Minor prepping victory: Perennial Fruit!

I was inspired last year by Josh’s review of “The Resilient Farm and Homestead”. I love the author’s take on improving resilience and regenerative systems, and seeing what we can do to provide more for ourselves. e.g. Falk says

> “Self-reliant households are the basic building blocks of any culture that is viable over the long term”> “If our goal is a peaceful, just society, self-reliance at the home and community levels must be a central focus of our lives”

I have been reading and learning about permaculture over the past few years. We don’t have a lot of space available, but last summer I decided to see what I could do in my own small life. I spent many hours of research learning what resilient, perennial species might grow well in our area (gardening zone 3), and spoke with several local gardeners and permaculturists on what food, plants, and species do well for them.

I landed on two perennial fruit bushes: saskatoons (also known as juneberry or pigeon berry), and haskaps (also known as honeyberries).

Both of these plants are hardy down to gardening zone 2, and both produce perennial fruit. They don’t seem to need a lot of care. When fully grown the bushes should take up space roughly five feet by five feet (depending on variety), which is great for me as they won’t get out of hand. If you’ve never had them – haskaps are similar to a long blueberry, though usually a more tart flavour.

I took a hard look at the yard space around our house and was able to free up enough space to plant four bushes – a path roughly five feet wide and twenty feet long, wrapping around a garage building next to our garden. It took some solid work with a five pound pickaxe and a sturdy shovel to dig deeply enough to plant them. But growing up doing manual work on a farm I find that kind of labor feels rewarding.

I have been attentively watering and working to care for the bushes since last year. During the hottest summer heat they took quite a bit of water each day; part of the reason I was motivated to set up a water barrel and system for rain capture. I did not expect the bushes to fruit in their first year. Haskaps are a bit finicky to plant and cultivate – you need specific varieties next to each other in order for them to pollinate. What’s more I discovered they are quite difficult to source and find – it took several months of hunting and calling before I found a greenhouse nursery that even carried them!

However, this week it all paid off: I was rewarded with a first harvest of perennial fruit!



This first picking was roughly one cup of berries:


It may be small, but this feels like a wholesome success. Is it a large amount? No. Will it feed an entire family? No. But it is more than zero. And it is hopefully renewable, and free. I have been able to build and introduce some valuable habitat, and add some flavour, nutrition, and variety into my meals.

One step forward!

Best of luck to everyone with your own gardens and journeys.

(edit: I have edited one of the photos and increased the contrast to make it easier to see)


  • Comments (30)

    • 5

      Congratulations! That’s wonderful. The care you put into the plan and the plants are striking. I’m starting to garden in containers (peppers and tomatoes primarily). It’s so interactive and has such a learning curve. It’s fun, and it reminds me that I can learn new things and help myself be positioned better for the future. 

      One example is that for much of my life, there was one category of invertebrate or insect — “bug.” Now I’m starting to learn beneficial ones  vs. harmful to plants, their life cycles and which stage is hardest on the plants, and so on. I even have a cell phone app that lets me count bees (community science). As you say, one step forward!

      • 1

        Thank you for the kind words. Kudos to you for learning new skills and sticking with it. 

        Are there any helpful insects that surprised you, or that you have discovered in your area?

      • 3

        Brownfox, I’ve seen dragonflies a couple of times. I read that they eat whiteflies, so I’m glad they visit. I think whitefly larvae are my biggest pest now. I was surprised that some dragonflies visit sites away from water. 

      • 3

        Seasons4, I’ve had success with using yellow sticky traps for whiteflies. Pesticide free & they last indefinitely in storage, they’re about 7×9 inches with a peel off layer on each side so you can expose just one side at a time. My bees & other beneficial bugs aren’t attracted to them , but they get the nasty whiteflies just great!

    • 3

      Congrats.  There is a Chinese proverb saying “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”.

      • 2

        Thanks Redneck. An excellent way to look at it.

        I have also heard “The best time to plant a tree was ten years ago. The second best time is now”. So good news: I managed to plant at the second best time.

        Do you have any trees or perennial food that is your favourite on your homestead, or that has produced the most?

      • 3

        I have a good bit of perennials growing here.  In the garden I have asparagus & blackberries.  In the orchard, I have over 100 row feet of blueberries and over 100 row feet of muscadine grapes on trellises.  I have over 150 fruit & nut trees.  Most are apples but I also grow peaches, pears, Japanese persimmon, pecan & jujube.

