Asian persimmons for zone 6b and 7a

This is a bit of a niche post for us but lately I've been doing a lot of thinking and researching on hardy Asian persimmons (Diospyros kaki) for our climate. Traditionally these persimmons are grown in a far more hospitable climate and are ideally suited to a zone 8 or higher climate. As a result, most of the fruit we see here on the East coast is flown in from California.

Still, we've grown a number of kaki persimmons here (Great Wall, Jiro, Saijo, Ichi ki kei jiro) and have heard of others growing them successfully in weather that approaches and dips below zero on a regular basis. In my research to find hardy cultivars I kept hearing of the Wye Research and Education Center (WREC) in Queenstown, Maryland as having a significant planting of Asian persimmons that dated back a number of years.

The climate of Wye is similar to ours, with a bit more of a coastal influence, so I was interested in seeing historical data on the survival of different cultivars. However in my searching I couldn't find any hard data except for a few scattered internet posts naming off a few cultivars. In the meantime I emailed someone at WREC to see if it might be possible to visit the center and see the planting for myself. What I heard back was that while WREC's persimmon planting wasn't in good shape anymore, a research bulletin was published a while back that contained a good many of the findings. My contact offered to send the bulletin via postal mail and, after I found the information extremely valuable, mentioned that I could make it available in digital form. I'm posting this document (Persimmons for Maryland - An Alternative Crop or Home Fruit) to help others in their search for hardy kaki persimmons. The information in the document is valuable as it tracks hardiness over a few decades. Click here or the image below for a PDF copy of the document.

Click through to the full PDF version of the document

Click through to the full PDF version of the document

Thanks to the University of Maryland and WREC for this invaluable information.

Kaki persimmons are delicious and we look forward to them being part of our orchard. We realize we may have to contend with some dieback in certain cold years but the fruit, we feel, is worth it. As a side note, our "Great Wall" persimmon has, as this document confirms, been perfectly hardy here, even after back-to-back really harsh -5F and -3F winters that got cold and stayed cold. It's also one of the cultivars that has really beautiful fall color as seen below.

Which cultivars did we ultimately choose? The verdict is still out as we're trialing some of the varieties here as well as some recent kaki crosses with our native persimmon. Still, based on this research it looks like there's room for both astringent and non-astringent persimmons in our planting. Check back with us to see more as we plan out our planting of persimmons in the next few years!

Beautiful fall color of 'Great Wall'

Beautiful fall color of 'Great Wall'

Bright orange persimmons hanging on to the tree late into the fall after the leaves are gone.

Bright orange persimmons hanging on to the tree late into the fall after the leaves are gone.

Family Life Church Mission Trip 2016

What a week! We can't help but smile thinking back on the week spent with the crew from Family Life Church at Cypress. Chris and Tori Pace, Family Life's pastor and his wife, led a hard-working crew of, at peak, 18 people through a week of projects on the farm last week. What did they get done? Tons!

I'll let the pictures do most of the talking but here are a few projects they completed during their time at our farm: clean out and fix up chicken coop, lay plastic for half of the new brambles, stake and trellis kiwis, install all fence braces, install half the new fencing, hang two fence gates, move boulders, weed and maintain the garden, fix up the nursery area, weed and move all potted plants, and harvest produce for New Hope Ministries.

Part of our mission statement is to serve our local community and donating produce to those in need has always been a dream of ours. After touring New Hope Ministries and learning about how they show the love of Jesus to people by meeting their physical needs, a bond was made! On two different days, the mission group got to serve at New Hope. We first harvested lettuce, kale, spinach and radishes - 22 pounds worth! Then we took it to the kitchen at New Hope, bagged everything in smaller bags, stocked the food pantry shelves, and then helped bag groceries for clients. It was such a full circle moment to see all of our hard work placed in the hands of people who needed a little extra help in a time of crisis. We can't wait for further partnership in the future!

produce.jpg

With all that was done and all that went on I'm sure I'm forgetting something so forgive me. Needless to say it was a lot! And all of this while cooking meals (and making loads of sweet tea!) for twenty-plus folks and keeping our house cleaner than it is with its normal six occupants.

We were so impressed by hard-working, polite kids and their parents who worked long days in weather ranging from 50s and rainy and chilly to 90s and quite warm. It was an experience we'll never forget and we really hated to see them go. They demonstrated their love of Christ by selflessly serving our little farm. We only hope we can have the same spirit in giving back a portion of what was given to us over the past week.

Kari and crew hard at work putting down plastic. This was certainly one of the most trying jobs and we appreciated all that was done.

Kari and crew hard at work putting down plastic. This was certainly one of the most trying jobs and we appreciated all that was done.

The fencing crew working on the back rocky stretch of fence. This one went through a rocky hill, between trees, and down a hill. Took us all day but it was worth it to see it done.

The fencing crew working on the back rocky stretch of fence. This one went through a rocky hill, between trees, and down a hill. Took us all day but it was worth it to see it done.

Many hands make light work. Moving and placing pots is a whole lot easier with a crew. Over the course of a couple evenings we got all of the pots placed and plugged in to irrigation.

Many hands make light work. Moving and placing pots is a whole lot easier with a crew. Over the course of a couple evenings we got all of the pots placed and plugged in to irrigation.

The garden looks better than ever. Tomatoes staked, beds weeded, old crops pulled and new ones sown.

