Monthly Archives: October 2016

So much more than just dirt!

 In the past few years I have learned a lot about taking and using soil samples to improve my garden. The samples have helped me change how I add fertilizer and other amendments to my soil. My experience mostly centers around my vegetable garden but because of my interest in growing berry crops I am trying to increase my understanding of taking soil samples for my berries. As a berry grower I am always searching for ways to improve my patch. One of these improvements involves adding nutrients to the soil and making the soil a good natural environment for good microbes; this will improve the growing conditions for my plants in the rhizome layer. A healthy rhizome layer can help a plant naturally fight off infections, and pests, it can make the plant hardier and better at absorbing nutrients from the soil (grow it When I first took an interest in horticulture, I did not understand how important soil is to the health of my plants. I thought dirt is dirt and plants grow in dirt. If a plant looked bad my first inclination was to just add more fertilizer never considering the implications of adding too much or the wrong ratio. Over time the more I work with plants and dirt I am learning the delicate and incredible relationship between this growing medium and the living organisms that depend on it for sustenance. I took my first soil samples in 2012 and learned that the soil in my garden was so high in Phosphorous and Potassium that it was nearly toxic to my plants. I learned that it was greatly lacking in nitrogen and was very acidic in a few places. It needed more organic matter to help with better drainage in some areas and in others it had too much sand. The local Co/Op was very helpful to me and the experts there told me how best to take soil samples and told me I could mail them to a lab through their service. To get a base line to work with, I divided my garden up into four quadrants and took about 50 samples from each quad. I then put the samples in carefully marked buckets; I mixed the samples thoroughly and dried them. I ordered my sampling baggies from the Co/Op and was able to bag everything up and send it to them without much difficulty; a few weeks later the samples came back and I took them to a soil expert who told me what the report said and wrote up a recommendation for me. These recommendations were incredibly helpful and by following these instructions I have been able to raise much more healthy and productive crops. I have continued this practice every other year for the past four years.
I have every reason to believe that I should do the same for my berry patch. I am not sure what it needs and until I get some samples I won’t really know. This coming spring I intend to take an all-inclusive careful sampling of my patch and find out what is going on beneath the surface. I have healthy bushes but I want to increase production, I have a type of drip irrigation so I want to know what water soluble fertilizers I can use. Water soluble fertilizers will allow me to add nutrients right to the base of my plants by way of my irrigation system which would be very nice. The pdf by( foodroots gives a clear picture of how to take effective and proper soil samples. I basically follow this method in my garden with some slight variations to suit my needs. The articles put out by SF gate are very informative when it comes to adding fertilizers or changing the pH of your soil I definitely recommend reading them. I like the idea of fertigation because I will not be wasting any fertilizer on the weeds that already threaten to take over my berries. In the past I usually just add very old horse or cow manure every few years to my berries. This practice results in large very leafy plants but my berry production is not where I want it to be. I need to sample my patch and then start adding fertilizers specifically designed to increase berry production. I am fairly certain that my pH is fine; if the pH in the rest of my garden is any indicator the soil in my berry patch, which came from the garden, should be a good level. If my pH is too acidic then I will need to add more organic matter to act as a buffer and add some elemental sulfur to lower the pH (grow it
At this time the ground is frozen so I must content myself with doing the research, drawing up a good plan, and implementing my strategy for taking soil samples next spring. I can then follow the recommendations in a focused effort without wasting time and effort through trial and much error to find the perfect balance. Trial and error is par for the course but following recommendation can and will bring about positive changes much faster than just winging it.
I would like to recommend a book that I have found very helpful in my pursuit of learning all I can about dirt. The book is very aptly called (Dirt, the ecstatic skin of the earth) by William Bryant Logan and has a wealth of information about how this planet creates dirt and how it directly correlates to this planets ability to sustain life. AB Delta Junction
By J. Kokemuller, 2016. How to take soil samples for blueberries. SF gate. Available online: Accessed Oct. 18, 2016
By M. Fery and E. Murphy, 2013. A guide to collecting soil samples for farms and gardens. Available online: Accessed Oct 17, 2016
By Smart Fertilizer management, 2016. Report on fertigation. Available online: Accessed Oct.18,
By Grow it Changing soil pH to match plant needs. Grow it Organically. Available online: Accessed Oct. 18, 2016
By Good reads .com. Books written by author William Bryant Logan. Site sells his book Dirt the Ecstatic Skin of the Earth. Available online:
Accessed Oct. 18, 2016
By William Bryant Logan, published 1995. Dirt the Ecstatic Skin of the Earth. Riverhead Books, Co. Ltd, New York.

