Growing Your Own Fruit Part 2

Pear Trees

Photo by Leslie

We are leaning that pears can grow in all provinces of Canada and the most common is the Bartlett pear. Pear trees can grow up to 40 feet tall, so you might want to consider a dwarf or semi-dwarf variety. See information below on which pear trees can self-pollinate. There are many varieties to choose from so talk with your local nursery about your choices.

Planting: “Pear trees need to have full sun. For best results do not grow from seed. For planting dig your hole wide and deep, mixing mix plenty of compost into the soil. Remove the tree from its container and set it in the hole to the same depth it was in its container. Gently spread the roots and refill the hole with the extra soil. Water well and continue to water regularly, about once or twice a week, until the roots are well established. Stake the tree too. “

Photo by Shanthi

Pruning: “A pear tree should be pruned immediately after planting, leaving only a central leader and choose three to five branches with outward rather than upward growth and prune out the rest. Trim off the ends of the remaining branches to encourage growth. Luckily pear trees have few insect problems. For the home garden with only one or two trees, fruit tree fertilizer spikes are perfect for fertilizing. Once established pear trees are very little work.” (Source:

Photo by MaryAnn

Pollination of Pear (and Apple) Trees

“Just like apples, pears are predominantly self-sterile and need to be paired with a pollination partner to produce fruit. There are a few partially self-fertile varieties that will crop without a partner, but any crop is much improved with one. Note that ‘Conference‘ and ‘Obelisk‘ are the only varieties that self-pollinate. It is best to ask your nursery which trees are most compatable. In a city, bees are more likely to travel a distance to find another pear tree to pollinate but this is more unlikely in the countryside.”

Photo by Lucy


Lucy has been reading about growing raspberries, in the Farmer’s Almanac.

“Raspberries are a bit unsightly and can look bushy, but produce a lot of fruit for a small space. For those of you starting new and with children, there are varieties that have no prickles. There are two main types, those that are summer bearing, growing fruit on last year’s growth, one crop per season and those that are fall bearing (everbearing) producing fruit on the new canes and will produce in the fall and maybe the following summer. A mix of both would produce the biggest harvest. They are self-fertilizing and produce fruit the year after planted. There is a range of types for different climate zones.”

Planting: “Best to plant a one year old plant in the early spring when frost is gone, or in milder zones you can plant in the fall. The more sun the more fruit. The planting site needs rich and well-drained soil, great air circulation, and shelter from wind. Avoid a wet area, as well as a windy spot, as raspberries do not like to stand in water nor totally dry out. Add compost every year. Soak the roots well before planting 18” apart and cut the cane to nine (9)” to encourage fruit.”

Pruning: “The canes live two (2) years and dead canes need to be pruned out annually. Tall varieties may benefit from supports like a trellis or fence. Dig up any suckers that grow  well away from the row as they will take away and there will be less fruit production.” 

“Prune summer-bearing raspberries immediately after you’re done picking! Cut only the canes that produced berries back down to the ground. Remember this plant produces berries on two year old canes while one year old canes grow right beside them. You shouldn’t have trouble telling which is which: the older canes have brown stems, and the young ones are still green. Prune only the older ones, the ones that have finished their fruitful year.”

“For Pruning fall-bearing raspberries, just cut all canes back the ground in late winter before growth begins in the spring.”

Photo by Lucy

Harvesting: “This is so simple, but best done on a dry day, and the fruit should simply fall off the stem, and you and will be harvesting over 2 week period. Lucy likes to run out in the morning and pick berries to put on her cereal. You can also make raspberry crumble, muffins, pies, sauce or jams. They are a great source of fibre and vitamin C.”

Apple Trees

The most common fruit tree in Canada is the apple tree, and we grow 40 different varieties of the 7500 varieties in the world. Of the 15 varieties grown in Ontario, the top 5 are McIntosh, Gala, Empire, Red Delicious and Northern Spy.” In an epic apple pie challenge, chef Heidi Fink compared many apples to determine the best ones for pie, and, surprisingly, many apples tasted great, but it was not the ones you would expect that keep their shape once baked. Check this out if you are particular about your apple pie. In Lucy’s house it is traditional McIntosh, like Grandma used.

