Saturday, February 4, 2012

our homestead: berries on my doorstep

Something special arrived on my doorstep a few days ago: a tall cardboard box full of...berry plants! 
Left to right: lingonberries, goji, kiwis and honeyberries
About a month or so ago, I sent out an order for some intriguing berry varietals from Burnt Ridge Nursery of Onalaska, Washington. My husband and I are starting up some berry patches this year. Our order included five lingonberry plants, three goji berry plants, a male and female hardy kiwi and four honeyberry plants. I wasn't quite sure when the plants would arrive (Burnt Ridge holds them until they are safe to ship weather-wise), so it totally made my day when I saw the UPS man pull into my driveway. 
Lingonberries are low-growing evergreens with little red berries that taste similar to cranberries. They thrive in very acidic, woodland soil (a pH of 4.5 does the trick) with lots of peet. I have a pretty large tree and a healthy rhododendron (both acid loving) as well as peet-rich soil in my front yard, so I dug up a bed for these lingonberries in the sunnier part of the front, working in some organic matter (like twigs and leaves) along the way. I look forward to making my own lingonberry compote for Swedish Pancakes...that is if I can win the battle against whatever creature's been chewing on my baby lingonberries. I went out this morning and noticed that two of the plants had been "pruned" down halfway. My suspicion is a rabbit or a deer is the bandit at large.
I haven't had the chance to transplant my three goji berry plants yet, so currently they are camping out in my greenhouse. Today, my husband and I did head to the hardware store and built two raised bed frames for them though. The goji plants don't really need raised beds but I want to get them off to the best start possible. I plan to fill the raised beds with some choice topsoil and compost from a local soil company and then I'll add lime to the soil as these plants prefer a more alkaline pH. Eventually they will probably outgrow their raised beds. Goji berries, which produce orange tear-drop shaped berries with a flavor similar to persimmons, can grow to be 8 to 12 feet tall, but I plan to keep them pruned to about 5 feet.

Male Hardy Kiwi
I planted my two hardy kiwis down near my firepit. I want to build a trellis system encircling my fire pit area with one trellis supporting hardy kiwis and the other trellis supporting the untrained grape that flourishes in summertime in my backyard. Anyway, hardy kiwis are delicious! They taste just like regular kiwis except they are smaller (about the size of a little strawberry) and are without "fur" so you can eat them skin and all. To produce fruit, you have to have a male and female plant. One male can pollinate up to eight females. I imagine I'll be investing in more girls once we get to trellis building.
Blue Velvet Honeyberry
Honeyberries are native to Japan and Siberia and are a member of the honeysuckle family, though they are more bush-like and less viney. Their berries resemble long blueberries and often arrive before strawberries hit the market scene. Honeyberries require at least two different varieties to produce fruit, so I ordered two Blue Velvet and two Kamchatka. My husband and I dug a nice big bed down next to my greenhouse for them.
Our honeyberry bed
It's a little bit hard to tell in the picture, but our plants are in there. It looks like we have room for two more plants, and we might expand this bed depending on how well the honeyberries do. Working the soil here was so much fun. We are blessed with really rich, dark, fairly loamy soil loaded in fat earthworms.

Our honeyberry is right at home
I decided to line the honeyberry bed with some old rotted logs which were too water-logged to make good firewood. I found a strip of bark from one of the logs which will be serving as a "toad" house as it has a perfect little knothole. I built it right into the side of my honeyberry bed. Perhaps a toad will inhabit it this summer.
The toad house    


  1. Cat! I love this blog, and i am some excited for your berry babies and can't wait to get my paws on some hardy kiwis! nom nom nom

  2. You'll be my hardy kiwi picker, we'll get you a basket to wear on your hip haha