Category Archives: Fruit

July 24 Greenhouse and Small Goji Berries Update

Once again there isn’t much to say here that isn’t covered in the video. Everything has been growing fairly well (there are some signs of struggle on the Morning Glories, but that’s it), some of it a little too well, resulting in the cracking of the fruit.

I’m writing this a few days after the video was taken (four days to be exact) and not much has changed. Less water for the tomatoes and cantaloupes seems to be working like a charm, there hasn’t been any more cracking on any of them. I wish I could remember where I got the tip for that so I could give the person credit. I saw it in a video a long time back but never had the problem until recently, so I never thought to save it for a shout out. Oh well, I’m sure if I found it easy enough their video isn’t hurting for views, especially if the rest of the advice they give is as good.

The goji berries are growing like mad now that I have moved them into a bigger pot, I should be able to place them outside soon where they will live permanently. I am a bit worried that I might have started them too late this year to give them enough of a head start to survive the winter, but if I am still worried when it looks like it’s crunch time, I will cover them up just to be safe. If they keep growing at the rate they are, however, I won’t have to worry at all they will be plenty ready.

June 21 2015 Greenhouse Update and Hand Pollination Tips

The greenhouse is doing great for the most part this year, even after a week solid of rain and mostly cloudy weather – there were a few sunny breaks, though not many – everything is growing well. Everything that is, except for the cucumbers.

The cucumbers I planted, that I talked about in the last post have grown a bit, but not as much as everything else around them. This is becoming a bit of a problem, at least for the moment because they aren’t getting as much sun as they should because they are flanked on each side by pole beans and tomatoes which have become much bigger than the lowly cucumbers.

Shaded Cucumbers

As you can see, there isn’t much sun for them yet, and that was taken at 10:30 AM.

As of right now, I would guess they only get about four solid hours of good sunlight a day. The morning sun is dappled through the watermelons and beans, especially on the plant at the back but this is something that I had planned for, as I want the morning glory’s to do that for everything on the north side to keep the temperature down a little bit for slightly longer on warm days.

What I never planned for was the beans growing so much faster than the cucumbers, and that the Roma tomatoes, and some of the door frame would block so much from them in the late afternoon and early evening. None of this will be a problem once the cucumbers start growing up the netting behind them, as for now the sunlight seems to hit just above their current height and there isn’t much of the trellis that is shaded most of the time.

Next year though, I will either moving them to one of the ends of the raised bed, or just starting them earlier so they can be more dominant when it comes to reaching the sun against the other plants. If I transplant them around the same height as the tomatoes, or even the peppers, they should do a lot better.

Hand Pollination
One of the problems with my greenhouse is the lack of pollinators flying in and out of it on a daily basis. Though lately I have had to help a few bees get back home by picking them up on a stick and bringing them out the door, so it seems the hanging basket I put outside is working so far.

I am not seeing enough activity to stop hand pollinating however, so I will keep it up for the rest of the season unless I see the number of pollinators climbing significantly.

Tomatoes and peppers are some of the easiest plants to hand pollinate that I know of. All you have to do is knock the pollen off of the male parts into the air and they will coat the female parts and you will have a new fruit. Some people use electric toothbrushes for this, but I just tap the top of the flower with my finger and it seems to work great. For tomatoes growing very tall I have seen people using long poles to tap on the flowers, but I can reach the roof of my greenhouse, so this should never be the case for me.

The technique I showed in the video for the watermelons – rubbing the reproductive parts of the male flower right onto those of the female flower – can be done for a number of other plants as well. Cucumbers, summer and winter squash, cantaloupe, and any other plant that fruits from imperfect (separate male and female) flowers. You can also transfer the pollen from the male flowers to the female flowers by using a small paintbrush or cotton swab.

That’s it for this update, I hope you enjoyed it, and if you liked the video subscribe to the YouTube channel! As always you can reach me through social media using the links on this page (look for the green buttons).

Sugar Baby Watermelon Harvest

It finally happened, on September 6th, I got to eat a sugar baby watermelon that I grew myself.

For the last three years I have planted sugar baby watermelon seeds, only to have the plants grow, even grow fairly well, and flower, but I never once had one set fruit until this year. It took all summer to grow in the greenhouse and ripen, and it wasn’t really that big (sugar babies aren’t a large variety) but none of that mattered as soon as I cut it from the plant and brought it in the house.

After the blow to my gardening ego that I took from the potatoes this year, I needed a big win, and this was it. Of course none of it was really as extravagant as I’ve tried to make it sound, but it really was a nice feeling to know I succeeded at something I’ve failed at in the past this season.

Sugar Baby Watermelon

That’s a pretty good sized melon, even though my oafishly large hands make it looks small.

The picture above was taken on August 3rd, the melon got a bit bigger but nothing to write home about, as you will see from the video below, it did get quite a bit darker.

I wasn’t sure when to harvest a watermelon, but when I looked it up, it said that two indicating factors were that the closest tendril will die off and shrivel up. The tendril is the part of the vine that wraps around a stick, or a trellis, or whatever to hold itself up off of the ground. The closest one on my watermelon shriveled a full week before I picked it because it didn’t sound quite ready.

“But Conrad,” you might be saying, “plants don’t make sounds.” Well, no, not usually, unless it’s a rustle of the leaves in the wind, but melons can tell you they are ripe if they sound hollow when you knock on them. When the tendril first died back, it sounded like it always had, a dull thud, nothing more. The day I picked it however, the sound had changed instead of a thud it sounded hollow, this is what made me pick it. It might have made an even more hollow sound had I left it a little longer, but I figured three years was long enough to wait!

