How to haskap
Once you have chosen which varieties of haskap you want to plant, the next step is deciding how you wish to grow them.
It is recommended that you plant them 3’- 4.5’ apart within a row. Depending on the variety and how they are pruned, having plants close together may result in a hedge-like row instead of individual bushes. Row centres are recommended at 10’-14' between rows. Eight-foot centres have also been done but may not provide enough space for large machinery.
Raised Beds v/s Flat Beds
Raised rows have the benefit of making it easier for a harvester to get underneath the plants without needing to prune them as much as a flatbed row. For flatbed rows, it is ideal to keep the plant from growing too bushy below 8” by pruning. This ensures that a harvester can get around the plant without damaging it or knocking off fruit. Flatbed rows also require less input to create.
Left : Raised bed cultivation, Picture courtesy of Haskap farms Ltd., Kelowna, BC
Right: Flatbed cultivation, Picture courtesy of Tanner farms, Armstrong, BC
Another alternative to raised beds is Polytube cultivation which is highly suitable for mechanical harvesting and can provide good weed control around plants using a weed badger or weed wacker/string trimmer. Growers have tried different types (Vineyard grow tubes, Treepro, plastic pipes), heights (12”-18”), and perforated or non-perforated types of grow tubes based on the variety, land slope and type of harvester they are going to use.
Poly tube growing system, Picture Courtesy of Kirkaberry Farms, Midway, BC
Treepro poly tube, Picture courtesy of Honey berry Haven, Enderby, BC
Poly tube cultivation encourages the plant to grow tall and support the young plant while it thickens its main stem. The tube protects the young plant from browsers and wind damage and may provide a mini-greenhouse effect in the early spring, promoting earlier growth. (Source: Sean Dennison, Honey berry Haven, Enderby, BC). We recommend 12”-18” tubes with ventilation slits and diameter of 4”. Vineyard poly tube plastic doesn't enable for good airflow, so it can get quite hot in the summer. FloraMaxx took data in one orchard that had these tubes and found that there were slightly higher incidences of spider mites on the plants that were poly-tubed vs in cartons at another orchard. However, there is an extra cost of material and installation, which escalates the orchard establishment cost.
Keep inter-rows clear of weeds and grass for the first year of establishment, as they can compete with haskap for water. In wetter/rainier areas, grass/weeds can be kept and allowed to grow under the shrubs. Some farmers will keep the inter-rows weed free until the end of July and then allow them to grow in. This serves to reduce water availability which promotes haskap dormancy, and the weeds/grass act as a snow catch to increase the amount of snowmelt in spring. Be advised, that long grass may provide cover for rodents that could chew on the stems’ bark. Organic growers have limitations in using weed control products and need to resort to manual methods such as a weed badger or a steamer.
Haskap field that has allowed grass to grow between both plants and rows.
(Photo courtesy: HoneyBerry Haven, Enderby, BC)
Haskap field with clean interrow space (Photo courtesy of Tanner Farms, Armstrong, BC)
Irrigation is very important for the first three years of plant establishment, after which the plants can handle infrequent but heavy watering. This promotes deep root growth and less susceptibility to drought. Some growers water their plants once a week in the hottest parts of summer. Discontinue irrigation in fall to promote dormancy. Drip irrigation at ground level is a higher water-use efficiency method of irrigation. It can be used to deliver more directed watering and can be placed under mulch/fabric (recommended) or on top. Unlike overhead watering, the drip irrigation will not waste water in irrigating inter-rows or weeds.
There are many different types of mulch and row covers you can use.
A common one is commercial grade landscape fabric, which you can pick up at a garden centre or agriculture supply store. Black plastic can also be used in the same fashion, however it's not as breathable as fabric and should only be used in colder climates. Having the black material exposed to spring sun may heat up the ground more quickly, thus giving your plants a kick-start to the season.
Picture : Flatbed row with landscape fabric, Central Okanagan, BC
Wood chips/shavings are a more environmentally friendly option and can work out to be the least expensive. They keep the soil cool in hot summers and warm in colder weather, while still being breathable and keeping the weeds at bay. There are some growers living in coastal areas that have used seashells in place of wood chips.
Picture: A mulched, raised row with wood shavings and milk carton protector, Haskap farms, Kelowna, BC
To protect small, young plants many growers use some type of tube or barrier for the first few years while the plant establishes. This helps workers notice the plants (especially if the row isn't mulched or doesn't have some kind of weed control) while using machinery like weed whackers or lawn mowers. It may also encourage the plants to grow more upright as they search for light. Milk cartons are a good choice since they are relatively inexpensive, made from recyclable materials and can withstand the elements for a few years. After which, they simply start to degrade and become part of your mulch.
Left: Plant covered by the plastic sleeve, (Photo courtesy of Kalala Winery, West Kelowna, BC)
Right: Established plant in vented polytube (Photo courtesy of Honeyberry Haven, Enderby, BC)
Planting haskap can be done by hand or with a machine. Manual planting is more labour intensive but only requires a digging tool and perhaps a knife if you need to cut through plastic/fabric. A machine can plant approximately 5000 plants in a day and works well with our 2.5” plugs. Plant 1-2 inches deeper than the plug (possibly even deeper) to negate potential upheaval. This also promotes deep root growth. Alternatively, if you have overly long shoots, growers might be able to plant them sideways underground, as you can do with tomato plants. The axillary buds will send forth roots and shoots, making for a wider bush. This occurs in nature with wild when shoots fall over and get covered with leaves and other debris.
Source: Dr. Bob Bors, University of Saskatchewan, published documents
Fertilizing is recommended in spring when plants are growing rapidly and setting fruit. It is best done through fertigation. A general fertilizer or high nitrogen fertilizer should be used. If in the fall growers wish to promote more root growth, they can use a high phosphorus fertilizer. Haskap have the capability to be organically grown, as their fertilizer requirements and pest/disease occurrence is low or manageable with environmentally friendly practices. Haskap can grow in a wide range of soils, from alkaline to acidic. Preliminary results from the University of Saskatchewan may suggest that higher growth may be achieved by plants grown under more acidic conditions. They will grow and perform in clay but prefer well-drained soils
Pruning should be undertaken in late winter or early spring. No more than 25% of the shrub should be removed. Pruning away the older, woodier stems will open the canopy for better light penetration, air circulation, and pollinator accessibility. Growers can prune strategically to promote the shape of shrubs they desire.
Fruit-eating birds love haskap and will eat entire crops. Use bird netting for the best protection, preferably with <1” holes. Larger netting can trap and kill birds that try to get in/out of the orchard. Growers have also used laser bird control with encouraging results. Powdery mildew is the only disease that has been found on haskap and tends to occur once the harvest is finished, so there isn’t much consequence to production. Powdery mildew occurrence varies greatly by haskap variety and will occur more on stressed plants.
At FloraMaxx, we provide consulting on haskap variety selection, field layout and growing practices. Please contact us if you wish to inquire further, and we’d be happy to help you with your haskap endeavour.