Where will Honeyberries Grow?

Our global Honeyberry and Haskap growers map continues to grow and covers areas where it was previously thought Honeyberries could not grow. When we discovered the berries in 2010, we were told in no uncertain terms that the plants would not grow out of Hardiness Zone 2. Luckily being optimists, we have continued to push the Honeyberry or Haskap envelope and have found that when combined with healthy soil can be grown in many more places than originally thought.

We sometimes forget how far we had travelled in the last seven years when the most common Honeyberry planting combination was Borealis, Tundra and Berry Blue (All in the Early Harvesting and Tart/Sweet flavour groups). Great credit must go to all plant breeders who have lengthened the harvesting window, enhanced the depth of flavours and specific cultivars for cooler or warmer regions.

The Natural Honeyberry Habitat

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It grows in more places than you think

The Honeyberry or Haskap berry is considered a cold climatic plant that thrives in healthy soil between latitudes 42 to 62 (hardiness zones 2 to 9). However, it is proving itself remarkable adaptable to growing regions outside its native habitat – Siberia/Hokkaido. We believe that provided the plant’s soil needs – organic matter, mineral and biological makeup, sufficient rainfall between July and September and 750 to 1,000 chilling hours are met. There is a high chance the plant will thrive, outside its Goldilocks Zone band of latitude 42 to 62.

Honeyberries are sometimes described as the ‘Northern Grape’ because of its high tannin levels which can be turned into premium wines. The chart below shows the wine-producing regions of the world. We have overlayed three Northen Honeyberry Goldilock zones (the right-hand one being its native habitat). These overlap the upper Northern latitude bands of the wine producing regions. We have also included three potential Southern Honeyberry Goldilocks zones. Honeyberries are being grown in all three, and we are eager to see if it can be grown successfully on a commercial basis.

Where will Honeyberries Grow?

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Honeyberry chilling hours?

The chilling hour’s map below was prepared by the University of Maryland to help the fruit and nut industry estimate if there are sufficient hours for their intended fruit. We are prudent in suggesting Honeyberries need around 750 to 1,000 hours of chilling hours. No one has done research to show that they will survive with less. We firmly believe the eventual figure will be less than 1,000 hours provided that the plants live in soils that are extremely healthy Perhaps taking us down to Raspberry levels of 700, Blackberry of 500, Currants of 800 and Quince of 400 hours. Will we ever get down to levels of Grape and Pomegranate at around 200 hours? We do not think so.

When potential growers are situated in areas between 500 to 1,000 chilling hours. We believe that you must look to soil health being at luxury levels to ensure the plant thrives rather than just survives. So it would be best to start or think prudently by planting a couple of hundred of plants rather than thousands.

The Maryland map helps illustrate where it may be possible to grow Honeyberries in the United States – above the 1,200 ‘Chilling Hours Line’. Of course, there other local factors that will determine whether Honeyberries will flourish rather than just grow in the three blue boxes below. These include the amount and timing of seasonal rains, soil quality and summer temperatures. However, it is a good starting point to decide if your optimism may or may not be rewarded.

Where will Honeyberries Grow?

What are chilling hours? Well simply, deciduous fruit plants or nut trees, need a certain number of hours of cold temperatures to break out of winter dormancy (hours between the temperatures of 2c to 10c or 35 to 50 degrees Fahrenheit). The chilly temperatures stop the hormones that are preventing the tree or plant from growing. Extreme lows (below 30 or 32 deg F) not counted, since these temps do not seem to work toward breaking dormancy.

Once dormancy begins, plants will not resume growth until they have had a minimum period (chilling hours) at low temperatures. Once they have reached their minimum, as soon as temperatures warm up or days are longer, the plant will start growing and flowering.

If they bloom too early, and there is another freeze, then the flowers of could drop off. Further problems include poor flowering, ineffective pollination, and poor foliage production. A further advantage of Honeyberries is their flowers can withstand frosts of -8c.

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Understanding its natural climate

In determining whether Honeyberries will survive or flourish in a new growing area. We use the seasonal weather averages of Bakchar, in Russia, and Poznan, in Poland as starting climatic benchmarks to determine if Honeyberries will flourish or not. The Russian YouTube video below is of Honeyberry region in Bakchar and Honeyberries are ready to harvest in mid-June.

