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Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Cold Climate Grapes, Zones 3 and up!

Northern Grapes? Yes!

Minnesota, Vermont, Maine, the Dakota's aren't the places you would think of as grape growing places. All that is changing.  Frontenac was the first cold hardy grape to be available, it took over 20 years to develop.   There are now many more and they are good for wine, juice, jelly and lots of things you like.
I know you are seeking diversity and adventure in your garden, maybe even in your new small scale winery.  Will Marquette be the new Pinot Noir?  How does King of the North Jelly sound?
Growing grapes isn't difficult although there are a few things, like trellising which is just a fun project.   Here is a review of a few varieties and a brief growing guide.  There are more detailed information sheets you can click on at the end.  At jiovi®, we have located some great cold weather grapes for you.  (Limited quantities available for 2016 at

Sabervois (E.S. 2-1-9)

Sabervois (once known as Norway Red), it originated in Osceola, Wisconsin and is named after the village of Sabrevois near Montreal.  The grape is black and is small to medium in size.  The clusters are also small to medium size.  Sabervois has very good disease resistance.  The loosely filled clusters reduce the probability of Botrytis a fungal disease common with tighter clusters. While juice is lighter than the skins, when both are made into wine it is a very dark color.  A 20% sugar content in very ripe fruit produces a wine that is low in alcohol, well balanced, has fruitiness in the nose and in the mouth.  If pressed early, it will produce a nice rosé.  Pair it with higher sugar content red or Frontenac for something very special. Sabervois based wine improves with age and likes to be in the bottle for 2 years to be at it's best.  Hardy to -35 degrees F. Ripens early season¹. Suggested trellis -Top Wire Cordon². Plant 6-8 feet apart.

King of the North

Origin - Wisconsin.  King of the North is a nearly black full flavored grape.  It is very tart until dead ripe. Outstanding for juices and jellies. Extremely vigorous and productive and nearly disease free. A good choice for the beginning viticulturist. 

Depending on how you thin, the loose conical clusters are medium sized and the berries medium to small.  Yields are high. Ripens early season¹. This is the most productive and vigorous grape we have. This is a good candidate for arbors, natural fences and hiding anything under lush greenery. The fresh fruit taste is tart, but it does make the best jelly. A out of hand eating and jelly/juce grape mostly but can create a nice labrusca style wine. The vine is highly disease resistant. Cold hardy to zone 3, having survived at least to -35F.  Ripens early season¹. Suggested trellis -Top Wire Cordon². Plant 8-10 feet apart. King of The North [PDF]

Beta (pronounced like Greta, as in Garbo)

Origin- Minnesota.  Beta is medium black, slipskin grape.  The tart fruit is wonderful for juice, jam, jelly and out of hand eating for those who like a flavor with a smack.  Nearly free of diseases and super hardy (-40F).  It is a vigorous grower to 20 feet.  Space 8 feet apart in the orchard or closer on an arbor for faster filling in.  Beta bears a heavy crop and you will find thinning of the bunches is not needed at all. The twisted trunks complete the visual beauty of this cultivar.  Ripens early season¹. Suggested trellis -Top Wire Cordon². Plant 8 feet apart. Beta [PDF]


Another extremely cold hardy grape.  Frontenac can be used to create dry red wine, rose', and port. Flavors of cherry, blackberry, black currant and plum notes marry well with hearty foods such as duck, pheasant, lamb, beef, pasta dishes made with tomato and eggplant; also with flavor ingredients such as: pepper, mushrooms, black olives, and herbs (mint, thyme, rosemary).  Frontenac has high sugar and acidity.  Acidity can be reduced by letting the clusters remain on the vines as long as possible. Primarily a wine grape.
Ripens Mid Season³  Suggested trellis -Top Wire Cordon². Plant 8 feet apart. Frontenac [PDF]

Prairie Star (E.S. 3-24-7)