Haskaps in your Garden

Alberta Urban Garden Simple Organic and Sustainable. 2014. Planting Honey (Haskap) Berries in the Alberta Urban Garden. Available Online: Haskaps     This is a video of planting, adjustment and winter care instructions for planting the Haskap in your own garden! Worth the watch and very informative.

MARTA HEACOCK The Landscape of Red Huckleberry and Fireweed Syrup

 This story appeared first in Alaska Women Speak  journal  24(3):11. Fall 2016  (   and is reprinted by permission of the author. Marta lives and writes from a small village located in the southern portion of Alaska’s Alexander Archipelago. She owns a salmon cannery with her son and shares her. home with a Pomeranian and a tabby cat. 

Red huckleberries sparkle through the deep woods in glints of orange and near-red. As rain forest understory plants, they scramble under the great coniferous trees of the Tongass. In spring, the plants are covered in light gold to pale pink blossoms. The young berries shine with the pale orange of a rain forest sunset in May.

When they’re at their peak of ripeness, the berries are the color of sockeye eggs. Red huckleberries are feral plants that don’t respond well to attempts at commercial cultivation, though Indigenous peoples have long used them for a variety of purposes. They can be eaten fresh, dried, preserved, fermented, made into syrups and sauces, or combined with salmon eggs and seal oil to create a delicacy for winter feasts. They’re sometimes used as bait in place of salmon eggs.

Red huckleberries are tart. Some people find them too tangy to be eaten raw, while others love the way they pop right inside their mouths with little explosions of juice. They get their tang from the highly acidic, rich rain forest soils in which they thrive. As with all berries, they become sweeter with age, so if you don’t like the acid tang, look for the larger berries that are more red than orange.

Get the berries in the middle of the summer from the woods. If you follow a small salmon spawning creek long enough, you’ll come to a patch of red huckleberries. Be sure to go with friends, and sing your songs and tell your stories to let the bears know you’re there so they can sink into the woods. Bring the berries home and roll them through your hands on a flat surface to remove the stems, and shake them in a sieve so the stems fall through.

The red huckleberries were ripe this year just when the fi.reweed was at its brightest. Fireweed grows in meadows around the edges of the forest, by the side of the road, and generally everywhere and anywhere where there’s an extra patch of dirt that’s not already being used, as long as it gets a reasonable amount of sun. Beekeepers meadows to get delicate fireweed honey. Beekeepers often place hives in the middle of vast fireweed meadows to get delicate fireweed honey.

Even though you won’t find fireweed growing in the deep forest alongside the wild red huckleberries, the two combine to create a flavor palette that captures the taste of the Tongass. Fireweed honey is soft and sweet, providing the perfect foil for the impudent tang of the red huckleberries. You can mix red huckleberries with fireweed honey to make syrup for pancakes, French toast, to use as ice cream toppings or to make craft cocktails .

. . . a flavor palette that captures the taste of the Tongass. 

First, heat the berries over a low flame with a little water. The berries need to soften so they can be properly mashed, and then strain them for the juice. Add fi.reweed honey to the juice, bring to a boil, and simmer until reduced by about half or when the mixture begins to stick to a wooden spoon.

If your berries came from a patch growing on and near rotting logs, their acidic bite may be more pronounced, so you’ll need to add more honey. The same thing applies if you were impatient for your huckleberries and picked them before they were quite ripe. Keep adding honey a little at a time until you find your personal sweet spot. Some people like to add a squeeze or two of fresh lemon juice, but a bit of orange juice actually works better with this particular flavor profile because it’s not so tart. You might think about a fast dash of cinnamon and teardrop-sized splash of real vanilla

The syrup can be used right away, but letting it sit for a week or tvvo ensures that the flavors mix and settle. Even though you might be tempted to use it all, try to save some for late fall and winter when the storms are at their worst and the days are dark and gloomy. Few things are better the morning after a Southeastern Alaska storm than sourdough pancakes drizzled with a taste of the Tongass summer.

