By Jan Cashman

 

There is a lot of truth in the old adage “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.” Apples are one of the healthiest foods a person can eat. They are high in fiber and Vitamin C and low in calories. They are high in antioxidants. Eat the skin and you get even more nutritious benefits.

Apples originally were found between the Caspian and Black Seas. Even though this is not far from the “cradle of civilization”, the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, nowhere in the Bible does it say that the forbidden tree was an apple. However, humans have been eating apples since at least 6500 BC. They were a favorite fruit of ancient Greeks and Romans.

In North America, Johnny Appleseed established orchards in the upper Midwest in the early 1800’s. Back then, apples were used primarily for hard cider. They became more popular as a fresh fruit when refrigeration came into use so they would keep longer and new, better-tasting apples were available.

Apples do not grow “true to seed”. In other words, if you plant an apple seed, the tree that results will not produce that same type of apple. So, breeders take pollen from an apple with desirable characteristics and swab it onto the stamen of an apple variety with other good features, then bag the flower to keep the pollen from other trees away. The seeds will then be grown on and grafted to see if that tree’s apples have good enough flavor, texture, storage life and appearance to merit further production.

By the 1960’s, most supermarkets carried mainly three types of apples, McIntosh, Red Delicious, and Golden Delicious. These three kept a long time and were attractive but at the expense of texture and taste. Red delicious are flavorless and mealy. In the 60’s and 70’s, apple breeding programs took on the task of developing new and better apples. Washington State, Cornell, and the University of Minnesota have the main apple breeding programs in the United States. Not surprisingly, the hardiest varieties that do well in our northern climate come out of Minnesota.

By the 1970’s some good new varieties were introduced from New Zealand, Australia, and Japan—Gala, Granny Smith, Fugi and Braeburn. They have a long shelf life and also better texture and flavor but most are not hardy enough to grow in Northern climates. New apples were being introduced in the U.S. too. While at the University of Minnesota in the late 60’s, my husband, Jerry, was on a panel that tasted apple pies to rate potential new apples in a blind taste test. One of his young professors was doing the breeding and by 1978, State Fair and Sweet 16 apples were on the market, two of the best apples we sell.

In 1991, Honeycrisp apples were released from the University of Minnesota and they hit the market by storm. Honeycrisp are crisp and crunchy and sweet; everything an apple should be. The last few years, honeycrisp has become one of our best-selling apples. Luckily, the tree seems to be hardy and customers who planted Honeycrisp two or three years ago are already getting nice crops of this delicious apple.

This chart lists a few of the best apples for Southwest Montana. There are many other apples that grow and produce well here–some old varieties like Wealthy, some from Canada like Goodland, some others from Minnesota like Haralred. Good weather conditions have made 2016 a great year for all apples in the Gallatin Valley. This time of year we enjoy the fruits of our labor with big crops of wonderful apples!

By Jan Cashman

We all know that strawberries and raspberries grow easily in our mountain climate. Both are highly nutritious sources of antioxidants, Vitamin C and other vitamins and minerals. Blueberries are also super-nutritious but harder to grow here where soils tend to be too alkaline for them. What about some of the more unusual nutritious berries you might have been reading about? Some of these nutritious berries such as Acia grow in subtropical climates. But here are four nutritious berries that we can grow easily in our climate:1. Honeyberries (Lonicera caerulea), in the honeysuckle genus and native to Eastern Russia, are an excellent source of Vitamin C and antioxidants. Four good varieties that are available to plant are: Berry Blue, Borealis, Cinderella, and Tundra. You will need to plant two different varieties within 50 feet of each other for pollination.

