March 2, 2023 – GROWING APPLES IN MANITOBA
Today Philip gave a talk on establishing an apple orchard in Manitoba including the challenges and opportunities. The presentation time was shared with Wooden Gate Cider who provided details on some of their award-winning drinks made from Manitoba apples. You can view the presentation at https://youtu.be/g63TK3s0qAg.
October 16, 2022 – TIME FOR WINTER REST
A walk through the field today revealed the onset of dormancy in our haskap fields. The shorter days of September and cooler nights of October trigger leaf colour and abscission. This picture shows our cultivar mix in the row with ‘Honey Bee’ (yellow) and ‘Aurora’ (green).
October 3, 2022 – SHIP THEM OUT
Today we shipped 2000 2 year old haskap plants to one of our largest customers. Its rewarding to see the growth on these plants in the 5 months since they were potted up as tiny rooted cuttings in early May (see photo below – taken on June 14).
September 15, 2022 – CIDER DAY
We had a good crop of apples this year and that means its time for a trip to Dead Horse Cider in Winkler to make some juice. A cube van full of apples turns into 400 L of fresh-pressed, Manitoba apple juice concentrate.
July 30, 2022 – END OF SASKATOON HARVEST
Its always a happy day when the harvester gets pressure washed for the last time. As labour becomes increasingly harder to find we have been very thankful for this machine. Its starting to show its age, but still gets the job done.
July 12, 2022 – A SHOUT-OUT TO OUR PICKERS
Did you know that all fresh/frozen haskap berries from Riverbend Orchards are carefully hand-picked by our dedicated staff? We often say that the day they retire will be the same day that we retire! Over the years we have learned that good help is irreplaceable.
July 11, 2022 – OPENING DAY
A new service gazebo greeted our customers today on the first day of haskap u-pick. The interest in pick-your-own haskap continues to be strong and every year more Manitobans are discovering this wonderful fruit.
June 20, 2022 – PFGA FIELD TOUR
It was our pleasure to welcome members of the Prairie Fruit Growers Association to our farm today for a field tour. After several years of restrictions it was nice to rub shoulders with fellow fruit growers and compare notes for another growing season.
June 2, 2022 – NEW GOOSEBERRY PLANTATION
Other than its thorns, Gooseberry is a fairly easy plant to grow. Today we planted four rows of gooseberries including cultivars: ‘Pixwell’, ‘Captivator’, ‘Easy Pickin’ and ‘Hinnomaki Red’. Large aisles will allow mechanical harvesting but it will be a few years until picking!
May 7, 2022 – WINTER OF THE VOLES
The snow has receded and its time to assess the damage! Voles are notorious for their “under-their-snow” damage to fruit trees. The deep snow of 2022 allowed them lots of opportunities. Even 10 of our haskap plants were hit hard. No worries on own-rooted plants; the roots are fine and the crown will regrow.
February 23, 2022 – GARDENING IN THE HEART
We were pleased to have our farm profiled on the Manitoba-made documentary “Gardening in the Heart”. You can view the video here. Thanks to Elise Swerhone and her team for a job well done!
January 13, 2022 – HASKAP WEBINAR
Philip was pleased to present a talk titled “Growing Haskap in Manitoba” as part of the Prairie Fruit Growers Association Winter Webinar series. You can view the video here.
August 11, 2021 – PEMBINA PLUM
Yes we can grow high quality plums in Manitoba. The best all purpose cultivar is ‘Pembina’, which produces large juicy fruit that are excellent for fresh eating or processing. The bulk of our plums this year will be used by Manitoba Maid to produce their signature “Pembina Plum jam“
August 5, 2021 – NEWFOUND RESPECT FOR VETCH
We are always looking for proven ways to rebuild soil structure and fertility in our fields. Our choice in the past has always been spring sown cereal rye which produces a nice mat between our rows. This summer was the first time we experimented with a 3:1 blend of fall rye and hairy vetch. The result was a N-fixing cover crop that supplied a bountiful late summer feast to our resident bumble bees. We mowed in August to ensure no vetch seeds matured.
July 20, 2021 – BOUNTIFUL TART CHERRY CROP
As we wind down the harvest of haskap and saskatoons, we turn our attention to a bountiful crop of tart cherries. After last year’s complete crop failure due to late spring frost it was a joy to see these shrubs bending under a heavy load of delicious fruit.
July 8, 2021 – HASKAP HEAVEN
We’re about half way through our haskap picking for this year. As you can see, our fruit is still picked by hand which is a slow process but results in fantastic quality. As our plants increase in size and yield, we are investigating options for mechanical harvesting. Look for our frozen haskap fruit at St. Leon Gardens in downtown Winnipeg.
