we are tying these back to the trellises). Other varieties have just reached the mid-wire height (around 3′). Each berry page on this site includes a picture of the berry on that page where the growth can be seen visually. See the Berry varieties page.
We harvested berries for around six weeks in the spring, picked 2 or 3 times a week, but rarely getting over a pint of any particular variety. Because of the limited quantity we weren’t abe to get a berry size (obtained by counting berries per pint). This fall a couple of varieties have started producing again and we are calculating size on these which are producing more. The harvest was very limited this year, but the patch has continued to get more established and has filled in quite a bit. This fall we will thin the berries where they have filled in to around one cane per foot on average.
Some berries showed signs of nutrient deficiencies early in the season (especially Encore), but cleared up after some time. I am injecting fertilizer into the irrigation system and plan to add a micronutrient rich kelp based fertilizer to the mix soon (so far I’ve used a fish based product).
The second year overall harvest were low. The initial year did establish a nice patch of berries, but the vines didn’t grow that far, most reaching just 2-4′. Then, our area suffered a colder than normal winter and many of the 1st year vines were frozen back to the ground. The lack of established vines greatly reduced harvest.
This fall we have had a resurgence of two varieties – Polana, which is producing a large flush of huge fruit on this year’s canes (primocanes) and Heritage – considered a very reliable producer – which is also filling in. These berries are coming in later than usual, they should be earlier in most years.
The harvest records spreadsheet clearly shows the low quantities. The record also shows the late harvest we are experiencing now. This year everything has been 2-3 weeks later than usual - for all our crops, vegetables and fruits alike. See the Harvest Records page.
Looking forward to next year, I am anticipating a much larger harvest and a better understanding of the relative merits of each of the berry varieties we are trialing. The harvest should be significantly larger – the established vines are much stronger and larger than last fall.
Fall 2011 Berry Patch Photos
This is the harvest record document used to track the harvest record for all berries.
This post is a summary of what happened in the first year of the project.
First Year Accomplishments
- Established planting area for berries
- Set up complete irrigation system for berries
- Plant all berries, with ground cover
- Build Elk/Deer fencing to protect planting
- Establish website berries.roundearth.com to track all project progress
- begin building berry trellising
Here is a slideshow of some recent photos showing how well established the new berry planting is. For the best view, click the full screen button in the slideshow footer.
Fences & Trellises
Work continues in the new berry planting area. The fence is now nearly complete – all the posts are in, with both heights of high tinsel wire stretched and the final lengths of barb going on today. The contractor I hired to do the work has been steadily chipping away at what seemed like a huge project when it began and the fence is just a week or two away from being done.
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Installing the woven ground cover
The task of laying the ground cover out, to cover each side of the eight trellised berry rows has begun. I dug the side furrows with the tractor, this furrow takes the outer edge of the ground cover fabric, while the inner edge is pinned down with a 6″ ground staple along the berry row. This process is very labor intensive with lots of rocks to clear, digging and pinning. I’ll try to take some more detailed shots of this part of the project soon, but for now here is a far-off shot of the berries with the (black) ground fabric visible.
The berries have started to bud out. Encore in particular is already in full leaf, Nova is showing leaves, and the rest of the varieties are just barely exposing buds.
Over the last few weeks I completed the prep work on the new berry project site. All but berry order has arrived, and we planted all the berries that we had – eight of the ten total berry beds.
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