  1. Honeyberry shrubs grow to 3 to 4 feet. The fruit can be described as larger than a blueberry but similar in taste. They can be eaten fresh or made into jams or jellies, and pies. Easy to grow and not fussy, they prefer full sun and well-drained soil. Although honeyberries are drought tolerant, these shallow rooted plants will need frequent watering at first until they become established. They bear on one-year growth so do not prune back the tips where the flowers and then the fruit will be. Net from the birds. Honeyberries will ripen here in July.
  2. Jostaberries (Ribes x culverwelii), a cross between black currants and gooseberries, are an excellent source of Vitamin C. They are self-fruitful, but you might want to plant more than one plant so you get plenty of fruit. Jostberries make good jam and are supposed to be tastier than black currant. Like the honeyberry, they need to be netted from the birds.
  3. Elderberry (Sambucus Canadensis) is a large (8-10 ft.) hardy native shrub that produces bluish-black fruit in bunches of little berries. It is antioxidant-rich and high in Vitamins A and C and other vitamins and minerals. The fruit is good for wine, juice, pies, jelly and jam but is quite bitter for eating fresh.

    You get better pollination of elderberries with two different varieties, such as York and Adams. Prune out old wood after 3 years or so on this fast-growing shrub. Birds like to eat elderberries, too, so net them if you plan to harvest.
  4. Glossy Black Chokeberry (Aronia melanocarpa) is another easy-to-grow shrub native to the Eastern U.S, that grows to four to five feet tall. It has fragrant white flowers that mature into dark purple-black berries with high levels of antioxidants, anthocyanins, and flavonoids. Although sour eaten raw (hence the name chokeberry), the berries make good juice, syrup, wine, jam and jelly. Chokeberry shrubs are relatively pest-free and drought resistant. An added bonus is their beautiful red-orange fall leaf color.

Plant these shrubs to make your yard not just beautiful but fruitful. If you can’t make your own, Rocky Creek Farms east of Bozeman sells a delicious jelly made from chokeberries.

Family: Rosaceae

Genus: Fragaria

Wild strawberries are native to the Western Hemisphere, Europe, and Asia. The strawberry was cultivated as far back as ancient Rome. Then, in France in the 1700’s, a hybrid variety was developed by breeding wild strawberries from North America with bigger wild berries found by explorers in Chili. Today there are hundreds of strawberry varieties that are big, sweet, and disease-resistant. Over the years, a number of varieties have been bred for our colder, northern climate.

GETTING STARTED: April or early May are ideal times to plant strawberry plants (bare root plants can be purchased inexpensively in the spring) so they have all summer to get established.   You can plant strawberry plants in any garden area or even in a container or strawberry pot. Strawberries thrive in a raised bed where drainage is better. They prefer a loose, slightly acidic soil, such as our mixture of 25% compost, 15% sand, 15% peat moss and 35% topsoil.

Space plants as close as 8 inches or as far apart as 24 inches. Spacing plants further apart allows the runners to have room to develop and form new plants, filling in the area. Eventually your strawberry plants will be too thick if you don’t thin the runners so the plants are about 12” apart. Plant them in rows as wide as 5 feet apart in a garden area to allow an aisle between the rows.

Plant the crown of the strawberry plant at ground level. Strawberries dry out quickly the first few days after planting, so keep the ground around them constantly moist until they become rooted. Pinch the blossoms off your newly planted strawberries the first year to allow the plant’s energy to produce a stronger plant next year with more and bigger berries.

CARE: Weeds and grass can be difficult to keep out of your strawberry patch. Be sure to start with a weed-free bed and cultivate frequently. A mulch of black poly or straw between rows will help. Renovate your strawberry bed every 3 to 5 years or so. Then, you can start again weed free. Runners from your old plants can be transplanted into the new bed.

Shallow-rooted strawberry plants need plenty of moisture in our dry climate. Fertilize strawberry plants twice a year, once in the spring when they begin to grow and again after the first crop in mid-summer. Use a well-balanced fertilizer like 10-10-10, preferably one that contains trace minerals like iron, calcium, & manganese .

PESTS: To keep birds from eating your strawberries, cover your patch with netting as the berries ripen. A few insects, namely slugs and spittle bugs, attack strawberries, but we have not found them to be serious threats.

Many of us are becoming more aware of the need to eat healthy; strawberries are a great source of vitamin C, minerals, fiber, and anthocyanins (cancer-fighting antioxicants). Plant yourself a strawberry patch this spring—the results are a delicious, easy-to-grow fruit enjoyed by young and old!

