Tricia Rubert-Nason

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since Sep 29, 2018
Fort Kent, Maine - Zone 3b
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Recent posts by Tricia Rubert-Nason

If you want cheap land and are up for serious winters, consider coming all the way north. I live in Northern Maine (on the Canadian border). I love it here, but I would not recommend coming up and planning to spend the winter with minimal shelter. It is not a feasible option in this climate.

What kind of winters are you familiar with and what is the harshest weather you have experienced? I've lived everywhere from Houston all the way north to the Canadian border. If you've never lived in the north, I'd be a little concerned you might not appreciate what you are getting into.

My area averages 8 feet of snow in winter (we got 12 last winter). Temperatures of -20F are common in winter. Lows in the 40's are common even in the middle of summer. And our growing season is just over 100 days. That said, it is beautiful, land is cheap, the people are friendly, and the skiing is amazing (and right out my back door. And if the weather here is too harsh for you, there are certainly areas further south that don't get as cold.
11 months ago

David Huang wrote:

Perhaps not thriving yet, but I'm still absolutely delighted to see that this year the perennial wild sweet peas I've been trying to start are getting established.  Several have flowered for the first time.  I'm going to continue to encourage them to spread and take over their zones as these are want to do.  Then I should have an abundance each year of early shoots, followed by tender immature pods, and later dried peas to eat.  The side bonus will be all the glorious flowers!

Perhaps off topic, but I thought it was important to note that the flower commonly known as sweet peas in the United States (Lathyrus odoratus) is toxic (all parts). Garden peas (pisum sativum) on the other hand are delicious, but annual. I'm not familiar with a perennial edible pea. What species are you growing?
11 months ago
We moved this summer to a new property in northern Maine.  It is a long narrow half acre lot oriented with one corner of the backyard towards the south.  In addition to a cold climate (zone 3) we have quite a bit of shade on our property due to a line of mature spruce trees along the SW edge of the property and a mature red pine and paper birch in the east corner.  We have a little bit of full sun near the house and a lot of area that gets about 5 hours of sunlight.  We also have areas that range down to full, deep shade.  

There is a lot competing for the limited area with full sun including annual gardens and flowers (to brighten our patio area) so I'm trying to optimize my use of the available sunlight.  I'm aware of a number of bushes that will thrive and fruit in partial shade.  However, I'm working on where to put the more typical fruit trees that want full sun.  Does anyone know if some will tolerate shading better than others?

Fruits I need to find places for:

*marginally hardy, experimental

For reference, (in case anyone else is looking for cold and shade tolerant plants) the shrubs I am planning on including are:

Full sun:
-Blueberry (low-high hybrid)
-Grapes* (vine)

Partial Shade:
-Raisin Bush
-Serviceberry (can be tree or shrub, depending on species)
-Red Osier Dogwood (Nitrogen fixer, ornamental and wildlife value)
-NJ Tea
-Mock Orange
1 year ago

James Landreth wrote:Look into St. Lawrence nurseries in upstate NY. A lot of their trees are hardy to zone 3. If you're unsure shoot them an email and ask.

Thanks!  They're a good source, although quite a bit south of me.
1 year ago

Kathleen Sanderson wrote:Have you checked to see what the University of Alaska recommends for the Fairbanks area?  The climate is actually somewhat similar to where you are -- it *might* get a little colder in Fairbanks most winters, and they don't get as much annual precipitation.  There are nurseries in Alaska growing plants and trees, including fruit trees, for that climate.  You would have to do some searching and see what you could find, and make sure they can ship out of the state (probably can).  


Consulting the Alaska extension service was a great suggestion.  Turns out Anchorage is a closer climate match than Fairbanks.  Either way, the Alaska extension was an invaluable resource.  They have great advice for fruit trees in cold climates and also highlighted fireweed for me.  It's a native plant that is extremely abundant in my area and is already growing my yard.  I knew the flowers were edible, but it turns out most of the plant is.  That sent me looking for other wild edibles and I discovered that many of the native plants I already know well and was planning to grow are also edible.  An absolute goldmine of easy to grow plants that stack multiple functions.  
1 year ago

Mike Jay wrote:One further comment.  Aronia likes it in wetter less well drained areas so it might struggle in your sand.  Elderberry could have the same problem.  I have a well drained sandy food forest and my shrub/tree choices so far have been:

The advice for sandy soil is really helpful.  I've never lived anywhere with sandy soil before, so I'm used to working with heavy clay soils.  Acid soils are novel too, but I'm looking forward to growing blueberries. I moved here from Madison where we have limestone bedrock so acidifying the soil is essentially impossible.