The garden looks better than ever. Tomatoes staked, beds weeded, old crops pulled and new ones sown.

Looking across the mulched rows. Woven plastic will suppress weeds and allow the new planting to grow competition-free.

Looking across the mulched rows. Woven plastic will suppress weeds and allow the new planting to grow competition-free.

Looking down across a newly fenced area. Soon we'll let the goats loose here to clean it out.

Looking down across a newly fenced area. Soon we'll let the goats loose here to clean it out.

Newly trellised and staked kiwi vines look so neat and tidy.

Newly trellised and staked kiwi vines look so neat and tidy.

Spring Planting 2016

Spring is off to a crazy start and we've been extra busy here on the farm. February and part of March were spent planning and laying out each of the new rows to be put in. Our first set of plants arrived in early April on one of the coldest weeks on record. By the end of our spring planting we'll have put over 1,000 brambles in the ground (raspberries, black raspberries, and blackberries) along with 40 hardy kiwi vines on overhead trellising.

Rows marked out and ready for planting

Rows marked out and ready for planting

God Provides

I really wasn't sure how we were going to do it. With several orders of hundreds of bareroot brambles I didn't know how we'd manage to get them all in the ground in timely fashion. Then in February we get a call from our friend and pastor Chris Pace from Family Life Church in Cypress, TX.

"We'd like to do a mission trip to your farm this year, would you be open to that?" he asked. 

"Well, yea, that'd be great! But us? Isn't there somewhere else with greater needs?"

We honestly did not feel like we deserved to have someone come help us, but we listened to Chris' thoughts and remembered that God offers us His grace (unmerited favor) freely through Jesus. So eventually we made plans and they planned a scouting trip in early April to coincide with the primary planting push.

April came and the plants showed up in several large boxes. Wanting to keep the soil structure as intact as possible, we hand-dug holes for the plants at the required spacings. The Texas crew got to work in the heavy wind, rain, and near record cold for a few days to get all of the plants in. We can't say thank you enough to Chris, Tori, Kari, and Garrett for pushing through with us and are looking forward to their return trip in June.

Kat and I along with Chris, Tori, Garrett, and Kari from  Family Life Church of Cypress

Kat and I along with Chris, Tori, Garrett, and Kari from Family Life Church of Cypress

Garrett and I digging holes for planting

Garrett and I digging holes for planting

Bundles of berries, waiting to be planted

Bundles of berries, waiting to be planted

Berry Trellis & Hardy Kiwis

Perhaps it was foolish of us (okay, me), but the plants we got in the ground this year really required the most work of any of the fruiting plants we'll put in. We'll be putting in trellising for the berries along with irrigation to give them consistent watering the first few years while they get established. To tackle weeds we're going to try woven landscape fabric. It has worked well in the past, is durable and reasonably long-lasting.

A weed barrier partially in place for our blackberries.

A weed barrier partially in place for our blackberries.

The hardy kiwis (kiwi berries) we purchased are a variety called "Passion Poppers" from Kiwi Berry Organics, just north of here. If you've never tried kiwi berries before, I'd highly recommend them. They're a sweeter, bite-sized version of the fuzzy kiwis. Hardy kiwi is a vine that grows best on some form of a trellis, somewhat like grapes, and needs to be regularly pruned because of its extremely vigorous growth. I've seen reports of individual shoots growing more than 30 feet in a season! We're using a ~6' high, 5 wire overhead t-trellis with 8ft cross arms. The kiwi mostly hang down for easier picking and the overhead trellis affords easier pruning in both the growing season and the dormant season.

We were fortunate to find black locust posts from a local source and are using them for the berry trellising as well as our new goat fencing. Not only are the posts stronger than pine, they're also likely more durable than treated posts. We're hopeful that the posts will outlast the fence (and maybe even us!).

Newly planted hardy kiwi on their trellis

Newly planted hardy kiwi on their trellis

Clearing the Fencerow

Slow and steady work continues on clearing the fencerow for new goat fencing and to exclude deer. We hope to reclaim about an acre of previously overgrown land to utilize it for goat pasture and also plant some of our larger nut trees and sugar maples. Posts will be set in the next few weeks and then the crew from Family Life Church will help us hang the fence. The area we're fencing is just filled with bush and vine honeysuckle, poison ivy, as well as brambles and multiflora rose, all the goats' favorite foods!

Posts pounded on our western fencerow

Posts pounded on our western fencerow

Nursery Prep

The figs and other tender plants are finally out from their winter's rest in the garage and are getting ready to move toward our small nursery. We had some plans to finish the nursery area and example gardens this spring but other plans kept us too busy. Look for more changes coming next year!

Also, if you're in the market for a fig tree, Contact Us to inquire about stopping by to pick up one (or three). We'll have smaller plants available in just a couple weeks and have a few larger 3 gallon plants available now.

Cover Crops

And finally, our fall-planted cover crop is coming along nicely. It's a mix of small grains along with crimson clover and hairy vetch for nitrogen fixation. The crimson clover has recently come into bloom and we'll cut it for hay. In the meantime it makes for a beautiful field to look at and improves the soil.

Look for another update in June once the mission crew has visited!

Crimson clover in full bloom

Crimson clover in full bloom

Part of our cover crop, cut for hay

Part of our cover crop, cut for hay