THE BEST FRUIT TREE VARIETIES by Jan Cashman 9/5/13

This year has been a year of bountiful harvests!  From the first garden crops of spinach and lettuce to many delicious raspberries to our overflowing orchard, we are being well- fed from our gardens and fruit trees!

Why was 2013 such a good gardening year?  To recap the weather, things were not looking promising by the end of April—it was cold and very dry.  But May was wetter and warmer than April—the last frost date at MSU was May 2; May 5 at the airport.  (Here we had a light frost on June 1.)  June produced adequate moisture.   July and August brought warm, pleasant temperatures.  Late August had some hot days, which helped to ripen everyone’s tomatoes and sweet corn.  As of September 12, we have not yet had a frost—a long growing season for Bozeman.  

We all have favorite varieties of tomatoes (I like Sunsugar cherry tomatoes and Parks Whopper) and sweet corn (I like Kandi Kwik and Fleet) that we plant in our vegetable gardens but some of you may not be so familiar with what varieties of fruit trees are the tastiest, most productive, and hardiest in our climate.

Because apricots bloom so early in the spring, their blossoms often freeze and the tree doesn’t produce a crop.  There was no hard frost this year after our Moongold Apricot tree blossomed on April 27,  so it produced a bumper crop of nice-sized, delicious apricots.  Moongold is one of the best apricots to grow here because the fruit is sweet, tasty, and the tree seems to be self-fertile.  

Our Luscious Pear tree is laden with fruit this year that will be ripe later in September.  Luscious is a large, glossy-leafed tree which is fireblight resistant; the pears are tasty and slightly smaller than pears you would buy in the grocery store.    Parker and Patten pears will work as pollinators for Luscious.

My vote for the best plum is the self-fertile Mount Royal.  Our Mount Royal Plum is so laden with plums right now that its branches are touching the ground.  The plums are blue, freestone, and sweet when ripe in October.  We dry the plums in a food dehydrator for nutritious snacks all winter.    

Meteor is one of the best hardy pie cherries—a dwarf tree but a prolific bearer.  This is the first year our old (35 years) Meteor has not produced a large crop, but our son Joe’s Meteor cherry, planted in 2007, is a perfectly shaped little tree that was full of cherries.  The robins like to eat the cherries, too; they even built a nest in his tree.  Many gardeners net their cherry trees to discourage the birds.

It’s hard to decide on the best apple variety for our area because there are so many that do well here and produce good quality apples.  The apple trees in our orchard are laden with fruit this year, partially because many of the trees had a poor crop last year; many varieties of apples bear well only every other year.  But super-hardy Goodland apple trees bear a crop every year. That is one reason Goodland is one of our “best” early apples, ripening in mid-September.   The apples are good- sized, crisp, and juicy.  

For wonderful flavor and juicy texture, it is hard to beat Honeycrisp and Sweet 16 apples, both developed in Minnesota.  These two trees are doing well in our orchard, but our Honeycrisp apples are smaller than the huge Honeycrisp apples grown in other states.  Both Honeycrisp and Sweet 16 ripen around October 1 and keep in cold storage for months.

Plant one of these superior varieties of fruit trees—our picks for the best in the Bozeman area.

Care and Planting

Plant the graft (the bulge near the union of root and top) at soil level. Leave a depression around the tree for a watering well. Frequent watering (once or twice a week depending upon conditions) is necessary the first few years and during any dry period, thereafter, to establish a healthy tree. Cultivating around the tree and a regular fertilizing program will encourage flowering.

Diseases And Pests

Trees must be protected in the winter from Voles and Mice by wrapping up to the bottom branch with screen or some material through which rodents cannot penetrate. Repellants or fences are needed in areas where Deer might be a problem. The trunks should be wrapped to protect from Sunscald which can blister and split the bark in the winter.

