Tag Archives: kiwi

Enjoying the “Fruits” of my Labour

For years I’ve been obsessed with growing fabulous, fresh fruit right here in Central Alberta. Not just saskatoons and strawberries – but grapes, plums, cherries, watermelons – yes, even kiwis and apricots. And I want to grow it all in my own backyard. Well, I can’t say I’ve got all those things checked off the list yet, but this year I’ve gotten closer than ever before.

This has been a fantastic season for growing fruit. After starting from scratch 5 years ago, my backyard is now producing all kinds of different delicious fruit. One of my personal favorites has been my Pembina Plums. We had about 5 gallons of these amazing plums this year. So juicy and sweet! I don’t think there is a fruit I enjoy more!

Pembina PlumsThen there are my “Chums” – my Cherry Plums. This is the first year that they have produced, and they are quite a nice little treat.

Manor ChumsThis variety is the “Manor Chum”. They are greenish-purple on the outside, and deep purple on the inside. Very tasty.

Manor Cherry PlumAnother highlight for me this year has been my raspberries. My Wyoming Black Raspberry grew like crazy – so much so that I think I’ll have to cut them right down to the ground this fall! They have almost overgrown the north side of my greenhouse! But they sure produce a lot of raspberries! And they are the perfect compliment to my “Fall Gold” Raspberries. These yellow raspberries are so mild! It’s all the flavor of a raspberry without the ‘raspy-ness’!

Fall Gold and Wyoming Black RaspberriesOf course, my haskaps really started to produce this year. I was amazed at how densely these little berries covered the branches of my little bushes. The kids loved picking these for a little snack. (And I’m excited for when my wife bakes up a batch of haskap berries muffins this winter!

Haskap BerriesMy grapes continue to ripen – I expect to harvest them in a couple of weeks. (My grape syrup from last year has just about run out.)

Valient GrapesMy muskmelons are getting to be a good size too. (Never heard of muskmelons? Think cantaloupe.) They got a late start, but I think they’ll be big enough for a tasty dessert or breakfast in the next days.

MuskmelonAnd finally, another fruit that I’ve highly enjoyed has been my cherries. I believe I had three varieties produce this year – hoping for another two to be mature by next year.

Sour CherriesSo it’s been a pretty great year for fruit. And hopefully next year will be even better! My kiwis have grown like never before (their vines have reached my garage roof), my apricots are coming along nicely, my blueberries are surviving (though not exactly thriving), and my hazelnut tree is slowly making progress. So we shall see what next year brings…

How to Build a Garden Trellis for Grapes and Kiwis

For years I’ve had great plans to build a garden trellis for my many varieties of grapes & kiwis – and finally this summer I took the plunge. I built a simple, but solid trellis for the vines I have growing along the south side of my garage. It’s probably a little bit over-kill, but it’s certainly able to hold the weight of all my grapes and kiwis (which is actually pretty significant – as I have two grape vines and two kiwis and all those vines, leaves, and fruit can get heavy!)

So if you’ve been looking to build a trellis in your own backyard, let me show you my design:

First of all – my materials list.

  • (3) 4 x 4 x 12′
  • (1) 4 x 4 x 8′ – (since my one section is under my garage window)
  • (17) 2 x 4 x 8′
  • (1) 2 x 4 x 12′

The first thing to do was to dig my post holes. I dug 6″ holes about 32″ deep – spaced 4′ apart – about 1′ from my garage wall.

The 12′ posts were too tall to fit beneath my garage eaves (even when planted 32″ deep), so I had to trim a few inches off the tops to fit just under my eaves. I had a window (as you can see in the picture below) that I didn’t want to cover up, so I planned to build that section at half height. Once the posts were in, I backfilled with gravel and tamped them in. You could use concrete if you like, but I think gravel holds it just as well (if it’s well tamped) and it allows the water to drain away from the post so it doesn’t rot.

Once the posts were all trimmed to the proper, level height, I simply attached the 12′ 2 x 4 to the top of the taller sections, and a 4′ section of 2 x 4 for the shorter one.

Garden Trellis PostsNext, I ripped the remaining 2x4s in half – giving me 2x2s. (The actual dimensions were 1.5″ by 1.5″)

Grapes: They can actually grow in Alberta!