Prairie Star is a French-American hybrid and one of the very few super cold hardy, disease resistant grapes well suited for both table and wine.  The fruit develops a wonderful acidity and sugar balance which sometimes has a nice floral "nose".  Adds body to wines when blended into more neutral wines.   Nice for fresh eating as well. 
Ripens Mid Season³  Suggested trellis -Top Wire Cordon²  Prairie Star[PDF]

  1. “early” season ripens in late August to mid-September
  2. Top Wire Cordon system - [PDF]
  3. "mid" season ripens end of September

Don't see a variety you would like,  let us know at what your favorite is!  Ours are available at  

DIY grape growing tips:  

  • Test new varieties yourself!  
  • Try new varieties in small quantities as a trial to see how they do in your location.  Evaluate a couple of varieties and get family, friends, and neighbor's thoughts.
  • Plant new varieties next to a standard for your area
  • Excellent grape growing article from MOGFA.
  • All Trellis system overview.
  • VSP Trellis System
  • Mid Wire Trellis System
  • Top Wire Trellis System

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Red Diamonds - Growing The Goji Berry


Dating back to ancient China, Goji berries have a long and distinguished history.  Also known as wolfberry, tibetan goji, matrimony vine, and Lycium barbarum(Latin name).  This berry has some interesting history.  One (unconfirmed) report credits daily consumption of goji for extending the life span to 235 years old!  That is probably, ok must be, a bit exaggerated. Still there are other anecdotal stories in China where even the water from nearby wells to the plant are said to be life extending.  If that weren't enough, it is said it is also said in a couple of Chinese texts that, if consumed, beauty and sexual vitality are increased.  

More recent research is encouraging.  There are a couple of National Institute of Health listed studies but the author of both (with a little digging) is a multi-level marketing company in Arizona.  That casts a shadow on their conclusions.  On a brighter note, there are numerous studies which demonstrate the berry's properties increasing the effect of cancer treatments, enhancing the blood level availability of vitamin C, increasing zeaxanthin (important in treatment of Macular Degeneration), fighting fatigue, and yes, even slowing the aging on a DNA level of cells.  

Tasting like a cross between cranberries, raisins, tomatoes, and cherries, Goji berries definitely belong in your garden.  Like tomato you say?  Goji is in the tomato/eggplant/potato family and is hardy to at least -20 degrees.  The flowers are dead ringers to eggplant flowers.  Interesting. 

Growing Goji Berries from Seed:

Goji is easy to grow.  Plant your seeds about a quarter of an inch deep in a soilless mixture 6-10 weeks before setting them outside.  The plants will emerge in 10-14 days if the temperature is reasonably warm inside your home.  At first emergence, the seedlings are fragile so plant about 3 seeds per pot or cell.  In a few short weeks they will be nice little plants and far less fragile. 
Goji Berry New Seedlings

2 week old Goji Seedlings
Thin out the seedlings at the 2 week stage.  You can still leave a few in the pot/cell at this stage but, if they are crowded, take a few out.  These can be transplanted to other pots if you wish.  Goji's have a long tap root and can be grown in containers.  Because of that tap root be sure to choose at least a five gallon container that is similar in depth to a five gallon pail.  
Set out plants in the garden after the danger of frost has past.  Goji's like somewhat sweet soil.  pH 6.5-8  Add some lime if your soil is acidic.  They also like sun.  Goji's will grow in semi-shade but you will get much more fruit if the plant is in full sun. After 4 months, you can expect your plants to look like this. (These should have been planted at the 2-3 month age)
 4 Month old Goji Berry Plants
Goji's should be planted at least 2' apart and expect them to have a spread of 4' and unpruned height over 10'.  In all cases, prune the bottom branches from the plant.  Once the plant reaches 3' or more, keep the bottom 15" free of branches.  Row spacing is 6'. 

