Winter pruning of Sea Buckthorn

You might think that the summer is the busiest time of year on a farm, and you’d probably be right. However, at all times of year there is something to be done. On our Essex farm at the moment a small team is intent in our task of winter pruning sea buckthorn plants, ensuring we get rid of any dead, diseased, dying or damaged branches and training the younger branches so the structure improves for when we eventually harvest the berries from them in the summer. It’s quite a monotonous job at times but with plenty of people in the field it can actually be quite enjoyable, especially when you look back at a row you’ve finished.

If you haven’t heard of sea buckthorn I don’t blame you, especially if you are from the UK. It is very little known about in this country but, in my humble opinion, it is enormously undervalued. If you go to Germany, Scandinavia, the Baltic States or Russia you will see it quite widely on restaurant or café menus. It can be used for a whole range of food and drink products as well as natural cosmetics and pharmaceuticals. We have been growing it on our farm since 2009, when around 200 plants of German and Finnish varieties were put in the ground to see whether they would actually grow. Then, in 2011, 4000 plants were imported from Russia and planted in another field. 2018 is set to be very exciting because we will be selling sea buckthorn juice and berries in to the London market and hopefully, depending on supply(!), further afield. We are currently converting our field to organic production but it’ll be another couple of years before we can label the berries as organic.

If you’d like more information about sea buckthorn or our own sea buckthorn project in Essex you can visit our Facebook page , follow us on twitter or visit or our website. The British Sea Buckthorn blog, written by my dad, can be found here. Please give it a follow (I’m sure he’d appreciate some more readers!)

In the mean time here are a couple of videos introducing our winter prune.

 

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5 thoughts on “Winter pruning of Sea Buckthorn

  1. Hi Ben,

    When are you hoping they will produce a viable crop of berries and how will you seek to keep the birds off them?

    Just curious.

    Best Wishes

    Tony

    • Thanks for the interest Tony. Our first major harvest will be this summer. Last year we handpicked from some of our Russian varieties (6 year old plants) but this was only really to experiment with harvesting and to see how much they yield. This year we will be picking specifically for the market, looking to supply London restaurants. Birds are potentially an issue and we have found that jackdaws (and smaller birds like blackbirds) and fond of the berries. Because conservation is central to the farm’s philosophy we want to discourage birds from the sea buckthorn fields and we are using a Scarecrow BIRD system from Martin Lishman which seems to do the trick. We have also invested in netting which can be used if necessary. For more info you can visit our sea buckthorn blog – https://www.britishseabuckthorn.com/blog/

      • Yes, netting immediately sprung to my mind but even that can cause issues of course, when not properly maintained. I’ll have to read more into that Scarecrow BIRD system you mention, sounds intriguing. Just shows how difficult it is getting the balance right between growing a sustainable crop and maintaining a healthy environment for any wildlife population, be it birds or other creatures. As long as you keep ticking things over at your farm, and the farm manages a small profit, that should also benefit us all in the long-term, even the pesky Jackdaws (not that they need much assistance, lol).

        Best Wishes and Thanks for responding.

        Tony

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