According to the reading we did at the site Harvest to Table, which has information on growing anything and everything, here are the many things to consider when choosing the right apple tree:

Photo by Lucy

– “size and shape of tree for the space you have

-age of tree, as it can take 4 or more years to bear fruit

-when you would like your fruit to be mature each season-early or late bearing fruit

-does the tree self pollinate or which trees should be planted together

-color of blossoms

-what grows best in your zone or has longest life span

-flavour of fruit for eating (dessert apple), sweet or tart

-do you want a cooking or culinary apple for sauce, cider or baking or

-do you want fruit to store for a long time, or that tastes better with age”

This is a complex decision, but we are so lucky in Canada to have so many choices.


We were interested to learn about growing strawberries and rhubarb, and to our delight and surprise we learned thanks to that, not only are they a tasty pairing, but the two plants also grow well together.

The Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) website advises that, “Strawberries can be grown anywhere in Ontario.” 

“Growth in our common varieties is affected greatly by temperature and length of the daylight period. In new plants, runner production occurs during the long days and warm temperatures of summer. “

Photo by MaryAnn

” ‘Everbearing’ and ‘day-neutral’ varieties are less sensitive to temperature and day length than ordinary varieties.”

“Strawberries can be grown in most garden soils. However, they grow best in well-drained, sandy loam soils which are well supplied with organic matter.”

“A good supply of organic matter in the soil is important. Organic matter improves air and water movement, favours growth of helpful soil organisms, provides nutrients, and increases the water-holding capacity of the soil.”

“Wherever possible, plant strawberries in soil which has not grown strawberries, raspberries, potatoes, tomatoes, peppers or eggplants in the past four (4) or five (5) years. This precaution will help avoid serious root diseases such as Verticillium wilt and black root rot.”

“Plant in the spring as soon as the ground can be prepared. This allows plants to become established early and start producing runners. Early-formed runner plants produce more berries than plants formed in late summer and fall.”

“Strawberries are usually grown in the “matted-row” system. Set plants about 60 cm (24 in.) apart in rows which are 90-120 cm (3-4 ft.) apart.”

Care of young plantsBlossom removal

Remove all blossoms that appear a few weeks after plants are set. (For treatment of everbearers see following pages.) Plants grow better and produce more runner plants when blossoms are removed.”

“Water during dry periods. Wet the soil to a depth of about 15 cm (6 in.) and let it dry out fairly well before watering again.”

“Sawdust or other mulching materials may be placed around the plants in the row to keep down weeds, conserve moisture and keep the fruit clean. This is particularly useful for hill-system plantings. “

Photo by MaryAnn

Spacing runner plants

“In matted rows, space runner plants about 15 cm (6 in.) apart in the row. A small amount of soil can be placed just behind a runner plant to hold it in place. If plants are crowded they do not yield well, and produce small berries. Also, when plants are crowded, blossoms may not be pollinated well and diseases are usually more troublesome.”


“As mentioned under ‘Growth Cycle’, everbearing varieties have the ability to produce blossoms in the summer for a late-summer and fall crop.”

“Culture of everbearers is almost the same as that described for regular varieties. In the year everbearers are planted, remove all blossoms until about the middle of July. The blossoms that form later will produce a late-summer and fall crop. In the following year, these varieties bear a crop at the regular time in early summer.”

Winter protectionWhy needed

“Low winter temperatures injure roots, crowns and flower buds. Also, freezing and thawing of the soil lifts plants and breaks roots. With winter protection, strawberry plants can be grown in any part of Ontario.”

“Cover plants with straw (wheat, oat, rye) in the late fall. Use straw which is free of weed and grain seeds.”

More information on topics such as, care when berries are developing, yields and duration of plantings, novelty methods, varieties, performance ratings of frozen straweberries, diseases and insect control, may be found at the OMAFRA site

Strawberry-Rhubarb Crisp is so simple and delicious and Lucy’s Favourite Dessert to bring to the office or serve the family when rhubarb is ready for harvest. Easy to substitute apples and blueberries.

Growing Perfect Strawberries

Edmonton’s site offers a wealth of information and tips for home gardeners, include this on growing perfect strawberries.

“Getting the best tasting strawberries starts with planting. Make sure the soil drains freely and is chopped full of rich organic matter. If water pools, or if it’s dustily depleted, enrich with a generous dose of compost or sea soil.”

