Saturday, November 23, 2013

What a summer!

When it finally started May 22nd, summer took off quickly . . . and ended all too quickly.  We were unable to clear any land this summer, but managed to get the bulldozer repaired.  Now it is just a matter of getting to the task of removing the downed trees and having someone pull out the stumps next summer.  Last winter was a bit rough on most of the plants, to say the least.  Fluctuating temperatures (from +25F to -30F in a week) killed back most of the raspberry varieties we are trialing.  However, we still got some very tasty reds off of Cascade Delight and Canby and a few tart ones off of Kiska.  Honey Queen yellows came through unscathed and were very sweet, but a bit on the bland side.  We got some late season yummy yellows off of Fall Gold (from bottom buds that survived).  Unfortunately, my attempt to protect potted plants and trees by placing them between my raised beds resulted in 100% loss of everything that wasn't planted in the ground - except for apparently very hardy Kolomikta Kiwis and Haskaps (honeyberries).  Even the serviceberries didn't fare so well.  I lost all my overwintering grapevines, as well - again not in the ground.  This winter I am storing the plants in the crawlspace beneath my cabin and have put up insulation around the perimeter.  I am monitoring the temperature down there.
  The peonies that were planted in the raised beds did a little better, although varietal hardiness was a big factor.  I lost 100% of Avis Varners, 80% of Kelways Glorious, 50% of Sarah Bernhards, and 30% of Festiva Maximas.  Thank goodness, a very pretty unknown variety survived.  Most of the damage appeared to be due to the cold reaching horizontally into the beds from the exposed sides about a foot.  Anything within a foot of the sides died.  However, all 25 Duchess de Nemours survived the winter even though they weren't put into a raised bed until late September.  With additional peonies arriving throughout the summer and into fall, the raised beds are full of peonies.  No place to put veggies next summer.
  We continued to experiment with new varieties throughout the summer and took possession of over 100 new plants.  So, we were still busy comparing varieties even with the extensive losses.  Experimentation is fun!!  But it can be a little expensive.
  On the bright side, enough of a Marionberry cane survived the winter to produce two fruiting laterals. Unfortunately, due to their position at the base of the plant, none of the berries ripened successfully before the first frost hit.  If more of the cane had survived, there is a good chance we would have had our first locally grown Marionberries!  Yummy!!!  As for the rest of the blackberry bushes, without protection there was complete loss of canes.  Hopefully, that won't happen again this year.  The Triple Crowns, Hulls, and Wild Treasures looked good before we got our first significant snowfall (4 inches), but temps got pretty close to 0F before that.  We added another couple dozen blackberry and raspberry varieties this summer - and WOW were the Kilarneys big!  Though the K-81-6s look to be too late to produce much of a crop.  Our winners for total summer growth in the bramblery go to an unknown trailing variety (may be a southern dewberry) at 15 ft from tip to tip of canes, Wild Treasure at around 14 ft tip to tip, and 6+ ft long Cumberland black raspberry canes.  I wish the latter would survive the winter, but it looks like they aren't hardy enough.
  Our greenhouse collapsed last winter under heavy snow and rain.  We were unable to repair it last summer.  Maybe next summer we can get tomatoes going again inside it.
  We were able to get our hands on a cutting of a relatively new and very cold hardy grape variety this spring.  It shows great promise, hardening off over a foot of cane before our shortened summer came to an end.  And it started out as a cutting in April!  It is supposed to be cold hardy to at least -40F, but so is Valiant and that one doesn't do well here.
  This summer I erected a PVC high tunnel and put the grapevines under it on July 1st.  They grew like weeds after that - well most of them did.  Some, like Marquette, just sighed.  We actually got flowers, pollination, and grapes on two plants.  Okay, these were new vines that arrived this summer, but still it was so exciting.  In fact, about half of the Leon Millot grapes in one bunch actually tasted like grapes after the first frost.  They were not ripe, but with a little more heat and a longer season inside the high tunnel who knows?  I also found out that I need to adjust the "tunnel" design to be more of a gothic arch in order to avoid rain and hail pooling on top.  And then there is the wind.  Yep, being up on a ridge does seem to expose the farm to more wind.  Not to mention that there are fewer trees around to block it.
  More trees came down this summer and we can now see the lower road from the top road.  With the roots out next year, hopefully we can begin putting more things in the ground.  We also need to transplant the bramblery, as it has become overgrown with grass.
  A coffee stand toward town appears to have gone out of business and was sitting on a lot with good visibility to traffic.  Would make a great spot for a farm stand.  Maybe I can talk to the owner about letting me rent it a few days per week - if we can get some produce to sell next summer.
 Currently we have about 16 inches of snow on the ground (along with much of what was my 100ft tower - it blew down in 60 mph winds a week and a half ago).  More than enough to protect the blackberries.  Cross your fingers that they stay warm.  Maybe there will be blackberry pie or preserves next fall!!