Consider what form you would like to grow Goji plants.  They can be trellised like grapes or grown like bushes.  Pruning to thin the branches and control height will encourage branching and more fruiting area.   Otherwise, care for them as you would any other plant and protect them a bit the first winter with a few inches of mulch after the ground is good and cold.
Mature Goji Plant

At Foxgreen Farms, we have our jiovi® Goji Berry available to purchase.  You'll find those seeds and many more for your sustainable garden at 

Friday, January 8, 2016

Caring for Your Seabuckthorn Orchard

This article originally appeared in 2015.
We are very pleased to welcome the first guest article on our blog!  Melissa Flanders is from a beautiful part of eastern Quebec.  Along with Andrew Mireault, they have a vibrant Sea Buckthorn business. Their website is .  Thank you Melissa.  You have written some important information about caring for Hippophae rhamnoides which cannot be found anywhere else so perfectly explained.  
Melissa Flanders & Andrew Mireault, owners of Omega Fruit Sea buckthorn cie in Quebec Canada

The importance of pruning Sea buckthorn 

Explaining common methods of maintaining a vigorous and productive sea buckthorn plantation.  

Hi! Let me begin by introducing myself, my name is Melissa, I own & operate a budding 11 acre Sea buckthorn plantation in the heart of the Eastern Townships of Quebec Canada. I first heard about Sea buckthorn in 2009. My clever boyfriend, Andrew who had immediately seen the potential of this super fruit as a high value permaculture crop, convinced me to embark on what has become my new life project. Together, we started researching the many cultivars available to us from our local area and from around the world.  We have spent the last 5 years researching how to best grow Sbt as a commercial crop and had the incredible opportunity to learn from the European leader in the trade about the different techniques of growing Sea buckthorn and have applied his teachings in the many trials we've conducted on both imported and locally propagated cultivars.  After years of research, we started selling what we found to be the healthiest and most palatable cultivars. Over the past couple years our clients have come to rely on us to guide them in the proper growing techniques to achieve a successful and productive plantation. One of the most often asked about topics is on the techniques of pruning and harvesting sea buckthorn. So when Tom asked me to share something about sea buckthorn on his blog, not only was I delighted, but I knew just what my topic would be.

A trick to curtail vegetative sucker plants within a Sea buckthorn row: with a sharp blade, cut 30cm (12 in) away from the trunk and 30cm(12 in) deep into the soil to detach feeder roots and eliminate over crowding of the row

Pruning for max health and yield.

There are several benefits to maintaining a well pruned Sbt orchard and how your plants will respond to regular pruning depends greatly on the species, subspecies and variety. The main objectives for pruning sea buckthorn is to maintain proper size, shape and architecture in order to facilitate fruit harvest, to maximize light exposure for better growth of fruit and to produce & maintain the optimum amount of new fruit bearing branches. Regular pruning also keeps your plantation healthy and vigorous by eliminating dead or broken branches which can invite infections and pests.
Maintenance pruning can start the first year trees are planted and should be practiced with the principle that all branches will be replaced in a specific order over 3-4 years. Using a combination of heading back, thinning and shortening cuts, it is most advisable to prune in late winter or early spring, before the buds break. This will stimulate vegetative growth, so be mindful in your cuts, as over crowding of branches is a leading factor for low fruit yield due in part to low amounts of light penetrating the inner branches. It is better to make a few important cuts then many small cuts.
Cuts should be smooth and made at the proper angle to encourage the healing process and to avoid disease. Properly maintained pruning secateurs (one handed clippers) and saws are a must for an efficient and clean trim. Tools should be cleaned between pruning each plant and sharpened regularly.

The general way of harvesting a mature sea buckthorn plant is by strategically cutting back its fruit bearing branches from year to year and the optimum height for manual harvest is between 1.5 - 2.5m (5-8'). In Germany, whole plantations are harvested by "total cut" of the bush, using specifically engineered harvesting machinery. These machines cleverly cut down on time and long term costs to harvest, but the down fall is that most modern Sea buckthorn cultivars do not endure over the long term under this extreme cutting method. Adding that it delays subsequent harvests, this is not the most commonly used method of harvest/pruning, as it necessitates very large plantations that can be alternated to compensate for the crop loss.
Modified leader method. This tree is at the point where it is necessary to make a total cut back of the leader branch causing a two year interruption in fruit production.