Fireblight

is a bacterial disease that attacks flowering crabapples and others in this family. It affects young twigs first, traveling down the shoot. The bark may look watery, dark green, or oily, and eventually splits. Leaves on affected twigs die, but hang on. Fireblight is spread by insect pollinators and wind. It is seen more often after wet springs. To control, plant resistant varieties. If infected, prune out infected branches. Sterilize pruners between cuts to avoid spreading the disease. Trees can be sprayed with streptomycin sulfate to avoid infection. Spray first just before blossoms open and then continue every three days. Do not spray after fruit has formed. Spraying will not cure fireblight, but may prevent its spread.

Cedar Apple Rust

is a fungal disease that needs both cedars (upright junipers) and apple trees to complete its life cycle. The fungus forms galls on cedar trees, but it does the most damage to apple trees, forming yellow spots on the leaves and fruit and causing early leaf drop. If possible, do not plant apple trees within 100′ of upright junipers. Control cedar apple rust by spraying with a fungicide such as Fung-onil or Daconil just before the blossoms open, again when the blossom petals are falling, and twice more up to the middle of June.

Scab

is a fungal disease that forms olive-brown velvety spots on leaves and young fruits. To control, remove and destroy leaf and fruit debris in the fall. In the spring, spray with a fungicide such as Fung-onil or Daconil.

 

flowering crabtrees table

 

by Jan Cashman 1/2/12

The November 21, 2011, issue of The New Yorker had a wonderful article called Annals of Agriculture, Crunch, Building a Better Apple, about the development of a new apple called SweeTango.  The article went into great detail about the history of apples, how patents and trademarks work on a new apple variety, and the apple breeding program at the University of Minnesota where my husband, Jerry, and I went to college and he received his degree in horticulture.  In fact, when Jerry was in school there, he had the best job he could imagine, although it paid only $1.75 an hour.  The apple breeding program had him on a panel with 5 others, tasting pies made out of potential new apples to see which was the best.  Out of this research, eventually, came some excellent apples for northern climates, Honeygold and Red Baron, which were released in 1969 and State Fair and Sweet Sixteen, which were released in 1978.  State Fair and Sweet Sixteen are two of our best selling apple trees here at the nursery.  Interestingly, we still sell a fair number of Wealthy apples, introduced in Minnesota by Peter Gideon in 1861, which became the inspiration for the University of Minnesota’s apple breeding program.

In 1991 Minnesota introduced Honeycrisp, which Jerry thinks will soon become our best selling apple tree because of its exceptional crispness, juiciness and its sweet, well balanced flavor.  And it stores for a long time—even longer than Haralson, one of the best hardy keepers for northern climates.  Honeycrisp will keep up to 7 months in cold storage.  In an ideal growing climate, Honeycrisp apples grow large.  When visiting family back in Minnesota last fall, I saw huge Honeycrisp apples in the stores which were as big as 5” or more across.   Those growing in our orchard here are small—about 2 ½” in diameter.  They are a yellow apple striped with red.

Apples have an interesting history: Many say that Adam and Eve ate an apple from the forbidden tree in the Garden of Eden.  But nowhere in the Bible does it say that fruit was an apple.  The first apple trees were probably found growing wild in what is today Kazakhstan, then domesticated around four thousand years ago.  Apple trees spread throughout Europe and then colonists brought seed to the New World.  We have all heard of Johnny Appleseed, who established orchards in the upper Midwest in the early 1800’s.  Back then, apples were used primarily for hard cider. But they became more popular as a fresh fruit, especially when refrigeration came into use to help them keep longer.  According to the New Yorker article, as time went on, “the number of available apple varieties shrank….By the nineteen-sixties, most supermarkets carried three types of apple: McIntosh, Red Delicious, and Golden Delicious…they (the apples) had to be durable, long-lasting, and attractive—generally at the expense of texture and taste.”   Many of us consumers have never liked Red Delicious—they are flavorless with a mealy texture.  Finally, by the 1970’s, “super apples” hit the market—Gala, Granny Smith, Fugi, and Braeburn were all developed, most from New Zealand.  They had a long shelf life but also better texture and flavor.

