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Saskatoon Berries

Perennial, mid summer harvest

These berries were very important for early Native American life as well as settlers.  The berries were enjoyed fresh, mashed or dried and the leaves were used to make tea. The wood was flexible, used for arrows baskets etc.  The Saskatoon berry has many names including Service berries, June berries, Indian pear, Shadberries.  The word Saskatoon comes from the Cree word “Mis-sask-quah-too-mina”

Growth Habit

  • Shrub or small tree 1-8 meters (3-26 ft) tall
  • Flowers are white coloured with 3-20 flowers per cluster. 
  • Unique leaves: oval to round and margins get toothy on the upper half of the leaf
  • Berries are a pome (think a small apple) and dark purple in colour.  They ripen in mid/late July and have uneven ripening.  The size depends on the cultivar

Planting

  • Plant about 1m (3ft) apart
  • Best to plant in summer or fall, summer should be avoided
  • Plant slightly deeper than the nursery container and water well until they get established

Pollination

  • Saskatoons are self fruitful so only one plant is required

Pruning

  • When the plant is small (0-3 years) prune weak, diseased, dead/damaged shoots; keep centre open; and remove low spreading branches
  • 3-4 years after fruiting started, old non productive wood can be removed (selective rejuvenation)
  •  Complete rejuvenation which means trees can get chopped down to ground level and allowed to regrow

Harvesting

  • Bird Protection is needed
  • Pick when you are happy with the flavour, dark purple colour

Cultivars

There are several cultivars of saskatoon berries.  This chart tells a little bit about all of them

Cultivar

Tree Height

Fruit size

Flavour

Extra Information

Thiessen

5 meters

1.7 cm diameter

Excellent and juicy

Flowers earlier

Smoky

4.5 meters

1.4 cm diameter

Very sweet

Long lived

Parkhill

1.5 meters

1.3 cm diameter

Mild/bland flavour

 

Northline

6 meters

1.6 cm diameter

Excellent balanced flavour

Very productive

Nelson

1.5 meters

1.3 cm diameter

Good tangy flavour

Flowers 3-7 days later than others

Martin

5 meters

1.7 cm

Similar to Thiessen

Slightly more uniform ripening

Honeywood

5 meters

1.6 cm

Full tangy flavour

Flowers later, slight disease resistance

Pests

  • Saskatoon Juniper Rust.  This is what causes the berries to turn into little spiky balls.  Similar growths can also grow on the leaves.  The conditions need to be right for this rust to flourish. 
  • Powdery Mildew. This cause the leaves to be covered with a white film at first, and as the infection progresses causes the leaves to brown and fall off.  Treatments like sulfur powders and garlic sprays can be sprayed preventatively but will not help once the infection has happened.  Powdery Mildew thrives in high humidity
  • Plenty of Insects.  Since the Saskatoon berry is native to here there are a lot of insects that prey on Saskatoon’s as the pests are native too. 
  • Birds.  The birds will eat your berries faster then you can so protection is needed if you want to eat any of your fruit. 
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