        The apples are mostly a pain in the rear as they get attacked by so many diseases… but they sure taste good.  As disease takes out any trees, I have been replacing with jujube.  I have some hybrid Peterson pawpaws on order for delivery this fall.

        We are picking large numbers of blueberries & blackberries now.  My earliest apple, Redfree, is just now getting ready to pick.  I’d say the muscadines produce the heaviest of all.

      • 1

        Very impressive, and kudos on all of the work. Building a setup like this is a worthy life goal.

    • 4

      Great job! I have just 2 Saskatoons that I put in over 10 years ago, and they faithfully fruit abundantly every year with zero care beyond the drip water they receive with the rest of the garden. No pests, no pruning, no sprays or fertilizer… perfect permaculture superfood. I’m sure they’ll bring you an excellent result too. 

      • 2

        Hey that is great to hear they work well and are low maintenance. Thank you.

        What size of variety did you plant? I have a neighbour that planted large ten foot x ten foot types. He says the birds get most of the berries these days as he does not climb up on a ladder to harvest. I stuck with smaller five x five foot for mine, so I can hopefully still reach most of them.

      • 2

        Hmm, not sure of variety, they’re probably about 8’ high & wide, but most of the fruit is within easy reach & we never manage to eat it all. The soil & climate here is excellent, so most things exceed their labeled size. 

    • 4

      Congratulations brown fox! 

      I have a couple of Juneberries as well, I think they have fruited every year since I planted them – a word of warning though beware of the finches (if you have them in your area)! 

      They like to eat the early buds in spring which will reduce the yield – they got to mine last year and we had far less fruit – what was more irritating was that they then went over the blueberries and stripped them too 😠

      • 2

        Thank you for the warning. We seem to have escaped notice this year, but the bushes are quite small and new, so perhaps that helped. Have you found any effective barriers to protect or fool finches?

      • 3

        Honest answer not yet! Some people use fruit cages locally others use net curtains not sure how effective that is! 

    • 3

      Good job!   We planted an apple tree last fall & it has 5 apples on it – pretty small, but hey – it’s a start.  Planted a blueberry bush, a blackberry bush and some strawberry plants this year.  I used a vertical planter that I found online for the strawberries.   It came with a connector ring that would allow you to hook it to your building, but I didn’t want to put holes in the side of the house, hence my shepherds hooks that stabilize it in the wind.  Works ok.

      AAD567C2-D337-4FAE-83B3-F33595669AAE The bushes are growing & I have harvested about 4 strawberries so far.   LOL.  Fortunately, we have a patch of wild black raspberries on the periphery of the “forest” behind our home.   I went out this past spring & pruned them – it made a world of difference in the production this year.   There are some other patches nearby – they are competing with other wild plants & losing.  My plan is to go out this fall & cut out some of the competing weeds & prune those raspberries.  Nothing like having fresh fruit forty feet from the house.  My only challenge is trying to minimize the chigger bites I have been getting – ITCHY, ITCHY!  Have to do a better job of covering up & using more insect repellent.  If anyone has any ideas on chigger “repellent” my skin would love to hear about it.

      • 2

        Congratulations, and excellent work! Five apples is definitely more than zero, and now your tree can grow.

        Were there any factors that made you choose apple or this type of apple?

        Excellent point on pruning to increase production. Once these bushes get established I may have to do this as well. For now I am letting them spend a year or two simply gaining roots and size and we will see how they do.

        >Nothing like having fresh fruit forty feet from the house.


      • 3

        We are on the edge between zone 5a & b.  Our next door neighbor is an expert in gardening/landscaping plants so we relied on her knowledge base.  We chose a honeycrisp tree just because we like those best.  Japanese beetles have discovered it; they have attacked our rose bushes in the past.  Fortunately they are quite slow & not in huge numbers.  We lean heavily towards organic/non-toxic approaches for pest control.  A  bucket with some dish soap works great – you just snatch the bugs off the tree & toss them into the soapy water.  You can even knock them to the ground & they are slow enough that sometimes you can pick them up & drop them into the water.  A variation of this approach is to spray them with soapy water – haven’t tried that yet, but might give it a go.

      • 1

        Excellent ingenuity! Thanks for sharing.

      • 3

        Powdered sulfur in an old sock for the chiggers.  Beat the sock around your ankles and anywhere else you find them biting.

