POSTED IN For Consumers, For Members ON 8/9/2016
POSTED IN For Consumers, For Growers ON 1/19/2016
The following post has been created to capture a talk given by Craig Cunningham, Harbor Hill Vineyard Services, presented to the Saskatoon Session at The Northwest Michigan Orchard & Vineyard Show, Wednesday, January 13, 2016
Vermin want to eat your fruit before harvest. Birds, rodents, and mammals are waiting for the perfect moment to gorge themselves on your investment. And why not? It is conveniently located, largely unprotected, and it tastes so good that consumers are willing to pay you just for the chance to have some of their own. Even an occasional human can be found foraging in the orchard. So how can growers protect their crop until the hour of perfection when the fruit is harvested?
I have tried pretty much everything, and the animals have the upper hand (or paw or hoof or claw) with pretty much every option. Flashy tape does not work. I have tried scary eyed balloons, plastic snakes, owls and other animal shapes, old spray suits, bird noises, cannons, avian control (on a 7 day cycle), four wheeler drivers with shot guns (I don’t recommend this for anyone) and, yes, even air dancers.
All these approaches make you feel better. But they don’t work for very long. You can mix, match, rotate, and move around each of these deterrents, but the birds will acclimate.
The only thing that really works is bird netting. Problem is that it is very expensive and very labor intensive. Be sure that it is cost effective before investing. Know the unit value of your crop and have an accurate yield estimate in any given year. Know your fields too, to better understand the actual pressure (damage potential). I have some fields with heavy pressure each year, and one field with almost no pressure.
Bird netting must be timely – just before the birds show serious interest, and until final harvest is imminent.
Bird netting is often reusable, though the quality of your netting, and the way you care for it, will have a lot to do with how long it lasts. I have some netting that is nearly 20 years old and doing well, though I tell my staff each fall to remove it as if their job depends upon it.
There are 3 types of bird netting that often relate to the durability of the material that they are made from, and reflect their potential lifespan.
- Black is often extruded polypropylene. This is usually the least expensive option, and the quickest to fail.
- Green [lighter more flexible HDPE] can tangle easily with bushes and debris.
- White is also HDPE, and is a heavier woven product. This is strong, flexible, and my preference for bird netting. I have had it last for over 10 years when used only during fruiting season, and well cared for year around.
Whichever system you choose, closure will be key to your level of success. Along every seam (where two pieces of netting meet) and around the full periphery (where netting comes to the ground or any other ‘terminal’ surface), full closure must mean no space for critters to get through. For net-to-net ‘seams’, you will want to find a way to ‘stitch’ the sections together, whether an actual weave of twine, or twist ties, or a system of solid objects such as skewers or plastic clips; hardware of this nature should be available from your netting source. For terminal edges, drape down to the ground and allow 1’ to 2’. Think this through for your unique property before investing in a system. Covering ‘almost everything’ is very close to covering nothing.
There are 2 types of bird netting strategies that help protect from varmints:
- Single Row Drape-over
With this strategy it is hard to get closure on periphery with varied bush heights. This is a good option for trellised grapes, because the trellis can act as a frame for the netting, though this is hard to work with because it is labor intensive. For some saskatoon cultivars the harvesting can come in stages. With this approach the netting would be removed to harvest, then have to be reapplied until the next harvest.
- Multi Row Drape-Over (Complete enclosure)
The best option for saskatoons is probably complete enclosure. This system, like building a net room around part, or all, of your field, requires framing to cover multiple rows of bushes. Make sure your enclosure is high enough not only for your plants, but for you and your trimmer, sprayer, harvester and any other tools and equipment you will use during the season. And plan for repeated access. Anchor your posts well, as containment failure (even temporary) is nearly as bad as no netting for the whole season. Between anchored posts you can run 12-gauge wire to hold draped netting, and even include temporary supports along the way. When the wire is tightened (assuming the anchored posts hold – this is a “must”: frame has to be adequately built to host netting) the temporary posts will be held in position if the wire is snug across the top of each support. Keep in mind that you are building a structure not just for sunny peaceful days, but also for stormy days and unexpected stiff breezes.