In our opinion, one of the fundamental problems with the Southern and warmer Western regions is the lack of rainfall between July and September compared to its natural habitat and the soaring heat after harvest can prevent the plant’s second growth period and the next season’s fruit set.

Bakchar, Russia average regional climate (Lat 57 North)

Honeyberries Bloom: Early April and Harvest mid-June

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Poznan, Poland average regional climate (Lat 47 North)

Honeyberries Bloom: Early April and Harvest mid-June

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Other regions where Honeyberries thrive

Dundee, Scotland average regional climate (Lat 57 North)

Honeyberries Bloom: Early April and Harvest late-June to early July

We have compared one of our ideal growing regions Dundee, in Scotland to Poland. We expect Honeyberries will fruit two weeks  (late June to early July) later than in Poznan because of the cooler summer conditions.

Honeyberries are grown in this region. This region is five Latitude points above Poznan, and you would expect its average temperatures to be colder than Poland in winter. However, this is not the case thanks to the Gulf Stream.  The average spring compares very well with Poznan, but the summer temperatures are cooler despite similar sunshine hours.

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The Scottish soft fruit industry (majority based in Tayside) has changed dramatically compared to 20 years or so ago when everything was picked by hand and mostly destined to be processed into jam or juice. Growers used to arrange for special buses to collect fruit pickers from the likes of Dundee and Fife until harvesting machines started to take over. Sadly, about that time, the industry came under pressure from cheap imports from Eastern Europe and the area where fruit was grown declined dramatically.

Back in 1982, Scotland produced 5,000 acres of raspberries and 1,500 acres of Strawberries. Over the past ten years, the area of Raspberries in Scotland has contracted to 400 acres; Strawberries are down to 300 acres in the same period and Blackcurrants down from 800 acres to 600 acres.

That may appear depressing reading until you realise that the value of Scotland’s soft fruit production has increased by $100 million (152 percent) to an estimated $180 million over the last ten years. The increase in crop value is mostly down to better yields and better prices as a result of selling to retailers rather than processors.

While Strawberries, Blueberries and Currants are hand-picked for the fresh market, almost all Blackcurrants are mechanically harvested and processed into juice for Ribena. The significant change in Scotland has been the development of growing fruit in polytunnels which don’t come cheap. An acre of polytunnel costs about $25,000 and should produce between 25 and 30 tonnes of Strawberries in a season.

While the UK market for soft fruit has grown rapidly over the last decade, Scottish growers have to compete with their counterparts south of the border for market share. The annual value of crop for the fresh market is very dependent on if the Scottish crop season overlaps with England’s.

The only factor to be mindful for growing Honeyberries in the Eastern Scotland region is the changeable weather. However, other soft fruits appear to love the Scottish weather, as the area is famous for its production of Raspberries and Strawberries. Most soft fruits prefer heat units rather than hot sunny days. It seems that Scotland has the correct balance of climatic factors for growing Honeyberries.

Rainfall is slightly below Poznan’s, but the cooler conditions suggest that irrigation will not be needed. The advantage of having cooler July’s and August is that it will be easy to flush out a second growth spurt after harvest. The Wind is sometimes considered a problem in Scotland. However, a comparison with Poznan shows that this not one to worry about.

Temperatures during pollination are more than sufficient during late March and early April to allow native and hive bees to do their work in the orchard. Despite the average temperatures being around or above 10c in November, December, January, February and March there are more than a sufficient number of chilling hours. Late frosts in April will not prove a problem to the cold hardy blooms.

Orchards in this region could be planted with Early and Mid harvest category Russian based Honeyberries. Also, Late and Very Late Category Japanese based Honeyberries could be harvested without any problems.

Granby, Quebec average regional climate (Lat 45 North)

Honeyberries Bloom: Late April and Harvest late-June

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New Regions where Honeyberries will thrive

Christchurch, New Zealand regional climate (Lat 44 South)

Honeyberries Bloom: Early October and Harvest mid-December

Honeyberries are grown in this region. The Christchurch, New Zealand region is nine Latitude points below Poznan, however in the Southern hemisphere. The average temperatures are much hotter than Poland in winter and spring. The mean summer temperatures are similar to Poznan.

