First garden order of the year: fruit trees and shrubs.

I went grocery shopping yesterday and was a bit startled by the increase in food prices, fresh produce in particular.  One of our purchases was garden seeds, which I’ll be starting in my little toilet paper roll seed-starter pots soon:

Last year I ordered cedar-apple rust resistant cultivars of apples — Empire, Enterprise, and Liberty — and a peach tree from Stark Bros, which I believe is the oldest nursery in the country.  I ordered these at the end of the summer when they were having a clearance sale.  I ordered the larger sized (“supreme”) ones but was shipped the smaller-sized trees because they ran out of clearance stock.  No problem, but they still charged me for the larger trees.  I emailed them to ask why and they replied they still felt I was getting a good deal since it was a clearance price.  I was a little startled by that response but I didn’t care enough to raise a big fuss.  The trees were good quality and arrived healthy and well-pruned, so I give them an A+ for their products but I’d have to give them a C for their customer service.

I’ve been planning since fall to do this year’s spring order from Raintree Nursery.  They are a well-respected nursery in Washington that carries many unusual cultivars.

Here is what I am ordering:

1. One cherry tree.

How to Grow Sweet Cherries, found on the Vegetable Gardener website, was an extremely helpful article for deciding what I wanted to buy.  Based on the author’s experience and recommendation, I’m choosing a semi-dwarf self-fertile called Lapins Cherry / Gisela 5.  Gisela rootstock was developed in Germany and requires a license to sell, so these trees are not easy to find.  Raintree is currently the only place I’ve found offering them.  The tree can be kept at about 10 feet tall and is resistant to cankers.

The rest of the items I’m ordering may sound a bit unusual to you.  However, the reduction in the diversity of our diets, a by-product of large-scale industrial monoculture farming, is concerning and my little way of fighting back is to plant a wider range of less-common fruit and vegetables.  If this interests you, the Unusual Fruit Plants for Gardens in the North-Central Region from the Michigan State Department of Horticulture is a wealth of knowledge.

2. Two huckleberry shrubs

Huckleberries are mostly found growing wild in the Pacific Northwest but can also be found in Michigan (see: Michigan huckleberries: small berries, big local history for more information plus a tasty-looking huckleberry pie recipe).  Sadly, wild huckleberries in Michigan aren’t easy to find due to habitat destruction.

Because these are mostly found in the wild and are impossible to plant from seed and are difficult to transplant, very few nurseries other than Raintree carry them, which is why I’m willing to pay nearly $20 per small plant.  I’m ordering Tall Mountain (some varieties of Huckleberry won’t survive our chilly Michigan winters, but this one should).

3. Serviceberries (also called Juneberries or Saskatoons):

My reason for planting serviceberries is because they are a fruiting shrub (or they can be pruned as small trees) that can grow in somewhat shady conditions, making them perfect for the second layer of a permaculture food forest guild:

I’m ordering the cultivar Thiessen.  I’m tempted to buy more, but serviceberries are in the same family as apples and thus are also susceptible to cedar-apple rust.  We’ve been working on cutting down all cedars on our property, but neither of our neighbors has done so, which means we can’t totally eliminate the problem.  I am planning to spray Immunox on my two non-resistant apple trees and will also spray my serviceberries.

Permaculture principles would dictate not to plant the serviceberries because I already know I’m probably going to face problems.  One tenet of permaculture is to minimize unnecessary effort by thinking through and planning things in a analytical way.  However, I also think it’s sometimes worth taking a risk to see if you can make something work if the pay off could potentially be worth the effort.  So I’ll start with one serviceberry and see how it goes.

4. Lingonberries

The National Gardening Association has a helpful article about growing lingonberries.

The lingonberry is a 12- to 18-inch-high evergreen shrub native to northern temperate, boreal and arctic regions of Europe and North America. In addition to inherent cold-hardiness (to -10°), once covered with insulating snow, it survives northern winters from New England to Minnesota…

Lingonberry plants spread by underground runners to three feet. The glossy, dark green leaves are 1/8- to 1/2-inch long and usually tinged red when new. This shrub is handsome enough for ornamental use — as a small-scale ground cover or informal edging around larger acid-soil plantings, for example. It is also attractive in containers…

hese fruits are tart. Make them into jam for a superb roast goose and venison topping. Pancakes covered with lingonberry syrup are a Swedish tradition. Use them in any recipe that calls for cranberries. Lingonberries are very rich in vitamin C.

