Haskap/Honeyberry Harvest Wrap-up

Our 2019 commercial harvesting of berries for beverages wrapped up on July 11. 3100 lbs on approx 1000 bushes planted in 2011, 2013 & 2015, harvested by a crew of between 1 and 4 guys working partial days over 2 weeks, made possible by some techniques we have learned over the years.

First of all, by planting a range of early, mid and late ripening varieties, a small crew can keep up with the ripening of the berries. Tundra and Indigo Gem ripen first, then we move on to Czech #17, Borealis, Honey Bee and Aurora. We don’t have enough late selections for commercial harvesting yet.

Secondly, the discovery of using light weight Olive Harvesters (ATRAX and Infaco) with their long “fingers” which gently shake the branches on medium speed enables a bush to be harvested in literally a minute or less.

Third, a catch system underneath, whether a tarp or bin, easily pulled out, pouring the berries into trays for transport back to the cleaning station.

Fourth, “Chute-N-Go” – down the chute into a bag or bucket for freezing, blowing the leaves off with a leaf blower.

Borealis is NOT recommended for commercial harvesting due to the amount of foliage which not only hides the berries but prevents airflow which can result in moldy berries, plus stems do not detach until berries are quite ripe. We harvested at a Brix of over 10, prior to any significant mold. Borealis can yield over 6 lbs/bush. Blowing the leaves off worked great even with more leaves than berries!

On the other extreme, tall Czech #17 with its smaller berries yields over 10 lb if you can keep the cedar waxwings out of them!

Checkout our You Tube Videos:

Destination of our berries this year:

Aurora honeyberries are the #1 favorite of most people for taste, size, ease of picking, easy to see berries on bush, easily detachable, taste good soon after turning blue, good yield. The only negativity might be uneven ripening.

Jonkheer van Tets red currants ripen at the same time as Aurora gets nicely ripe, and just as the beginning of the late bloomers are ripening here in zone 3.

Some people prefer the less acidic saskatoon over the tangy honeyberries. Most people like them both. Saskatoons are “meatier” – not so juicy, and I don’t mind the larger seeds inside which are edible. Martin in hand and JB30 on bush are two selections with nice large berries for easy picking and great taste.

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Harvesting Haskap/Honeyberries

We started picking our earliest ripening berries, Tundra and Indigo Gem, on June 20, 2018. An early year as we’ve had consistent, warm weather.

6 year old Indigo Gem shown above. Shake and Drop has greatly increased harvesting rate – from 3-4 lbs/hour/person to 20-40 lbs/person. We still hand pick some berries for the best quality to supply our local stores for maximum shelf life.

We look forward to harvesting more upright bushes such as Aurora but the advantage to Indigo Gem is how early it ripens, even before Berry Smart Blue (Czech #17).

Blowing the debris off with a leaf blower is sufficient cleaning for wine/juice quality berries.

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We acquired a used milk truck box for freezer/refrigeration as our approx 2 acres of honeyberries are now producing a lot of berries which we are now able to harvest in a more timely fashion. And cherry season is soon upon us as well.

It was nice to have a visit from an AgWeek reporter last week who wrote us up at minnesota-its-honeyberry-pickin-time (June 30, 2018). Mikkel and his wife came to pick honeyberries and went home with a story as well!


The Honeyberry Farm is also about community – the 10 year old twin boys pictured above started picking berries for us 2 years ago to earn money to go to the fair. They ride their bikes over and help pick to supply local stores. Tundra berries are light and bulky, filling up the pint containers in 5-8 minutes each by hand. Very early ripening, they don’t bleed and have a long shelf life, compensating for their lower yield of 3-5 lbs/bush.



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Netting haskap/honeyberries

Wow – over a year has passed since posting so here’s a little catch-up.

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17′ wide AviGard Flex Netting from Plantra.com

The 17′ wide net barely covered the mature Borealis and Tundra that are now more than 5′ wide and 4-5′ tall, and Berry Smart Blue (Czech #17) that are even taller. The bushes pictured here are at the top of the incline and are smaller than those further down the row. They are planted 5′ in-row and 10′ between row spacing, in a 1 acre plot. The waxwings did sneak under but after several of them got tangled in the net the flock decided it wasn’t worth it and moved on. For smaller plantations, securing the net to the ground is essential.

Plantra’s netting installs very smoothly, compared to some of the wiry off-the-shelf netting. Well worth the investment.

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SmartNet from oesco.com

At our satellite site, planted in 2013, we installed SmartNet over several sections of the orchard. A lot of work installing the posts, especially since we had to do it twice after a severe windstorm.


July wind storm took down several posts (as well as many large trees in the area)

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Stakes and wires stabilize posts

We changed from using h-frame support to a stake and wire support for the posts. Here the net covers a row of honeyberries in front and elderberries at back.

Which system is best? Each has pros and cons. The overhead netting has to be extended and rolled back each year, with c-clips to attach the net to the overhead wire. But once it’s up and secured, it’s pretty effective at keeping unwanted critters out. The on-row netting works for mature plants but needs to be suspended by a guide wire for younger plants to avoid bending the upper branches and to keep the birds from perching right on the net and pecking through the holes. On-row netting is nice as you roll back the net when you pick, easily identifying which plants have been picked.