Baltic growers most commonly use the "lower cut" or Modified Leader Method of harvesting Sea buckthorn. With this method, the plants are headed at the height of 60 cm (~2'), which leads to the formation of several upright and narrow angled branches. The top shoot becomes the central leader during the first season of growth. At the end of the second year's growth, all branches shorter than 30cm (12") above ground should be cut back. All other branches should be cut back only to maintain a taller central leader. During harvest, unimportant and weak branches are chosen first. They are located in the lower and inner parts of the tree. Then branches larger than 50% of the leader diameter are removed. This eventually causes the formation of a single trunk, if the top shoots are untouched, sooner or later the main trunk will have to be cut down to form a new shrub with many branches. 

This cut is done in early spring, as trees recover best due to the carbohydrates still stored in the lower parts of the tree coming from the winter dormancy period. If this is done in September, as in the "total cut" method, these essential nutrients are cut down along with the top branches.  The principal disadvantage of the lower cut method, is that the radical cut of the main trunk causes two empty years before the tree is replenished to full harvest for another 4yrs.
Vertical split method;  all branches, other than the two leaders must be cut back at the end of the second year.

In an attempt to improve on the previous method's downfall, pruning was adapted to create two equal parts within the tree with one year age difference between the sections. This is called the Vertical Split Method (see image for visual description of this method). The vertical split has the advantage of less maintenance pruning, better light penetration for better fruit production, the tree naturally retains the best height for manual harvest. All branches on the harvest side must be cut back, this causes every third year to be non productive when applying this method. The bush is gradually rejuvenated avoiding a long interruption in harvest years. However, this method can only be used in well planned and maintained orchards, because when the plant is not getting enough of what it needs like nutrients, water or sun light, it will not regenerate the removed branch.
Horizontal split method   
Another method used by European growers is the Horizontal Split Method, which was created 10 years ago for hobby gardeners. In early spring annual shoots are bent down with the tops pegged to the ground. Fruits set on the bent branches while new vegetative shoots grow straight up from the upper points of the arch, this is caused by the accumulation of growth hormones due to positive geotropism. The lower parts of the branches are harvested in the fall while the new shoots remain untouched until the following spring when it will be their turn for the bending process. The horizontal split method is very gentle and makes for a beautiful looking plant. It may increase yields and no barren years are experienced using the horizontal split. Nevertheless, this method is very labor intensive, and when there are 10,000 trees or more in a plantation, it can get very costly in labor. Some say that it also makes for difficult mowing under the plant, but I find this can be solved by properly planing your cover crop. Using very low growing green covers like micro clover around the base and in the rows of your Sea buckthorn plantation can eliminate the need for mowing all together, all while inviting beneficial insects into your field.

Lastly, according to the book; Sea buckthorn (Hippophae Rhamnoïdes L.) : Production and Utilization, written by; Thomas S.C. Li and Thomas H. J. Beveridge, Sea buckthorn may perform well with the Open Center System. At planting, unbranched seedlings and rooted cuttings are pruned at approximately 60 cm (2') and all buds within 30 cm (12") from the ground are removed. Trees are trained to a multi leader system with major branches extending up and away from the trunk, giving a vase-shaped tree. At the end of the second year, all newly developed branches within 30 cm (12") above ground are removed. Then remove the potential central lead branch, head back and thin all branches to maintain the desired height of  less than 2m (6.5'). Pruning has to be performed every year to avoid problem as the trees become older. The fruiting zone moves higher and to the outside of the canopy and the tree gradually assumes an umbrella form. The book states that this system may produce shaded zones which may eventually cause poor fruit set. However, the important upper to middle section of the canopy should receive adequate sunlight and produce ample quantities of quality fruit. Minimizing shaded zones must be considered while pruning.
Bottom line, be mindful of the principals of pruning and harvesting Sea buckthorn. But remember that practice makes perfect and if you mess up, chances are you can make up for it later, as a healthy Sea buckthorn shrub will easily regenerate itself.
Don't be shy to visit my web site regularly as I am always adding new Sea buckthorn products and information.