Northern Bayberry (not for food but nitrogen fixing candle maker)

I really want to grow bayberry.  It's marginally hardy here, but it comes from the coastal area of this region and it is just really cool.  

Black and red currant (WPBR resistant varieties)  I'm not sure that red varieties are automatically blister rust resistant...  

It is not a question of resistance, it is a question of how effective it is at transmitting it to pine trees.  Something about the black currant makes it exceptionally effective at spreading the disease.  Since forestry is the main industry up here and pine is major business, things that negatively affect that crop are a no-no.
1 year ago
I just moved to Northern Maine (zone 3b) so I haven't done it myself.  But my neighbor grew the biggest spaghetti squash I have ever seen this summer.  Granted this was an unusually warm summer here, but it was still impressive.
1 year ago

S Bengi wrote:Half an Acre is 21,000 sqft.
If you plant at 10ft centers (100sqft) you can fit 210 plants
If you plant at 15ft centers (225sqft) you can fit 90 plants.

I like using 15ft centers aka 90 plants.
My plant list would be

I agree this a really good list, although not all appropriate to my area.  Thanks for taking the time to put it together.  

The challenge is that this is a really harsh climate.  The snow was just melting off when we were house hunting in June and our first frost was mid-September.  We have to plan for temperatures as low as -40F and a very short growing season.  Along with that comes pollination challenges so that some crops that survive here won't bear most years.  I'm going to have a strong emphasis on supporting pollinators in my understory as a result with lots of native insect supporting plants.  Besides, natives are beautiful and carefree.  

40 Hazelnut trees, they only get to 15ft tall without pruning giving 25lbs of nut each, and provide all the calories 4 people would need for a full year.

 Hazelnuts are a good fit for this area and are shade tolerant, so I can put them in areas where traditional fruit trees won't bear.  I'll include 2-3, but 40 is too many for me.  That, however, is a question of goals.  My goal is not self-sufficiency so the calorie crop is less important.  Nuts are time-consuming to process and, realistically, I am not interested in cracking this many.  Also, I don't like hazelnuts *that* much.

2 Asian-American Perssimon (nikita/etc) they only get to 15ft tall without any pruning.

Asian persimmon is definitely not hardy here.  American is marginal.  This is one I would like to grow as an experimental crop.  However, it is a lower priority and space-permitting.

2 Pawpaw, Sunflower and Prolific only get to about 15ft and grows slowly due to the early and bontiful harves  

 Pawpaw is not hardy here.  But I still really want to grow it.  There is a Canadian nursery in zone 3 that has bred PawPaws for zone 3.  However, their seedlings are really expensive.  This is still one I would love to play with once I have the main crops established.  Either I save up and buy a few expensive seedlings or buy a bunch of seeds and kill a lot (what the Canadian nursery did) and see if I can find something that will grow.  

2 Medlar, they are closely related to apple-quince-pear

 Unfortunately, not hardy.  

2 Quince, naturally short and resilient.

 I understand Quince was a standard in southern Maine at one time.  However, it is not hardy where I am.

1 Sweet CrabApple (Callaway\Dolgo\Kerr\Transcendent\etc on it's own root or

 Why crabapple?

1 Apple (15ft

 The most reliable tree fruit producer in this area.  I plan to have 4-5 spanning the harvest season. Apples are also useful as a fruit that stores well to provide produce during the long winter.  May grow a good keeping variety to full size for larger crop.

2 Pear

 Probably the next most reliable.  They can have pollination problems in this area so it is recommended to plant them no more than 10 feet apart.  I plan to include 3-4.

1 Cherry (15ft, Even though there is only 1 "hole" you can plant two plants in it)

 Sweet cherries are not hardy.  Tart cherries are marginal, but there are some that should grow.  The most reliable variety is one that actually was discovered in this area.  While they may grow, we will lose the crop regularly to late frosts as they are an early bloomer.  I plan to include 1-3 cherries.  They will be planted on a north slope at a north corner of the property and mulched heavily to keep the soil cold and delay bloom.  They are also very attractive trees which makes them a good fit for the front of the house in a suburban area.  