Net enclosures should be inspected regularly to check for inadequacies and failures.
The Costs of bird netting includes:
- Posts (primary)
- Temporary Supports
- Cement [maybe, for posts]
- Wire (12-gauge) – tightened after frame is assembled
- To install framing
- To drag netting over the framing (and recover later)
I use the white woven HDPE and recommend one supplier – Michael J Schmidt, Jr. of SPEC Trellising – http://www.spectrellising.com. And that recommendation comes without any finder’s fee for me. SPEC is not always the cheapest, but he knows what he has, what you need, and he is good with schedule.
Current Sizes and Pricing from SPEC for Woven, Polyethylene Netting
16.5 x 990 $425/bag
21.5 x 990 $550/bag
33.0 x 990 $900/bag
48.0 x 990 $1375/bag
66.0 x 990 $1800/bag
This product can go back in the bag at the end of the season, and be ready to use in the spring with no winter/moisture deterioration.
I encourage you to employ the various options before buying netting. Some sites have no bird pressure. Don’t assume netting is the way to go for every site. Make sure netting is cost effective. Really. Don’t do it because it sounds like a good idea, but won’t result in increased net income [no pun intended].
In some cases, the pressure is mostly along the edges and one might try limited border applications, but this can fail if species scout beyond the covered area.
Dogs help. Any type of non-recurring activity will help. The Swiss use monofilament, as do some in the Grand Traverse area. This product is often used for seagulls. I prefer the netting.
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POSTED IN For Consumers, For Growers ON 11/3/2015
The colors are brilliant. The air is crisp. The nights are longer. Soon the snow will fall, and then the holidays. Yup, spring is just around the corner. Are you thinking about planting saskatoon berries next year? This industry needs more growers to meet current demand. Whether you would grow for fun or profit, this is the time to place orders for next year. If you wait to place orders next summer, you will lose yet another year. Act now to have fruit of your own sooner! This is not to say that you can plant a bush, wait a few weeks, and have saskatoon berries. Most plants, even when well cared for, will not have fruit until year 3 or 4 (after that, they have been known to produce for 50 years or more). There are some options to cut your lead time. Some nurseries will grow out your ordered plants for 1 year or 2 years, reducing the time you would need to reserve space and care for them. However your bushes will still need to winter at least one year on your site before you get fruit. So don’t wait until the right year for a harvest. Plan ahead! There are several sources for saskatoon plants (Amelanchier alnifolia – called bushes in some places and trees in other places). Those nurseries may have varied reputations regarding plant quality, shipping, and survival rates. So do your homework. You can see our member nurseries on our directory page. You can order plants for spring or fall planting. Fall planting often provides stronger plants with less risk of disease because they have been through a season already. You will want to note how the plants are being shipped: bare root, tube or pot. If you can plant with roots already in shipping dirt, they will generally adjust more quickly to your property. Avoid the result of the sign maker who created this: Make you plan BEFORE it is time to execute, and then put it into action. If you have questions, feel free to raise them here, or contact a nursery.
POSTED IN For Consumers ON 9/1/2015
- To Cherry Capital Foods for donating nearly $500 in food for Glen Arbor workers cleaning up after the storm this month. The donation included 24 pounds of organic green beans, 20 pounds of Saskatoon berries, organic zucchini and ground beef, 18 pounds of Balaton cherries and 15 pounds of organic broccoli.
Thank you, Cherry Capital Foods, for your thoughtfullness to care for the workers who are cleaning up the downed trees and other storm damage. For the regular readers of this blog, keep in mind that Cherry Capital Foods has frozen fruit, in stock, in 20 lb pails.
POSTED IN For Consumers ON 7/30/2015
Well folks, the fresh saskatoons are just about gone from Michigan, according to reports received from Institute members.
