Don’t Starve, Grow Berries

If you have been thinking of starting a garden to grow berries, you have a lot of great options. You don’t need a lot of land and there are all different ways to grow them. You can grow your own food and have delicious, organic berries available any time you want them. Plant your berry patch so that you can enjoy these delicious treats. Continue reading to learn all about growing your own berries at home.

Start by Choosing a Location to Grow Your Berries

When you grow berries, you don’t need the kind of space that you need for full-sized fruit trees. However, they still need rich, fertile soil and access to full sun. They need to have good drainage as well, so you want to choose a great spot. Some people create raised beds for them, which is great because wild berries won’t get in the way. This is important because when you grow your berries, you want to make sure that they aren’t at risk of diseases from your wild plants. Make sure that your berries will grow in a spot where they are not near other plants.

Make Sure That the Berries have Access to Fertile Soil and Full Sun

Most berries need full sun to thrive. Some types of berries, such as raspberries, can grow in partial sun but they will do better in full sun. They grow best when they can bask in the full sun. You also need to make sure that you have soil that is fertile, rich, and nutritious. If you take the time to set up optimal conditions for the berries to grow in the beginning, the plants will have a better chance of doing well in the future years.

Another important part of growing berries is making sure that you have fertilizers and other organic materials that help your berries grow well. You can remove the topsoil in the area where you want to plant your berries and replace it with compost so that it is fertile and conditioned to promote growth.

Once you choose your location, you will want to remember to compost a few times a year. You need to pay attention to your berries because they don’t handle weeds well. You can use a layer of mulch to help prevent weeds. You will need to look at specific needs for particular berries, but that will be addressed below.

Finally, the berries need room to grow when you plant them. They will become dense patches, but they will spread out and you need to make sure that they have room for this. You will also want to make sure that you get rid of dead pieces over time and keep your plants neat and tidy.

Some berries, such as raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, and cranberries are perennials and they will grow year after year. Strawberries can survive around three to five years and they also spread out as they grow. However, they can spread with runners of baby plants and take over other plants. If you don’t pay attention and make sure that they are kept in control, they can reduce the number of berries that you get each year.

Growing Blueberries

Blueberries aren’t too hard to grow, but you have to pay attention to a few of their needs. One important need is acidic soil. When you plant blueberries, you need to check the pH of the soil because they will not do well if the soil isn’t acidic. You can add acidic organic matter for them, including coffee grounds, shredded leaves, or pine needles, and let it break down over time.

You can test the pH of the soil and look for it to be between a 4 and a 5 on the pH scale. You can add pelleted or powdered sulfur to make the soil more acidic. You will want to add in organic matter but do not add fertilizer or manure to the blueberry patch. You can add peat moss to the hold when you plant them. Blueberries also will grow more fruit when they are in the sun. They can grow in partial shade, but you will get more berries with more sun.

You might want to consider using a protective netting over the blueberries because birds love to eat them. You will want to water the blueberries well and make sure that they get regular water after they are planted. You can use a drip system for best results.

Types of Blueberries

There are several different types of blueberry bushes that you can grow. You can choose from highbush, lowbush, rabbiteye, and half-high blueberries. Highbush blueberries grow best in Zones 4 through 7, the warmer climates. They can grow up to eight feet tall. In the fall, they have red and yellow foliage, and they can be an attractive plant in your landscaping.

Lowbush strawberries do best in Zones 3 through 7, and they are usually around two feet or less. They are sweeter berries and they can handle a cold winter. The rabbiteye and half-high blueberry bushes are a combination of highbush and lowbush plants. The rabbiteye grows to between two and four feet and it does well in warm climates. The half-high bushes do well in cooler climates and also grow to between two and four feet.

A few great blueberry plants include the following:

  • Duke Blueberry: northern highbush grows between four and six feet tall
  • Sunshine Blue Blueberry: southern highbush grows up to four feet
  • Top Hat Blueberry: lowbush stays smaller and can be grown in a container

Blueberries do well when you plant them in groups because they benefit from cross-pollination. They will produce bigger, sweeter fruit. They do not usually have deep roots and you need to know that they have trouble growing in compacted soil, so you will want to dig out soil to make sure that they can grow well. Add peat moss and compost along with sand when you plant them.