This week I experienced my first real grape harvest. Sure, I’d had managed to grow a few small clusters before – just enough to get a taste. But this year was the first year that I’ve been able to grow enough grapes to eat all I wanted fresh, plus harvest enough to make up some delicious grape jelly for the winter.

I have four different varieties growing in my yard here in central Alberta, but the two varieties that are mature enough to produce are my Valiant Grapes, and my Marechael Foch Grapes. The valiant grapes are larger than the marechael grapes (though still smaller than what you might find in the grocery store) and are packed with flavour! In fact, they are very similar in flavour to the Concord grapes that you buy in the store.

I have them growing on the south side of my garage on a trellis with my Kiwis. (Yes, you heard right… with MY KIWIS.) I’ve found this location to work great for three reasons!

Kiwis, Grapes, Blackberries, and More!

In my last post, I took a photo stroll around the yard. But at that time (May 20th), there were quite a few plants that still hadn’t grown enough to have much to show. But now after a long spring, I can show you all the other odd and unusual plants that have finally made an appearance.

But first, an update on my plums! Here is one of about half a dozen Pembina Plums.

Nice, huh? Am I ever excited for these guys! But back to the update… First of all, this is one of my grapes. Its a Marechael Foch Grape – my other one is a Valient. Both are doing nicely so far!

Then, there is my Issai Kiwi – I have two of them as well. I’ve tried growing them twice before. The first time a heavy frost just after planting took them out. The second time was an accidental death that I’d rather not get into!

I also have two Blackberry Vines in the works. This one was just planted this spring – so we’ll have to wait to see how they do over the winter.

I’ve also dug up some Black Raspberry plants from the farm and brought them to our new place. They will be planted along the fence, once the fence gets built! But for now they live in pots.

My cucumbers are doing nice. Just ate the first cucumber of the season yesterday.

And my tomates are happily growing in the greenhouse.

And that’s about it for now. Perhaps next time I’ll update you on whether or not my pole beans have overtaken the corn in which they have been planted! Until then…

Summer 2010 Recap

I must say, this has been probably the worst gardening year I’ve ever experienced. The weather has been very unfriendly to gardeners in Alberta. And yet, there is always a silver lining. All is not lost. Gardening in Alberta means making the best of your situation – whatever that may be. So here’s how I made the best of my garden this year.

One major project was to bring in a whole pile of mulch. (And I do mean that very literally.)

My father-in-law brought out a whole grain truck full of mulch that we applied liberally to our planting beds, in our greenhouse, and around our trees. It was a lot of shoveling, but I’m convinced that all that mulch will be worth it.

I also added a few plants to my landscape – plum trees, chum trees, cherry trees, kiwis, and grapes. Here’s some of the grapes.

Although many things in my garden didn’t do so well, the tomatoes prospered (even though they were a bit late.)

So that’s a quick update on my garden this summer. I’ve got a couple of other things brewing, but I’ll tell you about those later!

Protecting Your Tender Plants From A Spring Freeze

Last spring I bought six kiwi seedlings. Within a couple days of getting planted, they were promptly destroyed by a fierce hail storm. This year I thought I’d try again. I order a few more kiwis and they arrived yesterday. So not wanting them to linger in the box any longer than they needed to, I planted them promptly. However, this morning the weather forecast tells me to expect -6° C overnight. True, the kiwis I ordered were the ‘Arctic Beauty’ variety, but I didn’t really want to push them. I needed to protect them from freezing somehow.

So what to do?

After doing a little research, I discovered a couple of ways I could go about preserving them. Bringing them inside wasn’t an option I wanted to entertain (digging them up, bringing them indoors, planting them in a pot, and three days later transplanting them back in the ground just didn’t seem like a good idea). Putting a tent up over top of them with a little electric heater inside would be tricky (as the rain had already deeply puddled around my new seedlings and I’ve never liked the idea of being electrocuted). So the logical step was just to put an upside down bucket over top of the plants. I had built my trellises with enough clearance underneath to fit a three gallon bucket.

Rumors have it that the temperature under the bucket should stay 3-4° warmer than the air outside. If this is the case, my kiwis should be ok. But time will tell. If it didn’t work I’ll be sure to put an update at the end of this post.

Just one note: If you try this method, be sure to take the bucket off in the morning and put it back in the evening if you suspect cold temperature. Your plants will need the light and the fresh air.