I’m ordering Balsgard (developed in Sweden) and Red Pearl (grows wild in Holland).

Gardening is fun and enjoyable, something I would do as a hobby, regardless of any other reasons I may have for doing it.  However, the total for my order including shipping comes to $129.40.  As I put things in the ground, make infrastructure improvements, and set up our second attempt at raising chickens, I’m going to give you the dollar amounts that I’m investing.

The reason for that is because I want to make a point about how difficult this time period that we are in is; we need to start developing small-scale food independence but it’s expensive to do so, in some cases requiring two incomes.  Because I have to work full-time to pay for all this (though I’m lucky because I have much of the summer off), it cuts into my time to work on things around here.  It’s a tough time right now, but our agro-business food supply is simply disgusting and our supply web is only one Serious World Event away from major disruption, so it’s worth it.  Whatever your circumstances are, you can do something to raise food; folks did so during other difficult times in our history and we can do so again now.

Figure out what you can do now and start making a plan for this spring.

Happy gardening!

19 thoughts on “First garden order of the year: fruit trees and shrubs.

  1. My husband also wanted loganberries, but I forgot to order them. I’ll include some in the next order I place for plants, though. I wonder how well loganberries will do in Michigan since they usually grow in warmer areas; Stark Bros’ website says they can grow here in Washtenaw County, so I’ll give it a try. If anyone reading this has successfully grown loganberries in Michigan, please speak up! 🙂


  2. Love it! It’s so much fun to plan and plant! We’ve been doing a bit of work this week, and just planted a bunch of little transplant winter greens/salad greens that we could have done in the Fall apparently (ugh! missed opportunities!!). Texas seems to get away with having 3 seasons, at least we’ll be prepared to do a full year of gardening this year 😀

    My older son and I had to figure out a map for our garden plot, and figure out where to plant the shortest plants compared to the taller growing plants based on where the sun rises and sets – I had no idea this was basic gardening 101 lol. It was a really fun exercise for him in figuring out which way was east and west though, we used the little map we had drawn together, and a pencil to represent the plants, and it clearly showed him where the shadows would be cast so that he could decide where the tall plants would go… so awesome! Gardening with kids is double the fun!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Oh, and we’re thinking of putting in a couple of almond trees. Jung’s has a special offer where you can get two trees of different varieties (for pollination purposes) for $49.95 whereas if you buy them individually they are $29.95 each. They claim their trees will begin to produce in three years, which is surprising to me.

    Nuts are good source of protein and aren’t hard to store. The issue for us would be minimizing deer damage.


    • Nope, the issue will be the @#$%#$% squirrels. Not our little native red squirrels, the black ones that some idiot imported. I used to get a five gallon pail of hazel nuts and another of white walnuts. Now I get a half dozen that they missed.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I haven’t seen black ones. We have the cute red ones and some little grey ones. I hope the black ones stay in Canada! And a bajillion chipmunks. But our Shiba Inu is a fierce hunter of small game and has all the critters in a panic. They don’t dare come near the house lately, and I plan to put the almond trees on the northwest side of the house. So maybe we’ll get a crop of almonds someday?

        Liked by 2 people

  4. The weather was mild here today, so I got out to prune our 2-year-old peach tree and one of our apple trees that was munched badly last year by the deer.

    Then I came in and ordered those almond trees I mentioned above, along with a Jostaberry shrub and a Nero Aronia bush. Total price from Jung’s, who gives free shipping if you spend more than $75 (a very good deal), was $78.85.

    “These large, black berries are a delicious sweet-tart cross of Gooseberry and Black Currant. Loaded with vitamin C, the plump yet firm berries are excellent for fresh eating, jams and jellies. The easy-to-grow self-fruitful shrubs grow 3 to 5 feet tall and are resistant to many diseases and pests that typically plague currants and gooseberries. Easily adaptable to most soils with little or no use of fertilizers or pesticides and hardy to -40 degrees F.”

    Nero Aronia:
    “Prized for its delicious fruit and brilliant red fall foliage. Large clusters of snowy white flowers cover the plants in spring, followed in the fall by clusters of large, flavorful, blueberry-size blue-black fruits that make delicious juice, jam and wine. Fruits are very high in vitamin C. This 3 to 4 foot shrub is so easy to grow and productive that it’s bound to become a staple in American backyards just as it has in Eastern Europe.”