The Zen of Berry Picking!

Salmonberry picking. The link above takes you to a cute short story about salmonberry picking in Alaska. It is called “The Zen of Berry Picking” by Lisa Kroner. It is a funny short story that truely does express how important berries are to people who pick everywhere and live off the land. “The thing about picking wild berries is that although they are everywhere, they are not always easy to get to-” (The Zen of Berry Picking, Kroner, p. 9). Berry picking is not always easy and it can be a real chore depending on the area you live in. I also think thats what makes it fun though, and feeling the appreciation when you come home with a bucket full of berries. Kroner expresses her thankfulness in this short story of her learning about salmonberries.

Try Serviceberries

Seeing as how I have never really been or lived in other parts of Alaska I had no idea what the serviceberry was. I found a great source that talks about all things serviceberries. I will include a recipe that I found about serviceberry syrup, yum!

Serviceberry Syrup

1 cup serviceberry juice 2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon lemon juice

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan and heat to 160°F. Use a candy thermometer; do not boil. The syrup is ready to use over waffles, pancakes, hot biscuits, ice cream and other desserts. Syrup will keep up to six months in the refrigerator without sugaring.

For long-term storage: Sterilize pint or half-pint canning jars and prepare lids. Immediately pour hot syrup into hot canning jars, leaving 1⁄4 inch head- space. Wipe jar rims and add prepared two-piece lids. Process 5 minutes in a boiling water canner.

Yield: 2 cups


Dinstel, R. R. and Johnson M. 2012. Serviceberries. Available online: Accessed 12 Oct, 2016.

Irrigation- what’s the best system for berries?