      • 1

        That sounds like an easy way to protect yourself. Powdered sulfur doesn’t seem to be that expensive on Amazon either.

    • 3

      That is wonderful and so inspiring! I have just started to look into what kind of perennial edibles might grow well in my area. I am a notoriously terrible gardener but luckily I have a friend who likes to garden and is very good at it and willing to get things started for me. I’ll send him this article and see what he thinks.

      In a previous home I had tried growing blueberries and blackberries but the birds ate ALL of them. That is not necessarily a bad thing – I love birds – but would be problematic if I actually needed them as a food source. 

      • 2

        Thank you for the kind words. Having something you create inspire positive action is perhaps the highest form of compliment.

        Kudos on working with expert local gardeners for help. I am also working to improving my gardening skills. The thing I like about perennials is that they _should_ require less skill and maintenance – ideally once established they simply sit, exist, and produce food. We shall see.

        If you need some alternatives to fruit that will be quickly eaten by pests – I read the book “Perennial Vegetables” and very much enjoyed it. One nice feature of the book is it groups food by gardening zones, so you can filter and find foods that may grow well in your area. I admit I enjoy eating fruit more than vegetables, but perhaps there would be something there useful to you.

        Good luck!

    • 3

      How exciting! Any fruit no matter the amount is a win!

      I’m in zone 9 in Florida  growing blue java bananas, which taste kind of like vanilla ice cream, and limequats which is like tiny limes. Mine fruit in the “winter” 

      • 1

        Sounds delicious! Kudos. I agree any fruit or food is a win.

        Were those plants difficult to set up or establish? What made you choose them?

      • 2

        I choose the blue java banana because it was the tallest variety that did well here, which I wanted for privacy. It was very easy to establish and grows and multiplies prolifically.

        The Limequat tree was given to us by our realtor when we bought the house. At first I didn’t know what to do with it as I needed to clear my property of unwanted stuff first, so it sat in a pot for a few years and it didn’t do well. I finally planted it last year and its barely grown.

        I also grow sweet potato (free since I used scraps, and does well with the banana tree), Mexican Oregano (was a cutting given to me), Longevity Spinach (another free cutting growing like crazy), and Bell Pepper (also given to me). 

        I’m an opportunity grower lol

    • 3

      I’m envious.  Nine years ago I planted a very small fig tree, three blueberries and blackberries.  The first year the lawn guys managed to mow them all down and which killed all the blues and two of the blacks.  The mower’s proceeded to mow down the plants every year even with constant warnings.  Placed bricks around them to marked them…nope, still mowed them down.  Ditched the lawn service four years ago after my husband died and in two years the fig managed to grow a foot. 🎉

      Family came to visit and decided “to lend a hand” while I was at the store. Unfortunately I had pulled the bricks up to replace them with something nicer…yep, down they went again.  Well, it’s been another two years and the fig is a foot high again.  The remaining blackberry is about six inches, either that or it’s a weed growing in it’s place.  Only time will tell.  🤔

      • 2

        Ahh, sorry to hear about your difficulties. But good on you for continuing to work at it and try. That is all we can do. Yes I am lucky that I was able to make the bushes visually distinct and separate so that no one mows over them. A good warning.

        Best of luck with future undisturbed and productive growth. Do you have any future plans for changes or more plants?

      • 2

        Will try both berries again next spring.  I’m 63 and unfortunately have a bad back and knees so, right now I’m working on clearing the yard out for easier maintenance. Don’t know if I’ll try any fruit trees, my three acres were part of a farm eons ago and the soil is depleted of nutrients.

    • 3

      I’m so happy for you! This is a great victory, and definitely inspiring to me. My husband diligently cultivates a few tomato plants each year, but that’s about the extent of it, and I’m not much of a gardener. We have a lot of yard space at our house back in CA, and we’ve been talking about building a rainwater harvesting system and raised beds if/when we move back… you all on this forum are the only reason he has been able to pique my interest with this idea, and reading this post and seeing your pictures is making me feel some actual excitement about starting our own garden. Thank you!

    • 3

      This is awesome. I finished reading that same book last week and have similar goals for next year. Cheers!

    • 1

      Congratulations!  Thanks for the motivation!  I’ve got green genes (Dad had a great garden), but I’ve yet to really seem them expressed in myself.  Someday…..  🙂