    I do think I’ll try to make wine someday. It will probably be horrid; most homemade wine I’ve tried tastes like cough syrup.

    Now I am pondering honeyberry/haskap .

    You may wonder why I am ordering these plants (which will probably arrive in late February) now when I cannot plant them outside until May. The reason is because I want specific plants and cultivars, and nurseries only raise and carry so many of these each season. When they’re gone for the year, they’re gone and that’s it. No more until next year. More than once I’ve gotten shut out on a plant or tree I wanted, but not this year! 🙂

    It goes without saying that I receive no compensation from the companies I’ve mentioned by name here. I wish I DID get something from them, lol. Like free fruit trees and shrubs. But I don’t, which makes me free to give you my unbiased opinion of their products, prices, and service.

    Update: Well, I just got an email from Raintree saying the plants will be shipped in April. I’ve ordered plants online before and had them arrive at the beginning of March, which means I have to keep those bare rootstock trees and shrubs alive for two months before they can be planted outside! So I’m glad of the later shipping date.

    Liked by 1 person

      • I put five blueberry bushes by the pond, but they aren’t thriving. Three were planted in late September of 2014 and two were planted in the spring of 2015. I haven’t noticed deer damage or any particular spotting or mildewing. Could the soil not be acidic enough? But the leaves don’t have that orangey look that I associate with a blueberry bush having iron chlorosis…still I bet the soil pH is too high. I think blueberries are supposed to have soil that is only 4-5 pH.

        I was dumping coffee grounds around them for awhile and then I got lazy about it, but I should probably start again and also get a soil testing kit. Being right on the bank of the pond, I don’t really want to put chemical fertilizers around them. I’ve heard you can water them with vinegar water if the soil is too basic, so maybe I’ll try that.

        But anyway, I still want other types of berries. I think it’s a good idea to plant a wide variety. That way, if something happens to wipe out one kind of berry – a particularly bad pest or disease, for instance – I’ll still have the other kinds of berries.


    • It is kind of bewildering how expensive it sounds! I’m sure for your family it will pay off in the years to come, but wow, the workload you’re doing plus the expense starting from scratch sounds very difficult. Thank you for being so real about how hard it is.


      • You have to think about time, we bought asparagus plants several times, and they were always expensive. But they have lived for 25 or 30 years, and they will out last us.

        A grand niece visited me last spring, saw the garden, and picked several dozen stems. I told her that her aunt just roasted them with the real Parmesan cheese until she could smell them. Well, she ate them all, and promptly went back to find another dozen or so. Genes matter ;-D


  5. You’re making me crazy with all this discussion about berries.
    I had an earlier thought about using bears to disccourage deer. That may not work. The bears may eat more than the deer and bears are always hungry.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Many, perhaps most retrievers, have a serious sweet tooth. I have seen ours behaving like bears, up with legs holding branches down to eat pears. One broke a major branch and I lost half a dozen grafted varieties, several were favourites, of both my wife and myself, a major bummer. My ‘dopted (informally adopted) kids truly love pears and peaches, it’s the natural sugars.

      Liked by 1 person

    • BG,
      I have given overripe pears to horses and it’s like they have gone to heaven. While it may be a little messy, it is well worthi it so see them so happy.


      • Yeah, they also love carrots and apples or sugar cubes as a treat too…and they remember and bunt you hoping you brought them more.

        I grafted several dozen varieties on the Bartlett pear tree. The kids truly love two of the round Asian pears because they are really sweet. And the two of them getting into the peaches is an animal act, juices running down their grinning faces and sticky hands down to their elbows ;-D


  6. Yeah Mary, your soil is probably alkaline. Ours are neutral to acidic because of our heavy rainfall. I always mulched the blueberries with Douglas Fir needles and used rhododendron and azalea fertilizer because almost all others are alkaline.

    The bad news is your grey squirrels are just another colour phase of the black squirrels. The litle red ones will take a few nuts but the larger black/grey/brown/silver ones take all the nuts, usually a week before they are ripe. I always pot a few with the pellet gun and get a few more with the live trap plus my Lab gets the dumber ones, but like I said the furry rats are winning.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Pingback: The permaculture principle of “stacking functions” (plus a tree farm recommendation) | The Sunshine Thiry Blog

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