July 5, 2021 – COUNTRY STORE = COVID TENT
The pandemic required us to think “outside the box” when it came to our country store. With a little imagination, we were able to create an outdoor store with some protection from the elements. Thanks to all our faithful customers who adapted to online ordering, curbside pickup and making appointments for U-picking. Hopefully July of 2022 marks a return to more normal conditions!
June 20, 2021 – BIRD NETTING IN PLACE
Today we protected our 4 year old haskap with new 17′ wide bird netting on a series of T-shaped support posts and end anchors. Our objective with this new system is to keep the netting off the plants and ensure complete coverage of the rows. We’re still searching for the best way to anchor the sides!
September 24, 2020 – FALL COLOUR = THE END OF SUMMER
Its a glorious time of year for tree huggers! Native trees are starting to turn golden while some of our introduced maples bring wonderful reds. Another year of growing is in the books!
September 9, 2020 – HAVE YOU TRIED A PRAIRIE PEAR?
Yes we can grow quality pears in Manitoba. They are smaller and not as sweet as what you could buy at the grocery store, but they are tasty in their own right. Pictured below in order of ripening ‘Early Gold’ (left), ‘Ure’ (center) and ‘Golden Spice’ (right).
August 25, 2020 – APPLE HARVEST
Today we started our harvest of ‘Goodland’ apples. The fruit is slightly smaller this year due to a dry summer but the quality is excellent. Over the next week we will harvest close to 5000 lbs of spray-free apples. Many of these are delivered to our produce partners in Winnipeg; the balance will be pressed into cider.
July 14, 2020 – “LATE SEASON” HASKAP
We’re still picking haskap in mid-July, almost a month after our season started. This year was the first time we left several rows of ‘Aurora’ for late picking. The berries still have good texture and wow are they ever sweet!
July 6, 2020 – COUNTRY STORE
Today we re-opened our country store to the public. We are pleased to offer a selection of fresh/frozen fruit, berry spreads and our delicious saskatoon pies. We’re open Monday to Saturday for the month of July.
June 22, 2020 – TIME FOR HASKAP PICKING
Our haskap picking season started today with the cultivar ‘Tundra’. ‘Tundra’ was one of the first introductions from the U of SK breeding program. It picks clean and dry and constitutes the bulk of our frozen haskap production.
June 17, 2020 – A WINDSTORM TO REMEMBER
Does anyone else wonder if the frequency of heavy windstorms is increasing? A major system blew through our area early in the morning and tested all the trees in the yard. One of the victims was a very large cottonwood which fortunately fell in a direction away from the house! Time to start the clean-up.
June 12, 2020 – A BETTER WAY TO NET HASKAP
Thanks to some manufacturing ingenuity we were able to apply this year’s bird netting to our haskap much more quickly. Our friend Henry constructed a heavy steel bar with retaining plate that could be easily anchored to our front end loader. A job that once took days was complete in a matter of hours. Watch a short video by clicking here. Remember the rule of thumb for haskap berries, “no net = no fruit”!
May 27, 2020 – POTTING FINISHED
Every May we pot up any remaining plug cuttings into 1 gallon pots for another summer of growth. These 2000 plants will quadruple in size over the summer reaching a mature height of 12-18″ by September. Most of these plants will bear fruit in 2021.
May 21, 2020 – HASKAP ARE BLOOMING
After a cold start to the month of May, we entered into a heatwave this week with temperatures in the high 20’s and strong southerly winds every day. The haskap quickly burst into bloom – these are 3 year old ‘Aurora’. We consider our orchard to be quite sheltered, but the wind has knocked 10% of the blossoms off each plant. Flowering is also a good time to apply water and nutrients to young and established haskap plants.
May 12, 2020 – MINUS 10 C = A BLOSSOM’S WORST FEAR
In the first half of May we faced some unusual temperatures that resulted in complete fruit loss for several crops including tart cherry, plum and apricot. In particular, the morning of May 12 produced a low temperature close to -10 C. Although these fruit trees had not yet flowered, their flowers buds had activated internally and were very susceptible to cold temperatures. Fortunately, our saskatoons, haskap, apple, pear and gooseberry were unaffected.
May 2, 2020 – SHELTERBELTS: NOT FOR THE FAINT OF HEART
This spring we decided to replace a 35 year old row of Northwest poplar with a blue spruce shelterbelt. Felling the poplar trees was quick and painless but the cleanup was a major undertaking where lots of family help was needed. Nevertheless, we are very pleased with the final result and look forward to decades of year-round protection.
April 13, 2020 – HEALTHY HASKAP – ITS ALL ABOUT THE SKIN
This photograph reminded me of the uniqueness of haskap. Each haskap fruit is actually composed of two to four smaller “berries” wrapped in a larger “shell”. Normally, this unusual anatomy goes unnoticed, but an unfused ovary provides the opportunity to peer inside the developing fruit. The large surface area (skin) of a single haskap berry is immediately obvious. This blue layer is filled with wonderful phytochemicals including anthocyanin, a powerful anti-oxidant.