Which way to water. I have been wanting to expand my berry interests for some time now. The berries I grow are doing alright and I hope to continue to improve my patch every year as I learn new and better ways to prune, water, fertilize, and implement different ways to prevent weeds taking over the berries. For the purposes of personal research, I will be doing a small overview of the different ways to irrigate berries and the potential pros and cons involved in choosing which system I will eventually install in my own berry projects.
I obviously cannot list every type of irrigation system possible as that would extend this simple blog into an extensive report that nobody would have the time or desire to read. I will simply list the systems that interest me most and add a few links to other more involved descriptions of the other options.
1. Overhead spraying- Consists of elevated sprinklers which are attached together by a series of hoses running from the primary water source. A pump sends the water under pressure into the system; this causes the sprinklers to oscillate in a wide circle watering all below. I have the most experience with this system as my entire 1.5-acre vegetable garden is watered in this way. The system has various pros and cons. The pros include: It’s easy to set up and maintain. It is easy to use and does not take too much micromanaging. No special training is needed and most any one can run this type of system. It can be used during cold spells to keep the crops from freezing, and can be used to uniformly apply fertilizers if needed. The cons include: This system, unless it is state of the art, can be wasteful of water. My system is old and does need constant maintenance but thankfully it is not difficult or overly expensive to fix. The older my system gets the more water it wastes. When its windy the system is virtually useless because the water blows everywhere but on the plants. On very hot days most of the water evaporates before it reaches the plants. When the weather is very hot I usually try to water in early morning. Overhead watering can also cause mildew and other mold issues with some very bushy plants or plants which develop vines close to the ground. The ground can get very wet using overhead sprinkling and has the potential to stay that way under the shade of thick plants. 2. Surface irrigation- The oldest form of irrigation in which the entire is flooded from channels that are dug on the sides of the field or orchard. Water is pumped into these channels and then from there piped into the field to flood the crop. The pros are it is easy to set up and implement. This system uses and abundance of water to create high yields and will also spread the topsoil evenly over the field (irrigation education). The cons include: This system tends to waste a lot of water as the plants can only absorb so much water at once. If the soil does not hold water it can run straight through before the roots can absorb it. The water is not controlled at all so much of it will drain away from some parts of the field too fast while overwatering other parts of the field. Roots can become over saturated with water which leaves the plant open to diseases and stunted growth (irrigation education). I have seen this style of irrigation used on a pecan farm in Mexico that I visited this spring. It was very interesting to see but took a lot of manual labor because individual dams had to be hand dug around each tree so the water would pool at the base of every tree. 3. Drip irrigation- A system which pumps water through a single tube which has been either perforated or fitted with different styles of applicators. Water is pumped through the tube under pressure; then it flows out through the holes or applicators directly to the base of the
plants. Pros include: Efficient use of water, is a good way to uniformly water an irregularly shaped or small field. Very little water is lost to evaporation and run off. Initial set up is not overly expensive (irrigation education). Cons include: General maintenance can be labor intensive and needs some level of micromanagement. The system can easily become clogged and needs a good filtration system especially if the water to be used has a high mineral content. On a large scale this system can be cost prohibitive but tends to work well on a smaller scale such as a greenhouse for example.
Types of drip irrigation systems. Drip Irrigation systems really are so diverse that I feel to expand on some of the different types available to anyone interested in setting one up. There are also many businesses dedicated to this style of irrigation. In states that have problems with water availability these systems are gaining popularity because they don’t need much water in order to function. One company that I have used is ( This company has many complete systems for sale as well as the supplies to repair any established systems.
Types of Irrigation systems. Drip irrigation using T-tape is a simple form of drip irrigation it requires no drip emitters. The tape is lain down the center of the row; it does not bend around bushes well, unless the proper fittings are installed (harmony farm supply). The tape has tiny holes which allow water to seep out to the roots of the plants. Drip irrigation systems can also be set up using drip line which is basically poly tube of various diameters which can be fitted with a vast array of different emitters depending on one’s needs. This tube can be bent into a gradual curve around single shrubs. The Harmony farm supply website has a good diagram of the different types of drip irrigation tubes and how resistant they are to being clogged. Water lines set up with sprinkler emitters. Small sprinkler emitters can be fitted to the standard drip irrigation tubes and used as a very small version of overhead style watering.
I personally have never used drip irrigation or T-tape systems. I prefer to use soaker hoses. They tend to be tougher in the long run and can withstand a greater level of pressure. The hoses are as easy to hook together because they are designed to connect to a standard garden hose. I hooked a few together for one row and then lay the hose at the base of my raspberry bushes down the center of my row; I used hoop stakes to hold the hose down. I do have filters on my system though soaker hoses are not so easy to clog as drip irrigation lines. For my large patch I have rows over 100 feet long and the soaker hose has equal pressure to the end of the row and is tough enough that I leave it in my patch from year to year. I make sure that the system is flushed in the spring and put a good mulch over the hoses both to keep the weeds in my patch down and to protect the hoses from sun and cold. So far they have done very well. The hoses in my berry patch are ¾ inch and my water system has ample psi to send water all the way to the end of eight (170 ft.) rows through these hoses. In fact, I have excess psi and have to run some of my overhead sprinklers in the veggie patch to keep the soaker system from blowing from the pressure. I also use smaller diameter hoses about ½ inch to water some of my veggie rows. The best deal I found for buying soaker hoses online was Amazon not surprisingly and the shipping to Alaska was very reasonable. I set my irrigation system up piecemeal which is not the cheapest way but was the only one available to me because I wanted to use soaker hoses. Setting up a drip irrigation system would be much simpler because of all the kits available online or in gardening centers.
The best systems for berries seem to involve either T-tape or drip irrigation covered with an organic mulch or plastic mulch to prevent water loss and protect the system. For my next project I may invest in a small drip irrigation kit just to see how it performs. This research has helped me come up
with a few good ideas and some of the websites have very nice diagrams; I especially like the design pages put out by (Harmony farms and nursery supply company).
By Blueberry croft farm and nursery 2016. Watering and mulching blueberry plants. www. Available online: Accessed on Oct. 12, 2016
Posted by Community on Mar 21, 2016 3:09:17 PM. What irrigation type is best for you. Irrigation education. Available online: Accessed Oct. 12, 2016
By Tom Bressan 2006. Drip Irrigation Handbook. The Urban Farmer Store. Available online: Accessed Oct. 12, 2016
By Harmony farm supply and nursery business 1980-2016. Drip irrigation basics. . Available online: Irrigation designAccessed Oct. 12, 2016
By Netafim USA, Published on Sep 25, 2014. Increase blueberry yields using drip irrigation. Available Online: Drip. Accessed Oct.12, 2016
By Patty Woodland, Published on Aug 30, 2013. How to install a Dripworks Drip irrigation system. Available Online:  Dripworks Accessed Oct. 12, 2016