Growing Blackberries and Raspberries

Blackberries and raspberries are often considered the easiest to grow. Blackberry plants are hardy and can handle cold zones. The great thing about them is that once you plant them and get them established, they will continue growing with little maintenance. You will prune them every spring, but that’s about all they require.

They self-fertilize, so you don’t need to plant a lot of them to get a lot of fruit. They want to be in the full sun. If you plant them in partial sun, you won’t get as many berries. However, if you live in a hot climate, make sure that your berries have some shelter in the hot afternoons. In addition, make sure that they are protected from wind because their leaves can get wind-burned.

You should make sure that they are in soil with great drainage. They do best in mildly acidic to neutral pH soil, from 5 to 6 on the scale. When you plant them, you will want to leave some space between the plants of around a foot to make sure that they can get enough air. They will also be easier to weed. You will want to water them regularly after you plant them so that their roots grow into a deep, extensive system.

Fertilize these plants in the spring before the new growth begins and cover them with a three-inch layer of organic mulch every year. Some of the best blackberry and raspberry plants are:

  • Jewel Raspberry (Black Cap): large crops that are delicious
  • Heritage Raspberry: red raspberry for snacking, baking, and preserving
  • Black Satin Blackberries: thornless blackberry for the garden with large berries
  • Freedom Thornless Blackberry: for cooler zones

When you grow raspberries, they will grow a new green cane in the first year. Then it will harden over the winter and produce the fruit the following year. You can remove the canes the third year. You can cut some down every year, but you need to check on the type of plant it is.

Blackberries enjoy being allowed to spread out. Their canes will grow out up to twenty feet and then roll over and start a new plant. Once your blackberries are established, you can cut them back because they grow well.

Growing Strawberries

There are very few things sweeter than a fresh strawberry still warm from the sun. They are one of the easiest fruits to grow and they produce a lot of fruit. They will stop growing in the winter, but they will start producing a lot of fruit in the spring. Then, they take a break during the heat of the summer, but they start growing again in the fall. There are two main kinds of strawberries. The first is June-bearing, which produce their berries over a three week period from the late spring to the early summer. Then, there are ever-bearing, which produce a lot of berries in the early part of the summer and a few more batches in the late summer and again in the fall.

You should plant your strawberries in soil that is rich, sandy, and well-draining. You will want to water them regularly, and their roots should be just below the surface with their leaves pointing up and out of the soil. It is important to make sure that they have enough room while they are setting and it can take a year before they give you good fruit. You need to make sure that you pull weeds because strawberries don’t like them.

You can plant the strawberries around six weeks before your last frost, and cover them to protect them if it is windy and cold. A few great strawberries to plant include the following:

  • Albion Strawberry: very sweet ever-bearing strawberry, Zones 3 to 9
  • Eversweet Strawberry: crops every six weeks from spring on, sweet, Zones 4 to 9
  • Seascape Strawberry: ever-bearing with large sweet berries, Zones 4 to 9

Growing Berries in Containers

People often grow their berries in raised beds or in containers. This way, they can control the size of the plant and easily make sure that it doesn’t mingle with other plants. Most of the berries above grow well in containers, but you need to make sure that it is large enough to accommodate the roots.

Another benefit is that you can make sure that each type of berry gets the soil it does best in, so your blueberries will have their acidic soil while strawberries will have sandy fertile soil. You will also be able to give them the sun they need while protecting them from the late afternoon sun in the middle of the summer. You can control how much water they get as well, so your chances of doing well are greatly increased.

Strawberries are the easiest to grow in containers and you have a lot of choices from pots to jars to hanging baskets. You will want containers that are six to eight inches deep. Blueberries also do well, but you will need larger containers. Raspberries and blackberries aren’t fond of containers because it prevents them from expanding, but they can be grown in them if you need to do it.

Final Words

Growing berries is a great way to make sure that you have delicious, nutritious food available whenever you want it. You can grow a combination of different types of berries and something will always be blooming throughout the year. Try to use a variety of types of each berry to make sure that you always have something to harvest. If you have raised beds outdoors, they will do well, but you can grow them in containers if you need to. As long as you give them the soil, sunlight, and water they need, they will be easy to grow.

Make sure that you research the variety of berry you want to grow, and give it its own space to thrive. Most of them will start producing fruit in the second year and you can enjoy their return year after year. They are generally low maintenance, and they add delicious flavor and nutrition to your meals.

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