Many of you may have heard that apples “are not true to seed”.  What that means is, if you plant an apple seed, the tree that grows will not produce that same type of apple.  As the New Yorker article describes, breeders “take pollen from one variety and swab it onto the stamen of another, then bag the flower to keep the pollen from other trees out.”  The seeds from that apple will then be grown on and grafted to see if that tree’s apples have good enough flavor, texture, storage life, and appearance to merit further production.

“An apple a day keeps the doctor away”.  Apples are an almost perfect food, especially when eaten with the skin on.    I make delicious applesauce out of our orchard apples leaving the skin on but coring them, cooking them with a small amount of sugar, and putting them through the blender.  (The skins make the sauce darker in color.)  Apples are high in fiber but low in calories and contain high amounts of Vitamin C, B vitamins, and some minerals.  They are high in beta-carotene and antioxidants.  Apples are a convenient, healthy snack to toss in a lunchbox or purse.

In 1914, Jerry’s grandfather started the tradition of giving an apple tree to the parents of a new baby.  We continue this tradition at Cashman Nursery and Landscaping today.  This spring, Jerry and I will be planting two Honeycrisp apples for our two new granddaughters, Courtney and Miah.

by Jan Cashman

Since I was a child, I have been around blueberries.  When I was growing up in eastern Minnesota, my mother, sister and I picked wild blueberries in the area’s woods. (We were always watching for bears, who liked the blueberries, too.)  I didn’t mind the work of picking them, because I ate more than I put into the bucket.  When we were attending the University of Minnesota, one of my husband, Jerry’s professors, Cecil Stushnoff, was researching wild blueberries to cross them with highbush varieties.  I helped Dr. Stushnoff find local berry patches near my parent’s home.  (Locals were reluctant to divulge the location of their secret blueberry patches.)  Then, when my sister had a summer place in Maine, Jerry and I would go there in early August to pick blueberries, freeze them, and bring plenty home for pies; Jerry makes a wonderful wild blueberry pie.

Blueberries, genus Vaccinium, are native to North America.   Two species are commonly grown—lowbush, often called ‘wild’, grows to 1 or 2 feet, and highbush, reaches 4 to 6 feet.  The berries of highbush varieties have bigger berries, ½” or more in diameter.  Besides, Maine, which produces wild blueberries, Michigan, for highbush blueberries, and Canada, which exports both high and lowbush, they are now cultivated in Europe and South America.   Because they are usually more winter-hardy, we grow lowbush varieties here.  What we, in Montana, call native huckleberries are really blueberries.  Bilberries, which are similar in size and taste to blueberries and in the same genus, are native to Europe.

Blueberries make an attractive landscape plant with their brilliant red leaves in the fall which often stay evergreen through the winter.  The fruit is extremely nutritious.  Along with vitamins A and C, they contain antioxidants which have a role in reducing the risk of some diseases.

Blueberries are not easy to grow in Montana, but, it can be done if care is taken to amend the soil and protect them.  John Austin from the Gallatin Gardener’s Club has been growing blueberries successfully in containers.  We planted two new plants in our raised garden beds last spring—they have done well so far, even producing a few berries to eat last summer.

Because blueberries are native where the soils are acidic (pH 4.5 to 5.5), it helps to grow them in containers where the soil mix can be controlled.   Blueberries have a shallow root system, so they don’t need a huge container—John Austin has his in half whiskey barrels.   Around here, our soils tend to have a higher pH, so add peat moss and sulphur to lower the pH.   And, make sure there is plenty of organic matter in your soil mix.   Good drainage is important, wherever you plant them.  John uses plenty of elemental sulphur to bring his soil’s pH down to around 5.5 to 6.   Use a fertilizer recommended for acid loving plants.

Blueberries grow wild as an understory plant, which means they grow under shade trees in their natural environment of the woods or forest.  They may not thrive under our hot sun in this part of Montana; partial shade would be better.  John Austin protects his containers in the winter, since the roots are above ground level.

The University of Minnesota has introduced a number of hybrids of lowbush blueberries that are good producers.  Many of the hardiest varieties contain the word “North” in the name—Northblue, Northcountry, Northland, and Northsky.    ‘St. Cloud’ and ‘Chippewa’ are hardy introductions that ripen early and produce heavily but need a pollinator of another blueberry cultivar.  Plant two different varieties for the best pollination.