Below is a video of a taste test I did on it, I hope you enjoy it, though I doubt you will as much as I enjoyed making it.

Our Evans Cherry Tree: History and 2013 Season

Ever since I was a small child I have loved the taste of cherries, so as soon as I got into gardening, I started looking into which types of cherry trees do well in our climate (Hardiness Zone 3A). My search didn’t last long once I hit the internet; I almost immediately found an article from the Edmonton Journal back in 2006 that sold me on the Evans Cherry as the perfect tree for what I wanted. It grows large cherries that are great for baking and freeze well, it is a heavy producer, and the cultivar even has an interesting history to it.

History of the Evans Cherry Tree in Alberta

As far back as 1923 a Mrs. Borward in the Henwood area (near Edmonton) has been growing Evans Cherry trees (Prunus “Evans”). It is thought she got seeds from some Minnesotans that settled in that area, and who may have been growing them as far back as the 1800’s in Minnesota.

When Mrs. Borward’s orchard was to be taken over for a new federal prison in 1976, and all of her trees were to be lost, she contacted Dr. Iuean Evans. She told him what was to take place and that he could take some of the trees to the Alberta Tree Nursery and keep any wood he wanted from the rest.

Dr. Evans began to propagate cuttings and give them to his friends and acquaintances, but for a good while no nurseries were interested in the trees. That is until DNA Gardens, a nursery from Red Deer, specializing in hardy perennials finally started propagating them for sale to the general public. Soon after, in 1990, a Winnipeg nursery bought 8000 trees and has sold out every year since (as of 2006), which has helped lead to the Evans Cherry to become the number one selling cherry tree in Canada.

The History of My Evans Cherry

I bought my Evans Cherry back in July of 2007 from a tree farm west of Olds for $30. It was only about a foot tall, but I was already excited to see what it would do in its first year in its new home.

It did nothing. Well, almost nothing; it may have grown an inch or two that first summer, but nothing noticeable to me. I am sure this had more to do with it being transplanted later in the season than anything else, as Evans Cherries are typically fast growing.

The second year it grew about six inches and started to become bushy. Then in 2009 it grew about six more inches and started to look like a proper shrub, it also got its first blossoms. Thought it only formed a few blossoms, it was nice to see that it really would give fruit eventually. We never got any that year however, as the birds beats us to them.

A small bush in front of a lilac hedge with various flowers planted around it

Our Evans Cherry tree in 2010, you can see how it gets morning shade from those lilacs

In 2010, now well established, the tree grew over a foot; though the spring found few blossoms again and again the birds ate the few cherries that were to be had. At this point I realized that the neigbours lilac hedge was likely shading the tree in the mornings, leading to it’s slower than normal growth. It turns out that I may have just been basing the growth I thought it should have had on something I read on the DNA Gardens website which said they can get one to grow five feet in a single season, thought it is not advisable to do so.

In 2011 I finally got to taste my first cherry from the tree, I picked it early and it was so sour that I had wished I had bit into a lemon. Fortunately for me, I found that the cherries get sweeter the longer you leave them, and much of the tartness was gone by the time I picked the next one. We only had a few handfuls of cherries that year. The tree grew almost two feet in 2011 to come in at around five feet tall.

White blossoms cover a branch on an Evans Cherry tree

Very showy white blossoms show up early in the spring, if only they lasted longer.

2012 brought us our first bumper crop from the tree; we got four 4 litre ice cream buckets full of cherries, and that was with the birds still picking them off. We had a lot of cherry based baking that year, and gave many away to friends and family. It was the first time I actually believed one of these trees could produce up to 150 lbs of fruit like my research had claimed since the tree was only about six and a half feet tall of the ten to fifteen feet it is supposed to get to.

Last year we didn’t get as many cherries as in 2012, but that mainly has to do with the removal of a very large sucker that had a lot of fruit bearing branches early in the spring. The rest of the tree produced as much as it did the year before, netting us three buckets full of fruit. The tree now stands over seven feet tall.

Last year also saw the trimming of the neighbours hedge to around six feet in the fall, so the tree will not have to compete for canopy space in the spring, which should allow it to bush out a little more on the back, and grow as much in 2014 as it did in 2013, if not more.

What are Cherries Good For?

Though an English Morello type cherry, the fruit of the Evans Cherry is quite tart if not left on the tree until the right time. I don’t mind the flavour of some picked slightly early (a medium red colour), but I know many who prefer to leave the cherries until they are a nice burgundy colour, which gets rid of most of the tart flavour.

I have also heard that freezing the cherries whole can get rid of a lot of the tartness, though our cherries get pitted before we freeze them and only get used in baking afterwards. To me they taste the same in baking after they are frozen as they do fresh.

Two bags of frozen cherries

Evans Cherries freeze extremely well, and as you can see, they hold their shape nicely.

As mentioned, this year we froze a lot of our cherries, we pitted them, vacuum sealed them, and tossed them into the freezer until we need them. They freeze up very well; they keep their structure and are incredible for baking afterwards. I cannot say as to how they taste if they are simply thawed out and eaten, as I have yet to try them that way. The best part is, as of this writing we still have a pair of two cup bags left.

I will be adding some of the recipes we use the cherries for to the site at a later date, keep checking back for them; the cherry cake is especially moist and delicious!

All in all I wouldn’t trade my Evans Cherry for any other kind hardy enough for our zone. Nankings grow around here, and while the flavour is a bit better, you would need three, or four trees to produce as much as a single Evans. You will thank yourself when you still have cherries left over on a cold January day to make yourself some chocolate cherry muffins if you plant one of your own.