Thank you Melissa for a great article!  Melissa and I wanted to remind everyone again that they can get quality delicious Sea buckthorn cultivars from Canada at They have one year old, bare root sea buckthorn cuttings available to purchase this spring in the following varieties; Sunny, Mary, Gold Rain, Tatiana, and our pollinator; Lord.
She can be reached at directly.

The location of Omega Fruit in Magog, Quebec.  The website is available in both English and French.  

Monday, January 4, 2016

Free Shipping on orders over $65.00

Thanks for stopping by.  These are our plants we are offering for spring delivery.  New posts coming soon.  I've been away from the blog for a bit.  If you haven't done so already, you are invited to "friend" us on facebook at Foxgreen Farms or jiovi agroecology - TV  --Thanks

Friday, October 2, 2015

The world hanging upside down

The world hanging upside down

Have you ever woken up with a warm feeling and then realized, with an awful remembrance that someone you loved has left you?   Congratulations, you are human.

Futures happen regardless.  Exits, entrances, voyages, passions, and discoveries.  Ah life.  It is good.  Would there be smiles if there were no comparisons?  Without a walk on the other side of the mirror there would be no savor. 

Tempting it is to write a wild and stormy story of 2015 and of my human experience out of the gates of the unknown after leaving traditional employment and feeling my way through the unknown, unpredictable world of sustainability and of the racing heart of a friend.  

Easy is not good and not instructive. (Although I wish deeply sometimes for it)   Challenge is the teacher and, oh boy, for me this has been a challenge.  Not a bad thing.  Maybe, after all, I will give in to the temptation and share the second chances with you, just not now.

The word flipped and hung upside down early in the year.  It was an hourglass flipping and full.  The glitter of the sand sometimes ran fast and often seemed like the next grain had personality, shy and hesitant, afraid to go from the possible to the present. Dreams come and go, hourglasses reset.   There are times when you only see the reflection when the light is low after all.

I had a dream.  I still do.  What I did was share that dream and dreamed better and harder.  We became a team of pieces all fitting together.  The puzzle was complete and then blew up leaving only the edges together.  It was put back together with excitement and the picture was different, then, again it would need a newer imagination and restoration.  

For now the story of life falling will wait until the story of landing on a feather bed feels like home again. 

As in the web of nature, the coexistence intrinsic to food forests, and permaculture, some things work and some are revealed to be futile.  Have you ever felt things should happen naturally and realized that very little, in the long run, just happens naturally? 

Congratulations again, you too are human.  We have that in common. 

I would like to thank everyone who reads this blog and follows Foxgreen Farm and jiovi agro-ecology TV on Facebook.  The latter two have, in recent months, the loudest instruments playing.  As the season winds down and transitions become less frequent, you will be hearing more from me here. 

Monday, June 22, 2015

Days are Full

Craig At Foxgreen Farm's field edge

Transition Community

Transition communities are cooperative living areas, towns, hamlets, eco-villages or similar organisms of human environments.  There are economic realities involved with advancing the dream of such places.  Preparing the soil, planting the seeds, and hoping for a season of growth of such a dream takes work, patience, and some money too.  There is no finality but a sustainable endeavor which travels parallel to the seasons and regeneration of life.  Maybe this sounds forward thinking or new to some, but, just a short time ago it was the way of most people.  Here in Central Maine, where the woods and waters dominate, an exciting combination of love and fear has created a strong base of frontierism which hasn't been lost.  

