Perennial berries offer tasty backyard treats year after year. Berries are versatile, in that they’re great fresh, in baked goods, dried, frozen, and as jam or preserves. If you have growing space either at home or in a community garden plot, consider adding some berries to your gardening plans.
Blueberries are among the easiest fruits to grow organically. Late winter or early spring, during the six weeks prior to your last spring frost, is the best time for planting blueberries. Young container-grown plants may be set out later but need time to grow roots before hot weather.
Except for saskatoons, blueberries require acidic soil with a pH below 5.0. Blueberries can also be grown in containers filled with an acidic, bark-based planting mix.
(Get a complete growing guide at All About Growing Blueberries.)
Strawberries are usually the first berries to ripen in a given growing season, and a bed of 25 strawberry plants can produce 30 pounds of strawberries per year. Plant strawberry starts six weeks before your first frost, or you can set out plants in fall if you have mild winters. Before you plant, dig plenty of organic matter such as compost into the soil. A type called ever-bearing strawberries will work particularly well for growing in large containers if you don’t have garden space.
(For much more on growing strawberries and different types to try, see Growing Strawberries.)
Next: raspberries, blackberries, and cooking tips!
Transplant dormant, bare-root plants four to six weeks before your last frost. Set plants 1 inch deeper than they grew in their nursery containers. Grow in full sun in most regions, but plant in an area that gets afternoon shade if you live in an extremely hot climate. Red and golden raspberries will grow well on a garden fence or trellis.
(For more information, see All About Growing Raspberries.)
Like most other bramble fruits, blackberries bear best on one- and two-year-old canes, or woody stems. The many varieties come in either upright or trailing plants. With upright varieties, if you pinch or snip back the tips of new canes mid-summer (July is a good time), the plants will respond by growing heavy-blooming lateral branches that emerge from the main canes at right angles.
Blackberry vines can get out of hand if you aren’t careful. In spring, control the spread of your patch by severing sprouts that emerge out of bounds. One swipe with a swing blade will eliminate such canes, as well as weeds.
(To learn more, check out the article Enjoy Fresh Blackberries, which also includes advice for getting wild-growing blackberries under control.)
Cooking with Berries
After you achieve berry-growing success, move into the kitchen and try these Berry Recipes.
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