1 Apricot (15ft, get self-fertile if you are not going to do the 2n1 hole trick)

 Some hardy varieties, but don't really like the climate.  Tend to be short-lived here.  Also, they bloom too early and tend to lose their fruit to frosts.  Most reports from northern areas say you can expect a crop once every 3-5 years when things work out just right.  Nevertheless, I'd love to have apricots.  I plan to plant a couple, but recognize they may not be a major crop producer.

1 Plum

 Hybrid plums only for this area.  They are not self-fruitful and pollination can be a problem.  Extremely close spacing (3-6 feet) is recommended to maximize pollination.  I plan to have half of my plums be varieties known for being excellent pollinators and including and American plum (fruit is edible, but inferior) which is purported to be the best pollinator for hybrid plums.  I'm planning on several plum trees.  Exact number to be determined.  
1 Peach Not hardy
1 Nectarine  Not hardy
1 Almond (Technically Almond-Peach Hybrid to survive in our climate, 15ft)  Not hardy

2 Elderberry (8ft)

This is hardy and shade tolerant which means I can plant it where other things won't grow.  That said, I understand it is more medicinal than edible.  I plan to plant a couple.  

2 Jujube (6ft)

 This was one I was not familiar with.  If you know of a hardy variety I would be interested.  Looks like it is zone 6 though.

2 Dwarf Mulberry (9ft)

 I've found one mulberry advertised as hardy to zone 3.  I believe it is self-fruitful and plan to make a space for it (it is actually a weeping variety even smaller than this).  If you haven't grown mulberries before, note that they are *very* messy.  You definitely want to keep them pruned small so you can reach the fruit.  

2 Honeyberry (6ft)

At least 3.  These are from siberia and are very hardy.  

2 Seaberry (9ft, to harvest it you cut off the branches so effectively pruning it)

 Hardy.  I have some concerns about the invasive potential.  Also, may not be a good fit for my site due to strong intolerance for shade.  Less interesting for me as well as it requires processing to be palatable.  

2 Aronia (6ft)

 May be a bit astringent for my taste, but it is hardy and shade tolerant so it doesn't require a prime site, which makes it interesting.  Might be something I try.  This was a new one for my list.  Thanks for bringing it to my attention.  

2 Juneberry (Regent only get to 4ft and Prince Edward 9ft)

 These are a great fit.  They are native to the area.  They are delicious and they bear early in the season when fresh fruit is a welcome treat after a long winter.  These are a must-have in my mind.   They are also shade tolerant.

2 Goumi (6ft)

 Not hardy.

2 Raspberry (6ft)

 Grow as a weed in my yard.  I will be replacing the weedy ones with improved varieties with better flavor, but definitely a good fit.  Some of the best varieties are not hardy here, but this is one where I will push it.  They will still bear after dying back to the ground due to cold weather and don't take too long to establish so aren't a major loss if I have to replace after a hard winter.  

2 Jostaberry (5ft, technically you have 450sqft so technically space for 18 not just 2)

 Jostaberries are marginally hardy for me.  They may be worth considering.  Related plants that I do intend to grow include Gooseberries, red currants and pink currants.  Black currants are also adaptable to my area but are not permitted in the state of Maine because they are extremely efficient transmittors of White pine rust.  Jostaberries also include black currant in their genotype and may not be a good choice for that reason.  All of the ribes are shade tolerant and can be planted under fruit trees, along shady edges etc, which makes them very adaptable for my site.  Also, I like eating them and so do my kids.  All ribes are banned in southern Maine and I was very happy when I realized that ban did not cover our site.

2 Blackberry (6ft, the combined unused berry space will most likely go towards your 1000sqft house)

 Blackberries are marginally hardy, but brambles are tough and quick to establish.  I'll be including them.  I already have a house that I am working around, but it is not a bad planning device if you were starting with a blank site.  

2 Blueberry (6ft, even better yet if you can turn the unused space into a greenhouse)  

 Lowbush blueberry is native here and I will be using it as a groundcover in select areas.  It is also shade tolerant.  Highbush blueberries are not hardy, but there are some lowbush/highbush crosses that are.  You generally want at least 3 varieties with blueberries for good pollination.  

Other fruiting groundcovers include cranberries, lingonberries and wintergreen.