To get them off to the best start, plant blueberries in the spring when they are available as either bare root plants or in small containers.  Prepare your soil now so you’re ready to plant and look forward to harvesting this delicious, nutritious fruit.

by Jan Cashman

April is the time to start planting shrubs. This year, consider shrubs that are not just pretty, but have edible berries. Intersperse them in your landscape as ornamentals that will also put food on the table. Although most of the berries of these fruiting shrubs are for jams and jellies, some are good made into pies and a few of them are sweet enough to eat fresh. The deep colors of many of these berries suggest that they are high in antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. They also attract our feathered friends. In fact, you have to be quick to pick their fruit before the birds do.

Some of the best fruiting shrubs are found in the Prunus (plum) genus. Native to China and Japan, hardy Nanking cherry (Prunus tomentosa) has lovely pale pink flowers all along its stem. It is one of the first shrubs to flower in the spring and can be planted as a single plant but also makes an attractive hedge, growing to about 8 feet. The small red cherries are tart like pie cherries and make excellent jams, jellies and wine.

Western sand cherry (Prunus besseyi) is tolerant of dry soils and produces black acidy cherries that can be used for preserves. The shrub grows to approximately 5 feet high and wide with fragrant white flowers in early spring and silvery-green leaves. A new Western sand cherry introduction from Colorado called ‘Pawnee Butte’ hugs the ground like a spreading juniper but still produces lots of black cherries.

My mother used to make delicious syrup from common chokecherries, also in the Prunus genus. Most of the chokecherries we sell are Canada red cherry, a selection from the native that has red leaves. The fragrant white flowers and fruit of the Canada red cherry are no different from the common. Chokecherries can be grown as small single stem trees (20 feet) or as clumps. A row of them makes an effective tall screening hedge.

Chokeberry (Aronia melanocarpa), no relation to chokecherry, is a small, compact shrub with four seasons of interest that grows easily in all types of soil. The common name “chokeberry” comes from the astringency of the black fruits which are inedible when raw. However, the berries are extremely high in antioxidants and can be cooked with sugar added for juice or jam. The astringency of the fruit doesn’t bother the birds; they’ll eat the berries all winter. ‘Autumn Magic,’ a new cultivar from Canada, has more flowers, larger fruit and beautiful red-purple fall color.

Ribes (currant) is another genus of shrubs that produces edible fruit. Red lake currants and gooseberries, both ribes, bear their fruit on 2 to 3 year old wood, so won’t produce much the first couple of years. Bright red currants make great jams and jellies. My husband, Jerry, says gooseberry pie is the best pie he has ever eaten. Unfortunately, many of the currants are carriers of white pine blister rust. This disease affects white pines in eastern U.S. Around Ennis, white pine blister rust has started to infect and kill native limber pines, a relative of white pine. Black currant is immune to this disease, so it would be a better currant to plant.

Serviceberry, Saskatoons, Saskatoon serviceberry, Shadblow, Juneberry are all common names for the same fruiting shrub, Amelanchier alnifolia. This fruiting shrub is sometimes called Western blueberry because it is native and grows easily here, where true blueberries prefer more acid soils than we have. Huckleberry, a native with fruit similar to a blueberry, is growing in the surrounding mountains, but huckleberries also prefer more acid soils than are found in our valley. Juneberries are tasty and can be eaten fresh or used in the same ways you would use a blueberry. Indians dried Juneberries to make pemmican. Smoky and Theissen are two varieties grown commercially by Canadians that produce an abundance of sweet, mild fruit.

Regent is a form of Juneberry that makes a good landscape shrub because it stays smaller and more compact than the native, growing to 5 or 6 feet in height and width; the native will grow to over 12 feet. Regent has stunning yellow-red fall color. All varieties of Juneberry are suitable for a hedge.

