Since we have started growing Haskap berries we have had a lot of visitors arriving at the farm. They usually have a lot of questions about growing these plants.
Below you will find the most commonly asked questions, with answers. Just click on the ‘+’ sign.
From time to time this page will be updated.
How many plants per acre?
This is an excellent question.
Most plant re-sellers use a 1000 plant per acre model. However Haskap varieties will grow to different sizes. If plants are too close to each other you may end up with a very dense hedge. This can cause problems, like botrytis. Botrytis is known to affect haskap plants, but usually it is the new growth that is affected not the berries,however berries can also be affected. The main cause of botrytis is from wet conditions. Bushes that are very dense allow moisture to remain in certain areas of a plant.
The other issue is productivity. If you have based your orchard plan on haskap plants producing a certain amount of berries per year, once they are mature, but you have planted the plants too close to each other than production of these plants will be reduced.
To answer the question. The amount of plants per acre needs to be based on several factors. These are plant variety to be grown, type of harvesting to be performed, and types of equipment to be used in the orchard.
How long before you get a crop?
We had a very small crop in the following year from the first grow year. In other words haskap plants will produce berries after one year. You will not get a lot, but you will certainly get some.
On the page ‘Our Haskap Story‘ you can see the growth rates of our first orchard. In 2014, our first ‘grow year’, we did not have any berries. In 2015 we had our first crop, which produced about 80 lbs, however we did lose a bit to robins. In 2016 we got wiped out by a flock of starlings. In 2017, we wisely invested in bird netting, and roughly 350 lbs was harvested from this orchard.
Basically your first profitable harvest should happen around grow year 3, if your plants have grown well.
How well do Haskap plants grow in Nova Scotia?
They will grow very well on the east coast of Canada, BUT you need to adjust your soil nutrients. The typical soil nutrients found in our soils are not well suited for optimal growth and health of Haskap plants.
They will grow without adjusting the soil nutrients, but not well.
What about birds? Will they eat the berries?
Yes..yes they will.
In dry years they will completely clean out an orchard before you can pick the berries. You definitely need bird control. Plan for it in your budget.
What is the best fertilizer to use?
This will depend on your soil test(s). What is required will vary from one area to another.
We use a general organic fish/seaweed fertilizer for ensuring that our orchards get a number of macro and micro nutrients. Based on our soil tests we will then add specific organic fertilizers, or soil amendments, to adjust the soil nutrient levels.
The general fertilizer that we use can be found here: https://lahaveriverberryfarm.ca/shop/fish-seaweed-blend-fertilizer-2-3-1/
What about weeds?
Like any plant weed competition can affect growth. If you plant a small plug in a field and the weeds engulf it…it will not thrive. Weed control needs to be part of your orchard plan. There are several methods that are proving to be effective.
How many different varieties do I need?
Haskap plants do not self pollinate. You need at the very minimum two genetically different varieties that bloom at the same time. If they have a different bloom time than they can not pollinate each other.
Typically we plan for at least four different varieties per orchard.
Do they need to be pruned?
Yes they will need to be pruned. How often and when is a good question. I did find some information in an older article that stated pruning should be done in years 5-7, and only remove 2-3 of the largest branches.
The current thinking is that pruning should start by year 2. Thin out weak shoots and any crossover branches. By years 3 or 4 you can remove 1/3 of the branches, any weak twigs, and any drooping branches. You should try a few different techniques to see which method of pruning works best for your operation.
What about deer? Will they eat the plants?
Deer in Nova Scotia will browse any type of plant. My great uncle grew rhododendrons for over 20 years without deer issues, and then one year they developed a taste for them. They have not stopped eating them since.
We had one variety browsed in our first year. After this we took measures to protect our plants, and we have not had an issue since.
Which varieties should I get?
Please see this blog article: Which Haskap/Honeyberry Varieties to Plant?
What about pollination?
You need at least two haskap varieties that are blooming at the same time.
To ensure good pollination you also need insects. Bees are best, but blooming times in your area will play a key part to pollination. If your plants bloom very early in the spring than you will need a healthy bumblebee population.
Keeping honeybees will help, however we have noticed that our honeybees do not really start foraging until the air temperature reaches 7-10 C. Whereas bumblebees are observed at first light even on early cool spring mornings that are close to 0 C.
What time of year should I plant?
This depends on the size of the plant, and what part of the world you are planting in. A lot of plant re-sellers recommend a fall planting.
If you are planting very small, plug type plants, and you are in an area where winter frost heave is experienced, it is highly recommended not to do a fall planting. We tried this and ended up replanting almost all of our plants in the spring. I have spoken with a lot of growers in our area that have had the exact same problem.
In 2015 we planted much larger plants from our nursery into our orchards right up until December. None of these plants experienced frost heave.
If I want to plant larger plants in my orchard should I grow the plugs in pots, or in the ground?
I have seen both methods done. Both methods have their advantages and disadvantages.
If you plant all of your plugs into pots it is a lot of extra expense. First the cost of soil, pots and labor to do this job. Then you will have the cost of keeping them watered for a year.
If you plant your plugs close together in the ground (nursery area) than you do not have the higher costs associated with dealing with pots.
Weeds will grow in your pots and in the nursery. You can use a coco disc in a pot to reduce the weed problem, and then reuse the coco disc during the planting in the orchard. The nursery will need to be weeded until the plants are large enough to shade out the weeds.
When planting the orchard the pot method is a bit easier than digging the plants out of the nursery. Both methods will shock the plants, and the plants will likely not have a lot of new growth in the first year, as they will spend a lot of energy developing their root systems. The pot system likely does not shock the plants as much as the nursery system.
We have also been growing the plugs in our greenhouse for one season. This gets them large enough to plant directly in the field, and where they are in the greenhouse we do not get a weed problem in the trays. The plants usually grow about another 12″ or more, and this gives us a larger plant for planting into an orchard without the extra work. The roots can be become a bit root bound, but to date this has not been a problem.
What methods should I use for weeding?
If weeding is required around the plants do not use any mechanical item that will disturb the soil deeper than 2-3 cm. Haskap plants develop a shallow, fibrous root system. They do not have a tap root system. If you continually damage this root system by using a mechanical weeder the plant will not do well.
In the past we have used stirrup hoes, and pulled weeds by hand. Some growers have used the ‘Weed Badger’ on a tractor, but we do not recommend using this as it digs into the roots. The ‘Weed Badger’ is a great unit for vineyards, but grape plants have a very deep tap root system. Some growers just mow the weeds down around the plants.
Currently we use mulch to control weeds. If there are some weeds around our larger plants we normally don’t bother with them.
Harvesting commercially? See this this post.
When should I Harvest?
Haskap berries will turn blue, but they will NOT be ripe once they do so. Depending on the weather they can take from 10-15 days to ripen..even longer if it is really cool, and wet.
Below is a video of me checking our berries and attempting to figure out when we should harvest: