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How to Grow Saskatoon Berries

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  • You’re reading this article because you probably heard someone mention Saskatoon berries. You’ve probably read something about it online and you’re now looking for a more comprehensive guide. You want to learn how to grow Saskatoon berries. That’s something that you’ll learn from reading this article.

    Of course, you’ll also learn everything there is to know about it. It’s important that you know what it is, how different it is from blueberries, what it’s used for, its health benefits and more. Read on to know more.

    What is a Saskatoon Berry?

    Having the scientific name Amelanchier alnifolia, the Saskatoon berry is also known by many other names:

    • Pacific serviceberry
    • Alder-leaf shadbush
    • Western serviceberry
    • Dwarf shadbush
    • Western juneberry
    • Chuckley pear
    • Pigeon berry (old name)

    It can only be found in the North America region across Alaska, western and north-central US and most parts of western Canada. It’s a plant that can grow as tall as 26 feet (sometimes a bit more) and has edible fruit that looks kind of like berry (it looks like blueberries), but it’s not really a berry. It’s actually closer to an apple than a berry.

    Saskatoon Berries vs Blueberries

    As mentioned, Saskatoon berries are more closely related to apples than it is to berries. Other than their similar appearance in color and size, they’re actually very different from each other.

    The taste of Saskatoon berries can be described as both nutty (like almonds) and sweet. On the other hand, blueberries are sweet with varying levels of acidity especially when mature. This is why some people will tell you that blueberries taste better. The acid cuts into the sweetness a bit for a more balanced flavor.

    Juneberries (aka Saskatoon berries) are also easier to grow. This is why it’s preferred by a lot of homeowners who are looking to grow highly-beneficial trees in their backyard. They’re also very easy to care for. Care for them right and they would taste as good as homegrown blueberries and will taste better than blueberries bought at the store.

    In reality though, most operators of small farms looking to cash in prefer to plant blueberries than juneberries. This is because the former is more well-known and will practically sell themselves. Blueberry cheesecake anyone?

    However, blueberries can be very demanding. You’d need the perfect soil for it. It has to be well-drained and acidic. If it’s not, then you’d find it hard to plant and cultivate blueberries.

    This is when they choose plan B – Saskatoon berries. Later on, you’ll know of its benefits and you’ll find out that it’s actually a good plan B and if done right, it can be an effective plan A as well.

    Uses

    It’s been a regular part of the diet of the aboriginal people of Canada for a long time now. It’s enjoyed fresh and dried. It’s also a very important ingredient in the dried meat preparation called pemmican. It helps in its preservation and adds flavor as well.

    It’s also used as an ingredient in the following:

    • Beer

    Fruit beers are pretty well-known. What you may not know is there are also beers that have berries in them. Yes, including Saskatoon berries. Homebrewers have been experimenting with it to great success. They taste pretty similar to blueberry beer, but with a bit more tartness. Try it with American or Blonde Ale.

    • Wine

    Ripe juneberries will work really well as an ingredient in wines. It’s often complemented with granulated sugar and lemon juice.

    • Cider

    Being related to apples, these berries can work well as cider. In fact, there are brands that manufacture them and sell them by the bottle.

    • Glaze

    Its sweet and nutty flavor profile makes it an interesting ingredient in a glaze. Try using it in a rack of pork. Rub dried juneberries all over the pork before searing it and then coat the rack with a glaze made with a mixture of berries.

    • Jam

    Jams made of juneberries are very popular in Canada. Spread it over beef (or bison?) wellington and it will be a hit.

    • Pies

    Blueberries don’t have exclusivity with pies. You can also make amazing pies with juneberries! This will really bring out its nutty flavor.

    It’s also considered to be ornamental. Some home gardeners plant it to improve the appearance of their garden. It also helps that it produces fragrant flowers that are not shy to show.

    Health Benefits

    It’s also used for its wide variety of health benefits. While blueberries get the most press for being a so-called super food, berries in general can be considered as super food because they offer the same health benefits.

    In fact, it’s also a good source of antioxidants that can help you fight illnesses. For every gram of this berry, your body will get up to 36.56 mg of phenolics and anthocyanins. In fact, it’s the anthocyanin that gives it its color. It’s also high in flavonol.

    These benefits lead to claims that it can help slow down aging. It can also help against heart diseases and cancers. It can also guard your body against diseases to your cardiovascular system. It can also give your body’s immune system a boost.

    Its antioxidant profile ranks really high when it comes to its oxygen radical absorbance capacity. This applies to fresh fruit and fruit pulp.

    Here are the other health benefits:

    • It’s high in vitamin C.

    We’re always exposed to things that compromise our immune system. This is why it’s a must that you give it a boost with vitamin C, and juneberries are a good source.

    • It’s low in calories.

    You must mind your calories if you want to maintain a healthy weight. A 100 gram serving is only 85 kcal, making it the perfect snack.

    • It’s high in fiber.

    A 100 gram serving has 5.9 grams of fiber. Experts recommend a daily intake of 25 to 30 grams of fiber, so you’re off to a good start with a few servings of this berry.

    • It’s a great source of the following nutrients:r
    • Manganese

    Men, listen up. Manganese can help you combat infertility due to its high manganese content. More importantly, it helps in the healthy formation of your bones and connective tissues. It can also help with blood clotting.

    • Iron

    This is an essential mineral because it’s found in every cell inside your body. With low levels of iron, your body won’t be able to make the proteins that carry oxygen around your body. It also won’t be able to make hemoglobin and myoglobin.

    • Potassium

    Potassium is important because it helps your body perform important functions like regulating the blood pressure. A diet rich in potassium can also help normalize the balance of water in your body and will aid digestion as well, among others.

    • Magnesium

    A 100 gram serving of the dried variety has a quarter of your body’s daily magnesium needs. Magnesium directly affects over 300 biochemical reactions of your body, making it a must for you to ensure healthy consumption.

    • Calcium

    Calcium is important for bone health. A 100 gram serving of the dried variety will take care of 1/5th of your body’s daily calcium needs.

    • Carotene

    Carotene is needed for vitamin A, which is needed for healthy skin, strong immune system and more.

    • Copper

    When was the last time that you considered your body’s copper intake? Considering that it’s a trace mineral needed for your survival, you should start thinking about it. It’s needed for your body to make red blood cells and to maintain its nerve cells.

    There’s the added benefit of it being high in natural sweetness. It can be a good alternative to processed sugar or can be your sugar source itself if the craving for something sweet hits. Grab a handful of these berries instead of a donut and that simple choice will prove to be very beneficial to your health later on.

    How to Grow them

    Already a popular choice of small farm owners and home gardeners, there are still a lot of people interested to learn how to grow Saskatoon berries. The good news is this rising demand leads to a lot of plant nurseries to sell them. If you live in a location where it can thrive, there’s a good chance that you can find a plant nursery near you that sells its plant.

    There are no strict requirements when it comes to location. Generally speaking, just avoid planting it in a site that experiences late spring frosts. Here are the other considerations:

    • Compost

    This is not really a hard requirement. It’s more of a good-to-have requirement. By working compost into the soil before you plant it, it will help in the strong establishment of the plant because of excellent maintenance of the moisture in the soil.

    • Drainage

    It’s not as picky as blueberries as far as drainage is concerned, but a well-drained soil can really help it out a lot, like loam soil.

    • pH level

    A pH level of 6.0 is optimal for best results.

    • Soil considerations

    Make sure that the roots are covered well in soil. Also, the soil should be embraced firmly around the plant.

    • Spacing

    The plants will grow into a solid hedge formation. This is why spacing is important. Make sure that they’re spaced at least 3 feet apart in a row formation to give them enough space. Don’t space them wider than 6 feet apart for them to create a solid formation.

    • Weeds

    It’s a hardy plant once established but while it’s still establishing, it’s best practice to control the weeds growing around it.

    Sowing

    If you’re up for a challenge, you can start growing it in different ways. You can get started with its seeds. You can also start growing it from suckers and different cuttings like root, softwood or from etiolated shoots. You can even use its twigs and graft them onto apple or pear trees.

    There should be no problem sowing it from seeds. It’s very simple. You can also expect a different size and characteristics of the berries if you plant from seeds.

    Caring

    Make sure that there’s a slight slope. This will help a lot to ensure proper aeration and drainage. You’re basically giving it a chance to grow as if it’s growing where it’s naturally found. Give it a chance to not only survive, but thrive.

    Proper irrigation is a must to help the plant establish itself. This will also help maximize its potential. You can improve the chances of a more established plant with a higher fruit yield with proper irrigation.

    A lot of small farm owners make do with trickle irrigation. This is the more economical choice and can ensure efficiency. This is especially true if row spacing is wide. If you don’t have to worry about frost and cooling, this should be a good choice. Otherwise, go for overhead irrigation.

    Ensure long rows and keep spacing efficient to make weed control easier.

    Pruning

    You can expect the plants to start bearing fruit anytime between 2 and 4 years once planted. The yield is expected on the growth from the plant’s previous years and on the older wood. But as far as quality is concerned, you can expect the best quality from the young branches because they’re more vigorous.

    The best time to start pruning during the earlier part of spring. This is when there’s no more danger of extreme cold. Make sure to do it right before the plant starts growing.

    Pruning should be minor during the earlier stages. You just have to prune the weak and diseased low-lying branches. While you’re at it, keep the center open by thinning it.

    Major pruning will be done when the plant is between 6 and 8 years old.

    Harvesting

    Harvesting is easy since they grow in bunches. They also ripen evenly so you can just harvest the whole crop in bunches. This means that you can easily harvest them by hand. Just make sure not to wait until they’re too ripe already.

    Soil

    As mentioned, the plant of Saskatoon berries is hardy. As long as the soil is well-drained, it should be able to survive. However, heavy clay can be challenging for them especially if the drainage is poor.

    Compared to blueberries, the pH level is not really a strict concern. Although for best results, a pH level of anything in between 5.5 and 7 is best.

    You can also consider compost because it can help, although watch out because it can be used by mice as protection against winter. You can also add ground cover like short-cut grass in between rows. This can help against weeds. It can also help against erosion.

    Consider rototilling the soil before planting it in order to ensure that it’s up for the task. If you’re like most homeowners, you may not have a rototiller readily available at home, and it’s therefore easier to get a landscaping company to come and do it for you. If you use the form below for the purpose, you will get quotes from competing landscapers ensuring that you get it done cheaply too.

    Keeping Animals from Eating them

    Deer loves to munch on Saskatoon berries. This can be prevented by installing a fence around the plants. Mice can also do damage together with rabbits because they love chewing on the bark.

    You can try what other growers have been doing. Once the fall freeze has passed, spray the plant’s trunks with a solution of 2 bars of Irish Spring soap. Shave the soap and dilute with 1 to 2 quarts of hot water. Once diluted, mix it with 4 gallons of room temperature water. It has been reported that it’s a good deterrent against mice and rabbits.

    A fence won’t solve the issue of grasshoppers wreaking havoc on the bark and the leaves. Growers have been experimenting with turkeys as a means to control the population of grasshoppers and good news have been reported.

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