Elderberry is a tall, hardy, native shrub which produces an edible berry. It is one of our fastest growing shrubs; a mature elderberry which you have pruned severely will grow back to 6 feet or more in one summer. Adams and York are two selections grown for their large fruit and productivity. Plant one of each for better pollination. Elderberries, especially high in antioxidants, are used for pies, jams, and wine.

Buffaloberry, called bullberry by the old-timers, is a large, extremely drought resistant native shrub that has silvery leaves and orange-red berries which make wonderful jelly. The challenge is harvesting the fruit. The shrubs have sharp thorns and do not let go of their fruit easily. Jerry has a friend in Eastern Montana that he supplies with the fruit; then she gives us some of her jelly. By mid to late October when the berries are ripe, he puts a tarp under the shrub and beats the branches with a stick. Of course, leaves and twigs end up with the berries and have to be separated. Buffaloberries form a significant part of game birds’ diets in Montana.

Highbush cranberry and other viburnums have edible berries good for jelly, although most of us let the birds have their berries. In early winter, cedar waxwings flock in and eat them all off the cranberrybush right outside our window in one day.

Fruiting shrubs are attractive in the landscape and give you nutritious food for your family or your feathered friends. Find room in your yard for them this spring!

by Jan Cashman

At their New Year’s Day brunch, our neighbors, Harry and Dottie Mann, served slices from oranges grown on their own tree inside their house. What a treat! Dottie says citrus trees are easy to grow indoors; she doesn’t give hers any more can than she gives her other house plants. Here are some hints so you can be successful growing citrus trees in your home:

Use dwarf citrus trees because they grow well in a pot, and, your home may not be big enough for a full-sized tree. Most sources suggest growing the sour varieties, like lemons and limes, which ripen without as much sunlight. The dwarf Meyer lemon is an excellent choice for growing indoors. (The Manns have two Meyer lemons.) Or, you might want to start with a kumquat, which is supposed to be easier than other citrus to grow indoors.

Citrus trees thrive in temperatures between 55 and 72 degrees F. Citrus need sun-a sunny east or south window or a sun room is best. Some experts suggest using grow lights to keep your trees fruiting all winter; citrus needs at least 12 hours of light a day to produce. The Mann’s orange tree likes its cool, sunny spot in a room above their garage. This tree has had as many as 60 blossoms at a time! In the summer, our neighbors sometimes put their citrus trees outside, in a shady spot, so the leaves don’t scorch in the hot sun.

Growing citrus from a seed may be possible, although the tree will not grow up to be a dwarf variety, and may produce fruit poorly or not at all. It is better to buy a dwarf, grafted variety, already growing.

You will need a large pot with good drainage holes in the bottom. A 15 gallon nursery pot, or one about the size of a whiskey barrel, is about right. You might want to raise the pot slightly off the floor to facilitate drainage. It works well to plant the tree in a plain plastic nursery pot with drainage holes. Then insert it into a decorative pot that matches your decor. Use an all-purpose, sterile potting soil containing peat moss and perlite or vermiculite; never use garden soil.

Keep the soil evenly moist. Because of our low humidity, mist your citrus tree often. Or wipe the leaves off with a moist sponge occasionally. Dottie waters her orange and lemon trees once a week, adding 1⁄4 teaspoon of Miracle Gro fertilizer to a gallon of water each time. In the winter months, when growth slows down, she discontinues the fertilizer. Use a fertilizer such as Miracid which contains manganese, iron and zinc in addition to N, P, and K. Slow release fertilizers such as Osmocote, will save you time.

Even if you never get fruit from your citrus trees, the waxy white blossoms are lovely and fragrant. To assist in fruit set and pollination indoors, use a paintbrush to move pollen from blossom to blossom.

Citrus are susceptible to spider mites, mealybugs and scale. Jerry fought scale on a lemon tree growing in his office and never did win the battle. When Dottie sees scale on her citrus trees, she wipes the leaves down with liquid dish soap mixed in water. She also uses a multipurpose houseplant insecticide-fungicide-miticide occasionally. Or, try rubbing a cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol on the pests.