Berries in Alaska

This article in the ADN is about the antioxidant content of berries, good picking locations in Alaska and some of the things you can do with them once you find them. One recipe i personally would like to try is the Nagoonberry Syrup! Burke, Jill. 2012. Alaska wild berries: Tips on how to find and prepare them. Accessed online: Berries  Accessed on 12 Oct 2016.

You-pick berries

 I’ve often been curious about a U-Pick Berry Farms and Farm Stands and wanted to learn more about the business side of the operation. In my research I came across two articles that focused agritourism and the farm experience customers are looking for. Both articles had similar messages in that successful agritourism businesses have things to: see, do, and purchase. Although the articles are from out of state, they demonstrate the success of many varieties of value added agritourism business to the farm operation, which is of specific interest to me. CZ Anchorage
University of Kentucky, College of Agriculture, Cooperative Extension Service. 2004. Agritourism. Available online: You-pick  13 October, 2016.
Adam, K. L. 2004. Entertainment Farming and Agritourism. Available online: Agritourism.  Accessed: 13 October, 2016.

Mummy Berry on Blueberries

Mummy Berry.  The link above talks about a disease in berries called the mummy berry disease, specifically in blueberries. It is almost like an “airborn” disease for humans because the spores spread with the wind and land on leaves and the berries. The article by Vern Grubinger talks about the mummy disease and he says, ” About a week or two after becoming infected, the leaves and shoots wilt and turn brown. This damage can easily be mistaken for frost injury.” (Mummy Berry Disease of Blueberry, Grubinger, p.5). It is important to take care of your plants because just like humans, they can catch things and it can ruin your entire batch of berries. It is important to know the care and how to prevent diseases like this. AK Fairbanks

Frozen berries are sweeter?

It is said that Alaskan berries are said to be sweeter after they freeze. Is this true? I am having a hard time finding any hard evidence to prove as to why this might be, but many articles talk about how this seems to be true, with out a scientific reason. I imagine it must have to do with the crystallization of the sugars in the berry. One article references another article to say that the frosting of brussel sprouts causes an increase in sugars in the cell. BE Fairbanks

Anonymous, 2007. Berry Crazy. Available online:  Berries

Blueberry Trials in Kenai

This is a good article summarizing project to compare effects of location and cultivar of three northern highbush and six half-high blueberry cultivars on survivability, fall dieback, winter injury, fruit yield and weight at two locations on the Kenai Peninsula. Results suggested ‘Northblue’ as the most promising cultivar followed by ‘Northcountry’, ‘Northsky’, and ‘Polaris’.  Unfortunately this project was discontinued due to shrinking budgets after the first year of fruit production.  CZ Anchorage

Citation: Barney, D.L. and K. E. Hummer. 2012. Northern High Bush and Half-High Blueberries on the Alaskan Kenai Peninsula: Preliminary Observations. Journal of the American Pomological Society 66(3): 145-152.

Available online:


My Plate My State

Check out this site and an attempt by USDA to encourage local and healthy food choices. It’s a nice concept, but check out the list they include of the common foods produced in Alaska.

  • barley, beef, bison, bread, chicken, crabs, eggs, Herring, milk, oats, pollock, pork, potatoes, reindeer, salmon, scallops, sea urchins, shrimp

My list certainly is longer than that! The only vegetable they include is the potato! Sheesh!