Sorry I don’t have costs figured out but we can’t afford not to net.

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Of honeyberries, bees and blossoms


Our first honeyberry blossoms appeared today – I saw one on a Berry Smart Blue (Czech #17) and another on an Indigo Gem. This is a few days earlier than last year and a month earlier than 2013.

And the bees arrived just in time!


48 honey bee hives – more will be added/stacked as summer progresses with 20K-80K female worker bees/hive!

This is the first year we will have honey bees on our land thanks to a providential encounter I had this morning with a local commercial honey producer who was setting out hives in a hay field about 3 miles from us. Larry and his son place 2200 hives, 48 hives per site,  throughout a 100 mile range of woods/lakes/small fields of hay, oats and corn that thankfully sees little commercial pesticide use. Producers in the Red River Valley which starts 45 miles west of us can lose up to 60% of the bees in a season, attributed to pesticides in their huge mono-crop fields. Our producer only loses about 10% in our area. He placed a set of 48 hives a mile apart from each other at each of our orchard sites. Worker bees fly 2-3 miles from their hives in search of pollen and nectar so they should be happy to find a feast at their doorstep with 5+ acres of fruit, hay fields and pastures, creek and forest with basswood trees and other native pollinizers in the area.

Many insects, even humming birds, pollinate honeyberry blossoms. We have lots of native pollinators – bumble bees, etc., but we’re happy to have some more. Honey bees are smaller and have more difficulty than bumble bees in accessing the pollen in the deep honeyberry blossoms, plus they need warmer temperatures to fly (above 55F/13C) than bumble bees (50F/10C) but having hives in the neighborhood can be an asset to pollination by the sheer numbers of honey bees. We had 47F/8C today but it is projected to be in the high 50s this weekend. Plus we soon will have many other blossoms easier for honey bees to access – cherries, currants, gooseberries, saskatoons, etc.

Additional information:

Plus, the Minnesota State Horticulture Society garden club that I belong to is building mason bee houses tomorrow!

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Haskap Time Lapse Video

What will those Crazy Canucks do next! Rob in Timmins, Ontario, couldn’t wait for spring so he placed three newly purchased haskap (honeyberry) plants under grow lights indoors in November of 2016. Watch what happens to Boreal Blizzard (top), Boreal Beauty (bottom), Honey Bee (middle) in 21 days. Rob says, “Little to no growth with no light. When I added a fan to circulate the air near the end of the video, the strawberries at right began to wilt immediately and the haskap’s growth was halved.” (ed. note: growth may have slowly down somewhat naturally – would be interesting to compare with a control group with no fan)


Boreal Beauty, Oct. 19, 2016

Note that these small plants spent 2 weeks in the mail with no ill effects. Haskap are very vigorous and ship well, either bare root (as in this case) or potted.

From tissue culture to potted plant: Several months growth in the propagator’s greenhouse in Canada produced this vigorous little plant measuring 1 foot from top to bottom, with about 6″ of stem.


Roots were washed for shipping. When possible we ship small plants with the peat intact, but some states and international customers may require bare root shipping.


3-4 year old Borealis

Sturdy, shallow roots develop in older haskap plants. Sprawling roots were pruned for shipping. It’s fairly easy to dig up 3 year old plants. After that you have your work cut out for you if you’re thinking of transplanting!

And now for a few “time lapse” shots of our own orchard…


Oct. 10, 2016 Honeyberry Farm, Bagley, Minnesota

Our initial planting of 800+ Borealis, Tundra, & Berry Smart Blue plus over 30 named variety trials of blue honeysuckle (haskap/honeyberry), plus a sampling of dwarf sour cherries, elderberries, currants, gooseberries, aronia, saskatoons, raspberries, strawberries, plums, peach, mulberry, & apples provide us and our U-Pickers with ample fruit from June through October! (We also have 5 acres of fruit in a newer plot down the road).



March 19, 2016


July 13, 2015

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Honeyberry Farm on the news

Lakeland Pulic TV paid us a visit yesterday morning and we made it onto the Tuesday night Northwoods Adventure segment at the end of the 10 o’clock news! Thanks to our neighborhood friends who “happened” to be here picking 🙂 who appear with us in this clip.

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Cherries cherries cherries

We have a bumper crop of Carmine Jewel Dwarf Sour cherries this year, overlapping with the end of haskap/honeyberry season. The early and mid honeyberries are still pickable but a few are starting to dehydrate a bit on the bushes. The late varieties are now ripe enough.

Our Crimson Passion and Romeo sour cherries  are just a few days behind Carmine Jewel. We don’t know if they will overlap like this every year but that’s how it is this year. My juicer/steamer is coming in handy for the cherries that we don’t have time to pit. We’re also running out of freezer space. So juicing is a great option right now.

This cherry juice measured 11 brix. The ripest berries run 13-15 brix. We want to pick them before the birds or other predators get them and don’t mind the fruit being a little on the tart side. I personally like the Carmine Jewel for fresh eating, I like the tartness and find the sweeter varieties lacking that zing that I’m now accustomed to from Carmine Jewel. I pitted a few fresh ones and threw them on pancakes with whipped cream this morning. Tasted so good I didn’t take time to stop for a picture. No added sugar was needed.


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