Our neighbors, the Manns, have proof you can grow fruiting citrus trees indoors. They say it’s easy. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a touch of the tropics growing inside during the long winter months with citrus from your own tree?

by Jan Cashman

We love our home-grown raspberries. At one point, we had a 100 foot row of raspberries behind the nursery. This long row was enough for us and all our friends and neighbors. As we added greenhouses and needed more storage for trees, the patch had to be removed. For a few years, we went without, but in the fall of 2003 we planted a 15 foot row of Boyne raspberries on the north end of our vegetable garden. By last summer, we were picking them for weeks and had more berries than we could eat.

Raspberries (Rubus idaeus) are native to both Europe and North America. They have been cultivated in Europe for hundreds of years. Records show they were sold in Flushing, New York, at a nursery as early as 1737. In the first half of the 20th Century, Luther Burbank, the American potato breeder, introduced many raspberries hybrids. (Blackberries and black raspberries are not as hardy as red raspberries and will often freeze off at the ground, so I do not recommend them in our climate.)

There are two main classifications of raspberries, those that bear one crop in the summer (summer-bearing), and those that have two crops if you let them (everbearing, also called fall-bearing). If everbearing raspberries are cut to the ground in the fall or spring, they bear one heavier crop in the fall. Because an early frost can damage the fall-bearing varieties, our climate is better suited to the summer-bearing raspberries.

There are a number of high-quality varieties of summer-bearing raspberries. Latham raspberry is an old standby introduced in Minnesota in 1920. Over the years, the Boyne hybrid, introduced by Morden Research Station in Canada in 1960, has been popular here because of its vigor, productivity, and hardiness. Many of our customers have had success with the Mammoth Thornless variety. Its berries are large and ripen a few days earlier that Latham. And they have no pesky thorns! A variety recently introduced from Morden Research Station called Souris is supposed to be even better than Boyne– sweeter, more productive, and more resistant to spider mites.
Raspberries are easy to grow if you have a sunny, well-drained site. Most people plant them in the spring when bare root plants are available. Fall planting works, but, since we have to wait to dig the plants until they are dormant–well into October–fall planting gets awfully late in the season. Raspberries reproduce by suckering, so allow plenty of room. As your raspberry patch grows, it can infringe on other areas of your garden if you’re not diligent about removing the suckers. If your soil is heavy, add organic matter such as compost or well-rotted manure before planting. Plant raspberry starts 2 feet apart in rows 8 feet apart. Raised beds, in which the plants are often spaced closer, also work well for raspberries. In our climate, raspberries usually do not need staking.

Fertilize your raspberries with a well-balanced fertilizer once or twice a year-spring and fall. Weeds in your raspberry patch can be a problem, so start with a weed-free area before you plant. Mulch can help control weeds. For years, we sold a preemergent herbicide called Simazine (or Princep) to control weeds in raspberries. This restricted herbicide is hard to get these days. Casoron, another chemical, preemergent herbicide that is more readily available, will control many of the emerging weeds in your established raspberry patch. Preemergents need to be applied very early in the season, before the weeds are up.

Raspberry plants bear on second year’s growth. The old canes that bore last year’s berries can be cut off at the ground in early spring or fall. At that time you should also thin the canes to one every 6″ or so.

For many gardeners, deer and birds are serious pests to raspberries. We net our patch in the summer as the berries start to ripen so the birds don’t get them all. If you have deer in your yard, you may have to fence your patch. Spider mites, tiny insects that suck sap from the underside of the leaves, like to attack raspberries. Dormant oil spray applied to your raspberries in the spring before they leaf out will help control spider mites and other insect pests. Make sure any other insecticides you use are safe for edibles. There is a borer that attacks the canes of raspberries and makes the stems hollow and wilted. Raspberries infected with this cane borer should be dug up and destroyed.

If the raspberry fruit pulls off the plants easily, they are ripe. Wait until the fruit turns dark red for the sweetest berries-some varieties are darker red than others when ripe. Raspberries freeze well. I first put them on a cookie sheet in the freezer to hold their shape, and when they are frozen solid, transfer them to a freezer container.

But, we think raspberries are the sweetest when you eat them right off the plant. There is nothing better-plant some and enjoy!