My plate

Going Back to Our Roots

While berry pickers use a variety of methods and recipes to consume their harvest in the modern world, I have often wondered how the Native Americans originally used these superfoods to supplement their diet. Berries played an important role in the society of the indigenous peoples and later turned to help the Europeans who settled in various areas survive the winter. Kim E. Hummer looked at various soil samples from different regions of the United States in order to determine what plants could have been found during that period in history. There is documented use of huckleberries and blueberries, and Hummer explains it further. Early explorers survived on berries throughout their expeditions. Refer to Hummer’s article for more information.
Hummer, K. E. 2013. Manna in Winter: Indigenous Americans, huckleberries, and blueberries. Hort Science 48(4):413-417

Nagoonberry Harvest Glacier Bay

Berry picking is a large part of most Alaskan cultures and heritages. This is a video produced in cooperation with Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve and the Hoonah Indian Association. In this ten minute video there are 21 lucky berry pickers that were invited to the Glacier Bay National Park to pick Nagoon berries. In this video you get to see and hear introductions of those invited berry picking including some information on the individuals cultural background and their thoughts and feelings on being able to go berry nagoon berry picking. I like this video because you get a since of the feeling of pride and happiness that berry picking can bring not only an individual but also a community. I really liked that many of these pickers were first time nagoon berry pickers. What a great program the National Park Service has created by helping Alaskan cultures get back to some of their roots. LH Fairbanks

Grant, K. 2011. Glacier Bay National Park & Preserve Berry Pickers 2011. Available online: . Accessed: 10 Oct. 2016.

Alaska Wild Berry Resources

Alaskan Wild Berry Resources and Human Health Under the Cloud of Climate Change
Wild berries are an integral part of Alaskan diet. They are a rich source in polyphenolic metabolites that can aid metabolic disorders such as obesity and diabetes. Here, a study of five common Alaskan wild berries are screened for bioactivity -the effect on participants. And the effect of different seasons/fluctuations on berry abundance and quality is provided.

Selected extracts reduced glucose levels and other insight allows for the monitoring of these berries as the climate changes throughout the region.
Flint, Courtney. Gonzalez De Mejia, Elvira. Kellogg, Joshua. Kuhn, Peter. Lila, Mary Ann. Raskin, Ilya. Ribnicky, David. Wang, Jinzhi. 2010. “Alaskan Wild Berry Resources and Human Health Under the Cloud of Climate Change.” Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. 58(7): 3884-3900.

Cloudberries and cheese

I lived in Finland for aobout 10 months many years ago.  It is there that I first heard of tasted and fell in love with the cloudberry.  One memorable way that we ate them was with Leipajuusto (bread cheese).  Its kind of like a large thin pancake of squeaky cheese.  We would eat little slices of leipajuusto with cloudberry jam on top.  Yummmm!  Here is a link for how to make the cheese:  And here is a link to see how it looks being made and prepped with cloudberries on top! KDicristina, Fairbanks:  Cheese.

Healthy eating!

A Few Health Benefits
Even though many of us do not need to be told to eat berries, it is always a nice reminder that those little drops of yummy are actually very good for you! Full of Vitamin C, antioxidants, and heart attack reducing anthocyanins which also help to lower blood pressure in animals. Grabbing some berries to throw into a smoothie, oatmeal, or a muffin might be a smart choice the next time you get hungry. For more information check out the two articles below. CM Fairbanks
Aubrey, A. 2013. Women with a berry-snacking habit may have healthier hearts. Available online: Healthy heartsAccessed 12 Oct, 2016.
Bauer, J. N/A. Health benefits of berries. Available online: Healthy berries.  Accessed 12 Oct, 2016.

Spotted Wing Drosoplila

The Cornell University College of Agriculture and Life Sciences publishes a scientific newsletter called the New York Berry News. These newsletters publish a variety of articles relating to berries and berry production including topics like: frost protection, post-harvest care, organic farming, pests and diseases, etc. I found the newsletter of great interest because of the wide diversity of topics all related to berries and creating healthy berry habitats whether wild or cultivated. Although most of these articles are mostly concentrated on berries growing in the New York State area, I found that much of the information given can be used as helpful tips and guides for growing and managing berries here in Alaska. One of the articles I found interesting is about the Spotted Wing Drosophila (SWD).