March 1, 2020 – MY TAKE ON HASKAP CULTIVARS
The fruit industry is no different than other sectors of agriculture in terms of pursuing the latest and best genetics. Riverbend Orchards is a licensed propagator of the haskap cultivars from the University of Saskatchewan. We have tested every haskap released from Dr. Bob Bor’s program and also closely followed the findings of other growers worldwide. Riverbend’s plantings of haskap have focused on cultivar ‘Aurora’ with suitable pollinizers. We like this cultivar for its upright habit that is very suitable for mechanical harvesting. The graph below (provided by U of SK) also shows that ‘Aurora’ holds its own when comparing fruit yield with the newer ‘Boreal Blizzard’.
October 12, 2019 – THE AFTERMATH OF AN UNEXPECTED STORM
Winter decided to come early in Manitoba this year. Heavy snow and strong winds arrived on October 11. Although many of the fruit plants (see sour cherries below) were bent down under the wet snow, the greatest damage occurred on shade trees in the yard including a prized Norway Maple that was split in two.
September 9, 2019 – NEW HASKAP PLANTING
Today we completed another haskap planting at our farm: 670 Aurora and 200 Honey Bee were installed in an area that had been in saskatoon production two months before. With the help of a Schulte mower and a subsoil mulcher, the area was quickly transformed for planting.
March 30, 2019 – GARDENING SATURDAY PRESENTATION
Today we had the opportunity to talk about backyard orchards with two groups of avid gardeners at Gardening Saturday in Winnipeg. A copy of the Powerpoint presentation can be viewed or downloaded at this link: The prairie orchard
March 14, 2019 – NATIONAL PI(E) DAY
How fitting that on National Pi Day we began another exciting, edible adventure at Riverbend Orchards. In conjunction with the good folks at Harvest Pie Company, we are happy to bring back our famous saskatoon pies. Each frozen 8″ pie is filled with naturally sweet, ‘Smoky’ saskatoon berries grown at our farm. Bake at 400 F for 45 minutes for a piece of prairie paradise! Available as singles ($10) or in cases of 12 for $110.
December 4, 2018 – THE POWER OF PURPLE FRUITS
We came across a very interesting article on CBC News regarding the power of anthocyanins to heal our bodies. Riverbend Orchards has an excellent selection of fruits with high anthocyanins including: saskatoon berry, honeyberry (haskap), tart cherry, chokeberry (aronia) and cherry plum. We need to work with local research groups to better characterize these prairie fruits and get the message out to local consumers that prairie fruit not only tastes good, but has the potential to fight disease.
October 31, 2018 – YOUNG PLANT INVENTORY FINISHED
We have finished our counts of 1 year-old rooted cuttings and 2 year-old containers of haskap. This year our available stock is mostly made of two outstanding cultivars from the University of Saskatchewan: ‘Aurora’ and ‘Boreal Blizzard’. These new selections represent the best haskap genetics available at the present time with refinements to fruit yield, fruit size and plant habit.
October 23, 2018 – NEW HIGHWAY SIGN MARKS 10 YEARS IN BUSINESS
Today we erected our new double-sided farm sign on the west side of highway #240. Featuring our new logo, this sign was printed by Pro-Image in Portage la Prairie. It replaces the sign we had put up in the same location back in 2009, our first year in business.
August 16, 2018 – HOLLYWOOD COMES TO RIVERBEND
Today Riverbend Orchards became Seaton Orchards, the set of a Hallmark movie titled “Love, Of Course”. Starring Kelly Rutherford, Cameron Mathison, Mackenzie Vega, and Gabby Douglas, the film includes three scenes shot at our farm. We were amazed to stand back and watch the “army” of people required for a movie shoot.
September 6, 2017 – FRESH-PRESSED APPLE CIDER
Today we hauled 2500 lbs of surplus apples to Burwalde Juice in Winkler for pressing. The process of wringing juice out of apples is quick and efficient with a modern day apple press. We took home 180 2 litre bottles of organic, fresh-pressed apple cider. Thanks to Marcus and his folks. We’ll be back!
July 31, 2017 – SOLAR POWER FOR RIVERBEND
Construction began on our solar generating system today. We have an ideal site along the northern edge of the farm that provides shelter from the north and unobstructed sunlight to the south. Thank you to Shayne Hutchins and his team who came all the way from southern Ontario to install this beauty. Jake Waldner from JAW Electric of Portage la Prairie handled all of the grid hookup including trenching.
July 3, 2017 – A BIG BOOST TO OUR HASKAP PRODUCTION
Today was planting day for 2 acres of haskap plants at Riverbend Orchards. We used ‘Aurora’ as the main cultivar with ‘Tundra’ as the pollinizer (3:1 ratio). The plants were 2 years old, growing in 1 gal containers. Thank you to Henry Dyck who was a huge help getting these plants in the ground.