Southern Sask. U-pick garden has low berry yields but healthy bees

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WATCH ABOVE: A year when crops of all types are struggling, bees in southern Saskatchewan seem to be fairing quite well – Aug 20, 2017

At a time of year when strawberries should be plump, red and ready to pick at Grandpa’s Garden west of Moose Jaw, Sask., owner Dennis Derksen is struggling to find the perfect strawberry.

“I think a lot of frustration for us, is the customers that are phoning with anticipation [of] nice big strawberries and we don’t have any,” Derksen said.

READ MORE: Dry weather withering crops, stressing farmers in southern Saskatchewan

They planted more than 15,000 strawberry plants and only half of the yield survived. The raspberry season also ended early.

“I’ve never seen it that dry before in my life, it’s been devastating for the crops of course,” Derksen said.

“It’s disheartening because each one of those plants we put in there by hand.”

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Grandpa’s Garden has a fallback though.

Derksen is in the honey wine business too and owns Prairie Bee Meadery.

The bees have adapted well to the hot conditions.

“They haven’t had to worry that it was raining and they could go outside and didn’t get hit by a rain drop. The honey this year has been really good.”

READ MORE: ‘I can’t use any of them’: hail wipes out apple orchard north of Saskatoon

Regina and District Bee Club president Yens Pedersen said the hot and dry weather is beneficial to bees as long as irrigation keeps blossoms and flowers alive.

“When it’s dry the plant doesn’t bloom as much or as long, so the yield might be down but the insects and bees will still be coming to those blossoms. So you’ll still notice that there will be bees all over when those plants are blooming,” Pedersen said.

As for Derksen, he’s working on his wine while on standby for his strawberries to ripen.

“We had an inch of rain, the strawberries are starting to come. They look like the should have in May, and in two or three weeks we will have big, delicious strawberries,” Derksen said.

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Grandpa’s Garden will also have tomatoes, peppers and melons to offer over the next few weeks.

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