Saskatchewan Perennial Society - Growing Fruit in Northern Gardens Review
Reviewed by: Erl Svendsen
Fruit, as I recently learned from reading through Sara Williams and Bob Bors’ new book Growing Fruit in Northern Gardens, comes from the Latin frui, meaning to enjoy. Who doesn’t enjoy a piece or bowl of fresh, ripe, sweet, juicy fruit packed with wholesome nutrition and antioxidants as a snack or dessert? It tastes even better when you’ve grown it yourself. And Sara (Horticulture Extension Specialist [retired] and garden author) and Bob (Assistant Professor and project lead of the Domestic Fruit Program at the University of Saskatchewan) share their wealth of knowledge and experience on how to produce a large variety of fruit in a city backyard, acreage or farm.
When I first opened up the book, I was struck by the all the pictures throughout – colourful and clear images of flowers and fruit, of plants, of their pests, of tools and so on. The layout is fabulous with chapters and sections clearly and artistically labeled; images are arranged to enhance the content; and the occasional box with additional information or a personal anecdote adds a lot of interest without distracting or cluttering up the page.
They start by covering the basics – first with the importance of cold hardiness and how to maximize winter survival followed by sections on pollination and factors affecting fruit set; the importance of soil and how to correct problems; fertility and fertilizers; planting considerations including site selection and preparation; watering; why you should mulch and mulch options; common weeds and pruning/training.
A chapter follows on pests – insects, disease and wildlife – where the first line of defense Sara and Bob advise is prevention followed by relying on and encouraging natural enemies of pests (the enemy of my pest is my ally) and then introducing environmentally friendly controls (e.g. scare tactics (for wildlife), squishing, spraying with water, sticky traps, soaps, dormant oil, biological control) before even considering bigger guns. Common pests are described first in terms of their host and the damage they cause, followed by a description of the culprit and ending with realistic prevention/control/management strategies.
As one would expect from the title, the majority of pages are devoted to describing the fruit we can grow on the Prairies (hardiness zones 2-4). If you’re from around here or lived on the Prairies for any time at all, you already know about the native fruits saskatoon, chokecherry and highbush cranberry. Most will also know that we can grow apples and crabapples, raspberries and strawberries. Some will have even heard about the antioxidant sensations sea buckthorn and haskap (Bob has had a big hand in developing and introducing this one to the Prairies). Also covered in the book are aronia, blueberry, currant and gooseberry, goji, grape, hazelnut, kiwi (yes, kiwi), lingonberry, pear, pincherry (another native), plum, and sour cherry. Each species gets its own section detailing plant shape, form, flowers and fruit; species-specific care instructions; harvest and fruit use (fresh, storage, processing); and potential problems.
What I liked best was Sara and Bob’s writing style. Without ‘dumbing down’ the information and despite the occasional complexities, everything is plainly written and easily understood without oversimplifications. The other thing I appreciated was the practical advice and clear instructions on how avoid and counter problems.
A book for Prairie gardeners by Prairie experts, this is a great new text for the home gardener and horticulture specialist alike. It will definitely find a permanent home in my library and given as gifts to family and friends.
Published by Coteau Books, Growing Fruit in Northern Gardens is available from local and online booksellers. Want a signed copy? Join Sara and Bob at McNally Robinson in Saskatoon for their book launch on December 7 at 7:00 pm.
Erl gardens in Saskatoon and recently started tweeting about it @ErlSv.
This column is provided courtesy of the Saskatchewan Perennial Society (SPS; www.saskperennial.ca; email@example.com; www.facebook.com/saskperennial). Check out our Bulletin Board or Calendar for upcoming garden information sessions, workshops, tours and other events.