Seaberry update:

The first spring after planting the 500 seaberry plants revealed an unexpected success with very few losses of the plants.  This year, the third year, the plants suffered more over the winter.  A large planting like this generally experiences a twenty five percent loss of plants.  Last winter was one of the most intense in many years here.  Snowfall exceeding seven feet on the ground and lasting well into April may have created a somewhat desperate period for the field mice near the seaberries (Hippophae rhamoides) and they girdled many of the plants.
 The good news is this experiment is progressing well.  Most plants are ok and the damaged ones will be replaced and the things we have learned attempting to grow them in the wilderness will give them a better chance than some of the pioneer plantings.  Another advantage is in the pursuit of a variety which is perfectly suited to ward off some of the most difficult environments and produce great berries.  We go on and forward.
3 yr old Hippophae rhamoides in Maine

Photo Gallery June 2015 at Foxgreen Farm (the edge of endless)


cabin from the vegetable garden

celery and various brassicas

mustard greens


Mountains and the morning sun



Red leaf Romain

Russian Comfrey 

Russian Comfrey

Scarlet Runner Beans

Tom and Riddick, end of day

Friday, June 12, 2015

We Went Into the Woods By Choice

All is fine here in Seboeis Plantation.  Living life is coming together nicely.  The transitions both Craig and I have been making over the past few months have been time consuming and, at times, challenging.  All of those thing are not completely finished and we are continuing to work like madmen making all things awesome. We are ready to be rocked by the wind and the rain, the sun and the stars.  Now living in  one of the most beautiful places in Central Maine our excitement to be part of a community, so very unique in modern times, is very special.  The population is less than 50 here and we are the newest residents.  That may sound small to many readers, but I can tell you it is not at all and here is why.  Most people live in a far more populated environment, work hard, and may not even know the people in the apartment or home next door.  That is not true here.   Busy lives eat up living.  It is so easy to become consumed by the rolling stone that gathers the moss of too much consumerism.  Time spent commuting, (I was traveling 2.5 hours a day getting back and forth to work before leaving that job), as well as, all the other trappings of trying to maintain a "high" standard of living leave so little time to appreciate the minutes of the day.  15 years ago, when I first came to this area and had a piece of land to visit, one of the thoughts that came to mind after spending some time without television and spending time with nature was "People don't realize how much they give up to have so much!"  We are now working harder than ever but the "rat race is over".  
Crab Apple Blooming
Seboeis Plantation, Maine is having a 125th Anniversary Celebration.  On August 8th hundreds of people from the area will visit this unique place and share fun, friends, and food.  Foxgreen Farms and jiovi Seaberry will try it's best to be a friend and contributor to the event.

A very brief history of time in Seboeis Plantation, Maine

1890 - Plantation organized - $200 raised to build schoolhouse
1898 - Bear Bounty = $5.00
1913 - 54 horses and mules 
1914 - 63 horses and mules, 4 automobiles
1918 - Spanish Flu hit Seboeis Plantation
1920 - Population 83
1924 - Railroad Station and daily Stage coach to nearby town
1927 - Mules-9, Oxen-2, Sheep-1, Radio-1
1928 - Poultry-99, Horses-9,Cows-9,Farms-8,Cars-16.  Taxes exempt for Civil War Vets
1929 - Radios-5
1932 - Porcupine bounty $1.00
1935 - approx. 2 million board feet of lumber harvested
1936 - Radios- 8
1946 - Road to Seboeis asphalted
1952 - 21 Milk cows
1956 - 23 radios and television sets
1963 - 7570 domestic foul at the Maple Wood Poultry Co.
1991 - residents - 13
2001 - Fire truck donated by Charlton, Massachusetts
2009 - 23,117.9 acres of undeveloped land, 34 registered voters
2015 - population approx. 33
Late 1800's farmhouse in Seboeis Plantation
Same farmhouse as it appears today

A chance to win a handmade quilt.

Can you help support a unique and special place on our 125th Anniversary?  This quilt was handmade and donated to help defer some of the costs of the anniversary event.  Chances are 1.00/ticket or 5.00/6 tickets.

For more information visit  Link to Facebook Event Page

Next Post...... Seaberry Orchard update!
All the best to everyone! - Tom