The biggest obstacle of growing Honeyberries in this region is the lack of rainfall. Precipitation is about 30% to 40% lower than Poznan’s in the prime July, and August months. This converts to the southern hemisphere to November through to February. Even if soil health is at luxury levels,  irrigation would be wise.

Temperatures during pollination are more than sufficient during late March and early April to allow native and hive bees to do their work in the orchard. Despite the average temperatures being around or above 10c in November, December, January, February and March there are more than a sufficient number of chilling hours. It may also be advisable to plant Japanese Honeyberry or Haskap varieties from Lonicera Emphyllocalyx. These are later fruiting varieties by about two or three weeks, including  Maxine Thompson’s Haskap varieties, Berries Unlimited varieties such as Strawberry Sensation, Giant’s Heart, Bunny Blue and Blue Treasure.

Chester, Connecticut average regional climate (Lat 42 North)

Honeyberries Bloom: Early April and Harvest mid-June

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Duluth, Minnesota average regional climate (Lat 47 North)

Honeyberries Bloom: Early April and Harvest mid-June

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Research your local weather patterns

We encourage new growers to become familiar with their local growing seasons and compare to regions where Honeyberries thrive. Especially, if you are trying to grow Honeyberries in climatic garden zones above 8 or below latitude of 45 degrees. Please click on the climate chart below to find out more about your local, seasonal data.

The plants are becoming well know for their adaptability to new local growing conditions outside its native homelands, especially if the soils meet its requirements. Once thought that it would only thrive in the cold middle Canadian hinterland. Where it is easy to make climatic comparisons to Western Siberia. We look into regional climatic conditions many of the existing and new Honeyberry regions in our new guidebook.

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Possible Honeyberry  ‘Goldilocks’ zones?

The Honeyberry opportunity is starting to attract commercial growers attentions in the traditional berry regions of the United States. We believe it will not be long until interested, and optimistic farmers set up new orchards within the plants ‘Goldilocks’ zones below.

We are great believers in change and are optimistic by nature. So by 2050, we believe that there will be many more acres in the World, than the current small total of 3,200. This coming expansion will not restrict those regions of the World where Honeyberries are currently not grown. However, as in grapes, there may be centres of excellence because of the local ‘Terroir’. It will be a truly global footprint and one that will challenge and perhaps surpass the total area of international blueberries currently planted – about 250,000 acres.

The Honeyberry expansion is not just a restricted to North American one.  There are now exciting plot trials underway in Germany, UK, Belgium, Netherlands, Chile, Argentina, New Zealand and even in Southern Australia, on the Island of Tasmania.

Optimistic growers have proved that Honeyberry will grow and can thrive in the warmer climatic conditions of the Canadian Maritimes (garden zones 4 to 6), the UK – both in Scotland and Southern England (garden zones 7 to 9) and in Eastern and Southern Poland (garden zones 7 to 9). All these areas easily meet the plants requirement of around 1,000 to 1,200 chilling hours per season, between a latitude of 45 to 58 degrees.

We have listed below regions where we believe the Honeyberry may grow and new potential global ‘Goldilocks’ zones where the plant could thrive in healthy soil.

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Honeyberry Goldilocks zones

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LoveHoneyberry – We are about helping You!

Our commitment at LoveHoneyberry is to enable you, to quickly establish a profitable Honeyberry orchard, by eliminating many of the high start-up and ongoing errors associated with a new fruit.

We are very passionate about the opportunities that Honeyberries offers growers (in particular organic) and encourage you to see these initial Honeyberry plant ordering costs as only a fraction of the lifetime revenue potential from fresh or frozen berry sales or Honeyberry value added products. We can ship Honeyberry or Haskap in-vitro plantlets or potted plants to you in most regions in the world, where the plants can thrive.

In our Honeyberry excitement, we sometimes forget how far we have travelled when the most common Honeyberry planting combination was Borealis, Tundra and Berry Blue (All in the Early Harvesting and Tart/Sweet flavour groups).  Great credit must go to all plant breeders who have lengthened the harvesting window and enhanced the depth of flavours.

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