Bee & Thistle Berry Orchards started with their first planting of 10,000 bushes of Haskap (also called Honeyberry), with varieties of Indigo Gem, Tundra and Smart Berry Blue. In 2016, Aurora was added to the lineup. Since the production in the initial years is small, the orchard held informal YouPicks and traded the first crops for other goods. In 2018, we harvested 6,400 pounds of Haskap from the main two orchards, fondly known as Home Acre (which houses 700 plants) and North Orchard (which holds over 9,000 plants). The berries are frozen, awaiting the license to manufacture them into wine in early 2019.
All work in the orchard is done as sustainably as feasible, with no insecticides used and very limited use of herbicides for treelike weed control. Watering is done with a tank from the adjacent ponds. Soil is tested annually and amendments applied as required. Compost tea was used a lot in the first two years, which really improved the structure of the plants and increased production. The land is now fertile and pliable. The inter-rows were planted with a mix of red fescue and dwarf Dutch white clover, which reduces erosion, provides a nice base for the tractor to ride on and is aesthetically pleasing.
In 2018, we added an acre of Rhubarb and several dozen Black Currant bushes to the lineup. Our brother orchard, Ravensfield Farm, will be growing Dwarf Sour Cherries, varietal Carmine Jewel. They planted their first 1,000 trees on Bee & Thistle nursery property until they gain a little strength, after which they will be transplanted to Ravensfield, prospectively in the spring of 2019. By year three, we hope the Cherry harvest is enough to make Cherry wine and liqueur.