A Homegrown Supply of Berries

| 11/9/2017 10:54:00 AM

New Raspberry Patch

Our three children have a real taste for fruit. However, unlike a daily supply of fresh eggs or the relatively quick turnaround of annual vegetables, producing your own fruit can take years. For us, the wait is worth it - being able to produce our own fruit outweighs the time and effort the endeavour requires. Simply put, homegrown food is fresher, and therefore, tastier and healthier. Growing as much of our own food as possible is also in line with our goal of improving our self-reliance.

This past year we broke ground on our permaculture orchard and planted 24 fruit trees (apples, pears, peaches, apricots, and plums). All of our trees are semi-dwarfs, so we’re looking at three to four years before they produce fruit. Berries, on the other hand, are a lot more (ahem...) fruitful a lot sooner than fruit trees. Since berries are among my family’s favourite snack, we’re growing and eating our own strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries. We’ve also undertaken a blueberry venture and are attempting to grow blueberries from seed.


Our first attempt at strawberries was a 3 by 25 foot row. Our strawberries are an everbearing variety and we had a respectable harvest in June, followed by smaller harvests through the remainder of the growing season until the first hard frost. The June harvest was large enough that we could freeze the extra berries. The berries that ripened over the rest of the summer were plucked off and eaten. Any over-ripe berries were tossed to the expectant chickens milling nearby.

In the two years we’ve grown strawberries we learned a key lesson: use netting to protect the berries from hungry birds! The first year’s harvest was piddly compared to the second year because our netting was ineffective. In year two, in addition to netting directly over the row, we also erected poultry fencing around the patch to keep the chickens away from the strawberries entirely. The double layers of fencing worked to keep the birds away, but next year we’ll need to find a way to deter the beer beetles that find the ripe berries before we do.


We enjoy both wild and cultivated raspberries on at country home. The wild raspberries grow prolifically along the hedgerows and we watch in eager anticipation for them to ripen to a deep purple before we don our protective clothes and wade into the thorny, mosquito-infested brambles. I consider the effort worthwhile if I can pick enough to freeze two to three cups of berries and let my children enjoy eating the rest fresh from the canes. As my little ones grow older, I hope their contribution to the amount we freeze will increase. Presently, I’ll try to find conciliation in the thought that I am training them for future berry-picking-glory when I consider the measly two cups stored in our freezer.

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