“If you’re really keen, check the soil’s pH to ensure it’s slightly acidic (between 6-7). Strawberry plants love potash and phosphorous, so sprinkle wood ash and bone meal in while planting.”

“As with herbs, young plants yield the sweetest fruit. While older plants produce more, it’s by replacing quality with quantity. I suggest re-planting perennial strawberries after 3 years; establish 1/3 rotation so you’re never left hungry.”

Readers may learn more about the June bearing, everbearing, and alpine types of strawberries at


Rheum rhabarbarum (or Rhubarb) is a perennial vegetable, though it is generally used as a fruit in desserts and jams.”

Janet’s rhubarb photo

Because rhubarb is a perennial, its care is a little different than that of other vegetables. You will want to be sure you are planting rhubarb along the edge of your garden so it doesn’t disturb your other vegetables when it comes up each spring. You should purchase either crowns or divisions from your local garden center. Each of these crowns or divisions will require enough space to come up and provide you with large leaves. This means planting them about 1 to 2 feet (.30 to .60 m.) apart in rows that are 2 to 3 feet (.60 to .91 m.) apart. You can also just plant them on the outside edge of your garden. Each growing rhubarb plant requires about a square yard of space.” Read more at,

The Farmer’s Almanac offers these tips, including links for pie recipes!

  • “Choose a site that is well-drained, fertile, and preferably in full sunlight. Rhubarb does best where the average temperature falls below 40ºF in the winter and below 75ºF in the summer.
  • Plant one-year rhubarb crowns in early spring as soon as the ground is workable, when the roots are still dormant and before growth begins or plants are just beginning to leaf out. 
  • Dig large bushel basket-size holes. Space rhubarb plants about 4 feet apart and plant the roots 1 to 2 inches below the surface of the soil.
  • Be sure to mix compost, rotted manure, or anything high in organic matter in the soil. Rhubarb plants are heavy feeders and need this organic matter. Don’t add a chemical fertilizer when planting rhubarb or during the first year of growth. Direct contact with nitrates can kill your rhubarb plants. 
  • Mulch generously with a heavy layer of straw and cow manure to provide nutrients for the plant, retain moisture, and discourage weeds.
  • Water your plant well. It needs sufficient moisture during the summer.
  • Remove seed stalks as soon as they appear.
  • After the first spring frost, apply a light sprinkling of a high-nitrogen fertilizer (25-3-3 or 10-6-4) when the ground is thawing or has just thawed, so that the fertilizer will go into the ground and not harm the roots.
  • Do not harvest any stalks during the first growing season so that your plants can become established.
  • Harvest the stalks when they are 12 to 18 inches long. Usually after 3 years, the harvest period runs 8 to 10 weeks long. If the stalks become thin, stop harvesting; this means the plant’s food reserves are low.”

“Always leave at least two (2) stalks per plant to ensure continued production. You may have a bountiful harvest for up to 20 years without having to replace your rhubarb plants.”

Red rhubarb varieties, which are more tender, include ‘Valentine’, ‘Crimson Cherry’, and ‘Canada Red’.”

Check the Almanac’s recipe recommendations for Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie; Rhubarb-upside down cake; and Blueberry-rhubarb jam at

Lucy’s rhubarb photo

Good “Neigh-berry” Relationships

The Cullen brothers offer tips on hedge berry gardening and promoting positive relations with your next door neighbours.

A hedge between keeps friendship green,” is among the many quotes attributed to 19th-century German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer. It’s as true today as it was 200 years ago.”

“Now that planting season is here, this is a great weekend to plant a food-producing hedge; these plants are available at most garden centres.”

“The notion of growing a hedge is appealing for several reasons. If you can grow loads of edible berries, it’s an added bonus of nutrition and an opportunity to enhance the hedge friendship with your neighbour with some free food. And with the right plants and care, you can hide unsightly views, create privacy or simply mark off space in your garden or yard that has a specific use — like a vegetable garden or a path. These are our top six picks for edible hedges and screens:

1. Currants (Ribes)

2. Raspberries (Rubus)

3. (Dwarf) Apple fence (Malus)

4. Elderberries (Sambucus)

5. Japanese quince (Chaenomeles japonica)

6. Highbush cranberry (Viburnum trilobum)”

Read the full article including brief descriptors of their top six picks at:

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.