Here is what we have learned so far, in order of availability of saskatoons:
Cross Farms still has some saskatoon berries, in good shape, and will continue U-Pick through Friday, July 31st. They will also have frozen berries, which you can purchase at the farm.
Jacob’s Farm is just about out of berries, but still has a few. They also have other fruit still available, so they will remain open for U-Pick for some time yet.
Saskatoon Michigan has no fresh fruit left, but they just made a batch of their awesome fruit filling (for pie, scones, tarts, pancakes, ice cream, cream cheese, and other good stuff like that!), Saskatoon Berry and Saskatoon Rhubarb Fruit Fillings that is available in several local specialty markets. Saskatoon Steve will also be at the Traverse City Farmers Market on Saturdays starting August 1st with the fruit filling as well as jam and saskatoon/cherry fruit leather.
The Saskatoon Berry Patch in Williamsburg is plumb out of saskatoons for this year.
There are still other U-Pick farms that have been too busy to provide updates as of this hour. We will keep you posted as other reports come in.
POSTED IN For Consumers ON 7/17/2015
The saskatoon berry industry expects to produce over 3 million pounds of saskatoon berries during the summer of 2015! You might wonder how many berries that is. Well, we are looking into that now. Our berry counters are working feverishly to get as accurate an answer as possible. Unfortunately some of the berries seem to fall through the cracks in this calculation process. The next question you might ask is how many of those berries are in your share. That depends on how fleet of foot you are. While there are enough saskatoon berries for everyone in North America, some consumers appear to hoard them, while others miss out all together. The good news is that you probably have another week or so to get out to a U-Pick near you. If you don’t know where they are, some of them are listed on the Directory tab of this website. If you can’t get out to pick your own fresh berries, there are a number of stores that sell fresh, frozen and/or processed saskatoons. This blog, and the directory page can tell you more. These berries grow in northern states in the USA and in most provinces of Canada. While the bushes grow in the southern states of the USA, they will rarely have berries. We know that there are saskatoon fans in Texas who must import their fruit. While we are sorry about this situation, we assure you that this situation is not of our own making. The fruit filling and jam, however, is of our own making, and we look forward to sharing those with y’all! So don’t ride into the sunset without your super fruit! Act now and put a purple smile on your face!
POSTED IN For Consumers ON 7/10/2015
Eric Samuelson, of Eat Like No One Else, did a nice write-up this week about his family being introduced to saskatoon berries. The bottom line is that, though they really enjoyed their introduction, they did not buy enough fresh berries before the short season ended. You can read his blog post at: http://www.eatlikenoone.com/where-to-find-saskatoon-berries-in-michigan-2015.htm Editor’s note to Eric: Enjoy more fresh berries this summer! Then contact our members (see the Directory tab) for processed fruit products – jam, fruit filling and other products, or for frozen berries to do your own cooking. You don’t have to live without saskatoons for the remaining 11 months!
POSTED IN For Consumers ON 7/7/2015
Come on out and pick your own, or buy some in their market, along with jars of saskatoon jam, and other seasonal berries.
POSTED IN For Consumers ON 6/30/2015
They are expecting to have sasakatoons ready to pick around the 3rd of July. Please call prior to your visit for an updated phone message on picking news. Appointments are not necessary.
U-Pick hours include:
Wednesday to Friday 10 am – 6 pm
Saturday 10 am – 5 pm
Sunday 12 – 4 pm
(Closed on Mondays and Tuesdays)
To learn more, click here.
POSTED IN For Consumers ON 6/29/2015
Saskatoon Michigan Farm and Fruit, of Williamsburg, MI, announces that they expect saskatoon berries, read to pick, by Saturday, July 4th.
While they do not have a schedule for U-Pick, interested fruit fans can call (231) 360-0311 to schedule a U-Pick appointment.
Fruit is expected to last for 2-3 weeks after the 4th.