Strawberry shortcake, blueberry pie, blackberry preserves--this is just a little bit of the bounty your berry-friendly garden can produce. Growing berries is not only easy, it’s a practical alternative to paying high prices for berries and berry products at the supermarket.
Nothing gives your garden the lush appeal that fruit producing plants can provide. Even when your berry plants aren’t producing fruit, they make lovely ornamentals for the landscape. And berries ripen throughout the growing season. By late spring you should have strawberries and when they taper off, black raspberries are ready to be plucked and then your red raspberries ripen for the picking. By the time you get to fall, you can look forward to cranberries for the upcoming holiday season.
Strawberries, cranberries, raspberries, blueberries, boysenberries, blackberries, currants and more--you can grow one or all depending on your tastes and climate. Even grapes can be grown and enjoyed in the backyard garden. Also, for the organically inclined, berry growing thrives with organic gardening techniques, so you will be doing the environment a favor by growing bushels of berries.
TIP: Our expert gardening advisor, Susan Patterson adds, "Berries are an excellent choice for an edible landscape."
A successful berry garden requires a gardener who will mulch; berries need mulching for protection from the freezing and thawing periods of winter. Berries also need careful watering, but mulching year round will help protect your plants though short-term droughts. And mulch adds about as much fertilizer to your soil as the berries require. Consider using old hay bales or shredded corn stalks for mulching around your berry plants.
TIP: Susan suggests, "If your soil is poor consider growing berries in pots or even in raised beds."
Specific berries have specific needs or conditions like most other plants. For instance, strawberries are particularly threatened by late frosts, so covering them may be necessary during cold snaps in the early growing season. Raspberry plants need judicious pruning in order to thrive, and blueberries need extra protecting from the birds.
TIP: Susan recommends, "When you select plants, be sure to choose only those varieties that will do well in planting region."
Learning how and when to pick your berries is important. Strawberries may be picked while they are still a bit green, but raspberries - never! And the way a berry gets picked is important too. Strawberries should be plucked with the stem attached in order to avoid bruising the berry. Gooseberries should also be plucked with their stems, but also with the blossom collar on the opposite end. Depending on what berry plants you cultivate, you need to further research their individual needs.
Berries and Kids
Forays into the berry patch are an excellent way to introduce young ones to gardening, and they are great help during harvests with their berry-size pluckers eager to fill a basket.
In some areas, produce from your own garden may be worth a bit of profit. Not only will you benefit from your well cared-for produce, but others around your community may also like a taste of your harvest- and be willing to pay for it! Many small-scale berry growers allow outsiders to come and pick for themselves and charge accordingly.
For more information about berry-growing, check online or visit your local library or Cooperative Extension Office.
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