Growing kiwi and grapes at 8,600 feet without a green house? How about sea buckthorn, lingonberry, or plums? You didn’t think that is possible? When I moved up here the feedback I received from people was that growing anything was very limited, if at all possible. The very stubborn homestead woman in me decided to investigate for myself and over the past 5 years I planted an orchard, nut trees, bushes, shrubs, and other perennials that offer me an increasing amount of fruit, berries, and other edible plants. This post is about cold-hardy fruit trees, cold hardy berry bushes, and cold-hardy vines suitable for a short growing season.
It took me some time to research the cold-hardy fruit and nut trees, cold hardy berries varieties that will not only survive, but also produce at 8,600 feet, zone 4a-3b. Our average first frost is between September 1-10 and the average last frost between June 11-20. You get the picture, not a lot of time to grow anything unless you have a green house, which I don’t, at this point. I would like to share the different varieties of plants, tress, and bushes with you to save you some time on your own journey of creating a sustainable homestead.
Valiant Grape makes for excellent juices and jellies. I am growing all my vines on decent sized hand-made trellises. Valiants are self-pollinating which is great since I only grow this variety.
Kiwi? Yes, there are several cold-hardy varieties of Kiwi out there. While smaller than the fuzzy kiwi you may know from the supermarket, the fuzzless Hardy Kiwi fruit are more like grapes, and you can eat the tender skin and all. Typically those kiwi are hardy to minus 25° F. The two varieties I am growing are Andrey and Tatyana. You do need a male for your female varieties to produce fruit.
There are a lot of wild raspberries growing in the woods around me but I cultivated raspberry, Caroline X.
For my strawberries I chose a runnerless variety of the alpine strawberry also known as wild strawberry. This variety is said to be tolerant of a variety of moisture levels and often survives forest fires.
York Elderberry is self-fertile, and will pollinate other native varieties. Adams elderberry is excellent for elixirs, pies, and syrups. This variety ripens late and is a heavy producer. Pollinates with other native elderberries.
Brunswick Maine blueberry grows only one foot tall and spreads out five feet wide. They make for delicious pea size blueberries. Chippewa blueberry is the largest of all dwarf varieties and mature in late June. Great for cold climates.
I love sea buckthorn, everything about it: The unique taste when made into syrup, the fact that it contains such high content of Vitamin C, and that it grows virtually in any climate, including at 8,600 feet in the Rocky Mountains. You need to plant one male for every 5/8 females. The male seaberry makes for a beautiful ornamental. I am growing three different female varieties: Askola, a variety with exceptionally high content of Vitamin C and E. The berries ripen in late August and make delicious juice and jelly. Askola can reach 10-12 ft. in height. Botanica is prized for its abundant crops of very large and richly flavored, bright orange fruit. Hergo is the variety I am most familiar with. I used to eat the berries right of the bush when I was a child. Easy to grow, Hergo ripens in late August to early September.
In addition to the inherent cold-hardiness, the Lingonberry bush produces tart cranberry-like fruit. Lingonberries are self-pollinating, but cross-pollination will produce larger fruits that ripen earlier. I am growing two different varieties at Sustainable Homesteading: Ida lingonberry and Balsgard lingonberry.
Dwarf Aronia is a very compact shrub, growing to only 3 ft. in height. The back berries are really tasty. Aronia likes most soils and is self-fertile. I planted my aronias close to the wetland on my property. Viking is a vigorous, and productive small shrub, bearing abundant crops of large, almost black berries, excellent for making juice and wine. This variety is also self-fertile.
Goji berry is also known as Wolfberry and is a very cold-hardy self-fertile plant. The cranberry-sized berries are very nutritious and delicious. Unfortunately, I can not tell you which varieties I am growing since I got those plants as non-labeled cuttings from a permaculture garden in the area. Goji berries are extremely high in antioxidants surpassing even blueberries.
Bali Cherry: A sour cherry, excellent for pies and jam, self-pollinating and extremely hardy. This cherry can tolerate temperature to -40 °F and still bear fruit.
Nova Pear: Large fruit, round, melting and very juicy. The fruit can be used either green or ripe and is hardy to -50 °F. Hudar Pear: Known for its extreme hardiness, almost to -50 °F. The fruit is yellow, sweet and juicy. Good for fresh eating or canning.
Mount Royal Plum: A beautiful hardy European plum bearing fruits that are large, deep blue, and well-suited for eating raw, preserves and jam. This plum withstands Zone 3b-4a winters. Early Laxton Plum: is partially self-fertile. Plant with another European variety for best crops. Plums are hardy to minus 30°F.
Sweet Sixteen Apple: One of the best apple varieties for cold climates. High quality flavor, primarily sweet but with some acidity and complexity. Sweet Sixteen is a reliable cropper in zone 4 and even zone 3. Haralson Apple: Haralson is very winter hardy variety with a tart flavor, crisp and juicy. Excellent for baking.
Black Walnut nuts are rich and flavorful, great for fresh eating and in baked goods. Black Walnuts need another tree of the same variety for nut production. Black Walnut is hardy to minus 30°F. Buartnut is cross of Butternut and Heartnut. A medium-size shade tree that produces abundant crops of tasty nuts. Buartnut is hardy to minus 30°F. Chestnut is a wonderful nut produce. I planted a hybrid of Japanese and European Chestnut, a disease resistant tree, bearing abundant crops of large, sweet nuts. Plant at least two trees for nut production
Other edible perennials
Victoria rhubarb is a classic heirloom vegetable. Easy to grow with a large, fat stem, bright red skin, and lack of stringiness. Victoria has a tart, apple-gooseberry flavor. When you first plant this vegetable, don’t harvest the stem for the first three years and do not eat the leaves which contain oxalic acid.
#5 Crandall Clove Currant is a great variety. Black, spicy-sweet fruit ripens in mid-July. Wonderful yellow trumpet-shaped, clove scented flowers.
Ok, this is my long list of plants and trees I am growing up here. Do you have anything to add? Please, share with me! I am always looking to expand my food forest. I will post more pictures during the summer, there is really not much to see right now.