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Growing Sea Buckthorn -101

Seabuckthorn is a medium sized deciduous shrub with deep green, willow like leaves which shine with a silver glow in the sunlight. This beauty produces clusters of tiny orange berries which are highly desired for their nutrients. Growing sea buckthorn as a commercial crop can be a great way to add income to your farmstead, plus add a super nutritious food source for your chicken, cows, horses, and pigs. 

 

Growing Sea Buckthorn- frankia nodules
Frankia nodule growing on the roots of the sea buckthorn plant.

 This plant is at the top of many permaculture enthusiast’s list as best pick for symbiotic growing. The shrub’s extensive root system is capable of holding back the soil on fragile slopes. Often planted amongst other fruiting plants in commercial orchards for it’s nitrogen fixing actinomycetes (Frankia) which develop on the rhizomes. Seabuckthorn roots are also able to transform insoluble organic and mineral matter into more soluble forms when other soil conditions are favourable (Lu 1992). In the Canadian prairies the shrubs are used as wind breakers planted in hedgerows. 

 

Growing Sea Buckthorn.

Sea buckthorn grows well in many parts of North America but prospers best in climate zones 2-7, in areas receiving 400-600 mm of precipitation annually. The average mature height of most Seaberry cultivars is between 2-4m (6′-13′). Although, some subspecies can grow up to 18m (59′) H, while others grow no higher than 50cm (1.5′). Sunny spots are best as excessive shade will result in lowered fruit production and general growth. Being dioecious, there must be male plants within the same species present to pollinate the females in order to achieve fruit. Pollination happens when air temperatures are between 6°- 10° C (42°-50°F) and female flowers are receptive for about 10 days. Fruit ripen approximately 100 days after pollination. The seaberry plant will adapt well to many soil types (except clay) and is happiest in a soil between ph 6-8. A healthy seabuckthorn plant won’t need nitrogen to thrive but will respond to phosphorus and will benefit from regular winter top dressing. We recommend a good quality marine compost but any manure will do. Professionals studying production standards in sea buckthorn reported that foliar sprays with micronutrients, Cu, Mo, Mn, I, B, Co and Zn, increased fruit weight by up to 34.5% (Mishulina 1976). Also, egular watering during hot dry months (July – August) also helps to improve yields substantially.

Growing Sea Buckthorn - sea buckthorn with fruit on branch
Mature fruiting sea buckthorn bush ready for harvest. Cultivar: Sunny

There are many propagated cultivars on the market. Most we’re developed in Russia, China, Europe and Canada. Many varieties have been developed to have fewer thorns and sweeter fruits. It should be noted that no sea buckthorn berries can be considered truly sweet. The most widely grown cultivar in central and eastern Europe is named Sunny (Botaniceskaya). This cultivar was initially developed in Russia but has travelled throughout the years across Europe and into North America, as it is a favorite for it’s large, juicy berries with a lightly acidic taste.

 

Growing sea buckthorn from seed can be an affordable way to build a sea buckthorn grove but one must keep in mind a few consequences when considering this option. Wild sea buckthorn is naturally prone to large thorns, agressive suckering and generally bitter/sour fruits. When planting from seed, you never know what you are going to get as a result. You may end up with a thorny bush or extremely bitter tasting berries.

 

Some uncertainties as to the invasive nature of sea buckthorn have been called into question over the years. Dr. A Bruvelis, a long time seabuckthorn propagation expert in Europe, states,. “There are some officials (mainly in Great Britain) who account sea buckthorn as an invasive species. [Sbt] has not generally been considered to be a desirable feature on sand dunes in Eastern England and South Scotland because of forming of dense thorny thickets in recreational areas. [Sbt] spread around by root suckers and very, very rarely by seeds. We should always keep in mind that they talk about wild stands exclusively on sand dunes, where [sbt] is able to compete with other species due to humble growing requirements. Considering Seabuckthorn spreads primarily through root suckers, which might sprout up neighbouring plots around small private gardens and urban backyards. In commercial plantations root suckers are mowed along with grass. Old abandoned plantations can become like impenetrable jungles. Excellent place for wildlife.”

Sea buckthorn is not on the invasive species lists of North America, -but one must be mindful of the above information when choosing where to plant their shrubs. Growing sea buckthorn in sandy areas will grow up fast with sucker plants and horizontal rhizomes can sprout far if not mowed regularly. Severing surface roots 40cm (16″) around the base of the shrub and removing roots down to 20cm (8”) beneath the surface of the soil can significantly help reduce undesired spreading.

 

Growing Sea Buckthorn - sea buckthorn root system diagram
Eliminating surface roots will greatly reduce undesirable suckering.

 

 

 

4 thoughts on “Growing Sea Buckthorn -101

  1. Hello from Tok Alaska where we can see temps plummet in the winter to minus 60 to 70 below almost every winter and i have never lost any of my thirteen year old Sea Berries. I am growing Star of Altai and Russian red. Both sucker which has enabled me to afford a orchard of these wonderful plants! Will be harvesting them around the beginning of September.

    1. That’s great Rhonda! Thanks for sharing. Sea buckthorn is perfect for your northern climate and you have some very interesting cultivars. Hope your harvest is bountiful. 🙂

  2. I live on Camano Island, WA. Not sure where you are located, but may be interested in harvesting some of the Sea Buckthorn fruit.

    1. Hi Becky!

      Our plantation is located in the Eastern Townships in rural Quebec Canada. We open our orchard to the public each year during harvest, usually starting the second or third week of August. I know WA is quite far from Qc but we are in a very lovely and touristic area with lots to do. From beautiful lakes and mountains vistas, to artisan fairs in quaint villages which are home to some pretty amazing restaurants.

      Agro tourists are welcome! 🙂

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