2 Akebia Vine

 This one is new to me.  It is (possibly very) marginally hardy in my area, which may actually be a good thing given its invasive potential and challenges in management.  It is one to give some thought.  I would be curious to learn more if this is something you have grown.  I'm reluctant to plant things that won't behave themselves unless they provide very high value.

2 Artic Kiwi Vine (only gets to 10ft high, 20ft wide (10ft left and 10ft right)

 Marginally hardy in my area.  This is definitely something I am considering.  The best way to incorporate vines into my design is something I still haven't resolved.  I'd be interested to learn about how people are finding appropriate places for them.  They are often space consuming and many of them can be poorly behaved.  

2 Hardy Kiwi Vine (100ft, so you will have to prune)

 Despite the name, not hardy in my area.

2 Grape Vine (100ft, so you will have to prune)

planning to make room for a grape vine, probably over a pergola.  There are limited choices for varieties.
I'm also considering including Groundnuts in my design.  They are another large vine, but they are native to the area and a good calorie crop for minimal work.  Management is a potential issue though because they can be aggressive.
I have also grown Jerusalem Artichokes.  I really enjoy them, they are a good calorie crop and are basically no work.  They are native to the area as well.  However, they are essentially impossible to get rid of once you plant them and do spread.  I want to grow them, but need to have a rock solid containment plan first.  I think I'm going to start by growing them in a half barrel.  I just don't know if they'll survive the winter here in a container.  (They tend to spread through roots rather than seeds)

In general, I have a bias towards native plants unless there is a compelling reason to grow something non-native.  They are adapted, there is not the concern of them escaping cultivation and they are better at supporting wildlife, especially insects (including pollinators) that then support birds and other animals.  
Nannyberry and Northern Raisin Bush are native bushes with edible berries I plan to include.  Both are shade tolerant.  

There are a number of native bushes I intend to include that do not have edible fruit but provide other value:
Red Osier Dogwood
Mock Orange
Nanus Nine Bark
New Jersey tea

I'm also plan to heavily use native nitrogen fixers (in addition to dutch clover because it is a very convenient plant).

I have a whole list of hardy perennial greens which are adapted to the area, some native and some not.  

I'm planning to coppice an existing maple tree for mushroom logs :)  It is a Norway Maple which is invasive and I do not need to let it grow to full size and cast more shade, but if I can make it be useful...  There are also a couple varieties of edible mushrooms that will grow and fruit on spruce.  We will be thinning the spruce next year and I plan to inoculate the stumps.  This area is very good for mushrooms which a walk around my yard (or even more dramatically the local woods) can attest.

There are definitely a lot of constraints from the harsh climate, but it is actually helpful in it's own way. It provides an easy filter for what is worth doing and what isn't which keeps the number of options from being overwhelming.  There is a lot that I can't use because of the specifics of my site, but there is also an abundance of wonderful things to include in my design.

1 year ago

Mike Jay wrote:

S Bengi wrote:Half an Acre is 21,000 sqft.
If you plant at 10ft centers (100sqft) you can fit 210 plants
If you plant at 15ft centers (225sqft) you can fit 90 plants.

I like using 15ft centers aka 90 plants.

That's a great list Bengi.  Don't forget this is a suburban lot so there is probably a house, a garage, a driveway, a sidewalk and probably some other obstacles cutting down the actual available space a bit.  Hopefully still room for 60 plants...

Mike Jay is right on.  Probably less than half of our property is appropriate for planting trees on.  In addition to the house, garage, oversized driveway (some of which is coming out eventually), space for annual vegetables, etc., we have a line a of mature spruce along the SW edge of a long narrow lot and a mature red pine and paper birch in the East corner all of which cast a lot of shade.  When I tracked the sun at equinox most of the yard was partial shade.  I haven't had a chance to watch it at the summer solstice, but 33% more daylight hours and a higher sun angle should push a lot of it to full sun.  I think the sunnier bits should be appropriate for fruit trees, but lean towards keeping generous spacing around my fruit trees.  It lets that get more sun since they won't shade each other and also keeps them competing for water.  We have very sandy, excessively drained soil.  Fortunately, it is paired with good rainfall (nearly 40 inches) well-distributed through the growing season (rains every 3 days or so).  We should have enough soil moisture to grow trees without irrigation (except during establishment) but only with robust root systems and plenty of space.  Irrigation is feasible to handle establishment and severe drought, but is not something I want to commit to on an ongoing basis.  
1 year ago