The Spotted Wing Drosophila (SWD) is an invasive small fruit fly that is a major pest problem for raspberries, blackberries and other cane berries as well as blueberries, strawberries, grapes and other small fruits and berries. The SWD is originally native to Asia but in 2008 the first confirmation of SWD was found in California (Wold-Burkness & Hahn) and since then has spread throughout most of the fruit growing regions in the United States. Found in New York State in 2012, the SWD has caused serious crop losses in every year since (Wallingford & Loeb).

The SWD is a small fly that typically measures only about 2-3mm long, has big red eyes and a yellow/brown body (Wold-Burkness & Hahn). The abdomen has small rings around it and large clear wings. They are hard to identify against other small fruit flies, but the males do have a large black spot near the top and back half of their clear wings (Wold-Burkness & Hahn). The SWD larvae are commonly called maggots and have small tubular shaped bodies with no legs.

The adult SWD inserts its eggs under the skin of young fruit both wild and cultivated. In New York the SWD populations are relatively low during the spring months, but as fruit begins to ripen and berries are in large abundance the populations are also in large concentrations and this is why so many berry crops are suffering (Wallingford & Loeb). The adult SWD flies feed on thin skinned soft fruit such as berries, grapes, and plums. The larvae will feed on the fruit under the skin and cause the fruit tissue to be browned and squishy. Sometimes the damage to the fruit that the larvae produce will go unnoticed until after harvest and can be seriously detrimental to harvest production.

In New York pesticides are used in effort to control SWD populations but often weekly doses are needed to keep infestation levels down (Wallingford & Loeb). Weekly insecticide applications can be expensive and also damaging to the plants health and production rates and many growers are experiencing “sprayers fatigue” (Walligford & Loeb). In addition to the damage the flies cause and the damage from over spraying of pesticides, these flies can make the plants more susceptible to infestation by other insects, rot fungi and diseases (Wold-Burkness & Hahn).

There are currently many studies on the SWD and their effects on fruit production including studies relating to growth cycles, winter/cold survival, organic pest control, cultivating techniques, etc. These are relatively new pests in the United States and although I cannot find anything confirming their existence in Alaska, it seems that it is only a matter of time before we are also actively battling the Spotted Wind Drosophila. If you are looking for more information about the SWD I have attached both the New York Berry News article as well as a study conducted by the University of Minnesota Cooperative Extension Program. LH Fairbanks

Wallingfor, A. and Loeb, G. 2016. Spotted Wing Drosophila: Winter Biology. New York Berry News. 15 (2): 5-18. Available online: Accessed: 10 Oct. 2016.

Wold-Burkness, S. and Hahn, J. 2016. Spotted Wing Drosophila in Home Gardens. Insects. University of Minnesota, Extension. Available online: Accessed: 10 Oct. 2016.


Poisonous Nightshade

Toxicity of Nightshade Berries

Nightshade berries Solanum dulcamara)  are one of the most ingested poisonous berries in Minnesota.Ripened and unripened nightshade berries are given to mice in this study, during various seasons. Unripened fruit late in season seemed to show most behavioral differences.

Collins, James E., Hornfeldt, Carl S. 2008. “Toxicity of Nightshade Berries (Solanum Dulcamara) in Mice.” Journal of Toxicology: Clinical Toxicology. 28(2):185-192.

Saskatoon farm economics


On this webpage there is a downloadable link (titled: ‘SFC 2016 Econ Saskatoons’ and found in the middle of the page) to a presentation about the economics of growing saskatoons.  Although it is based in Michigan and estimates costs for a 5 acre production, it still shows is interesting to see an analysis for cost and profit for this berry.  He starts showing the economic analysis on slide 36, if you want to skip ahead to that. KD Fairbanks

The Saskatoon Institute of North America’s mission is to support commercial production and marketing of saskatoons.  It’s worth cruising around the site!    Saskatoons