So what happens on a cranberry farm in winter? Does everyone just pack up and go skiing? Not quite. There’s actually a lot of work to be done to protect the vines through the harsh, winter months.
After harvest, the vines turn a deep burgundy colour. While cranberry vines are categorized as ‘evergreen,’ the leaves actually turn dark red during the dormant phase. This shuts down photosynthesis.
Meanwhile, the bud that carries next year’s crop set in August. That means good winter management is critical to ensuring that potential makes it through to spring. Our location near Lake Huron’s Georgian Bay means we get a lot of lake effect snow.
This snow builds up and acts like a blanket that prevents the ground from freezing. The warmth from the ground brings the vines out of dormancy, and they respire and suffocate. Winter kill can wipe out a crop. To protect the vines from damage, we have to flood to create ice and then keep the snow cleared off.
We sometimes get asked, “Why are you growing sticks?”
In winter, our marshes bristle with the stakes we use to mark ditches. Each cranberry bed has a ditch that surrounds it and another that goes up the middle. We have to know where those ditches are.
Sometimes, despite all our efforts, we have days like this:
Through the winter, we keep the snow plowed off the beds. That’s 27 acres that has to be cleared every time it snows! Of course, that doesn’t happen until we’ve flooded the beds and created a layer of ice to protect the vines from machine damage and drive the frost deep into the ground. The right conditions when we flood can mean 27 acres of skating:
For years, we’ve experimented with different ways to manage the flood to create skate-able ice, but the weather doesn’t always co-operate. That’s what led to the idea of creating an Ice Trail. We could control more of the variables if we flooded the dike surrounding the cranberry beds. Of course, once the Ice Trail is open, we’ll still work on creating skating rinks out of the beds. Check here for updates on how we’re doing with the Ice Trail.
Hopefully, we’ll see you this winter!