There has never been a better time to add perfectly-ripe, plump, tasty homegrown berries to your garden. New, more compact-sized plants and improved varieties have made growing berries even easier and more rewarding. We grow our berries in a special soil mix crafted especially for edibles, so your plants will flower and fruit more in their first year in your garden.
If you’ve been growing berries forever, try a few of the new varieties. If you’ve never grown berries, make this the year you turn your backyard into your own farmer’s market with the freshest crops at your fingertips.
Berries are so easy to grow–when you know a few, old-timey tricks!
Blueberries Tips and Tricks: Blueberries aren’t difficult to grow, but they do have some special requirements.
Blueberries are the gift that keeps on giving. Planted in the correct location and given plenty of light and water, they will live and produce fruits for decades. Choose several varieties that fruit at different times (early and midseason) for months of berries. Include a few that have been bred to thrive in pots, for berries outside the back door.
Choose a sunny spot. Blueberries grow in semi-shade in nature, but heavier fruiting happens with more sunshine.
Test soil for pH (a simple kit from the garden center) and adjust to a very acidic 4-to-5 range using sulfur (pelleted or powdered). Plants will grow in more alkaline soils, but fruiting and leaf production will likely be decreased.
Amend soil so that it’s high in organic matter by adding well-aged compost. Blueberries thrive in infertile soils; do not add nitrogen-amendments such as manures.
Add several inches of peat moss to the hole when planting (this is a one-time application).
Top with a 3 inch layer of mulch (acidic is best–pine needles or pine straw for example).
Water well and provide regular water thereafter (we recommend a drip system).
If planting in containers, use a soil mix made for acid-lovers. Expect to water several times a week in the hottest months.
Raspberries Tips and Tricks: Raspberries generally grow from zones 3 – 9, but you’ll need a cultivar for your climate.
Select a site with full sun and good air circulation. If planting a variety with long canes (as opposed to the compact varieties for containers) avoid places where high winds can whip the canes around and damage berries.
Select raspberry cultivars that ripen at different times to spread out your harvest.
All varieties will begin to produce fruit in their second season; some may bear in their first autumn.
Apply compost and a little balanced organic fertilizer in late winter, if needed, for good growth.
Mulch to discourage weeds and keep the soil evenly moist; water during dry spells.
Pick your berries as early in the morning as possible, when they are cool. If the berries are wet, let them dry before picking.
Blakcberries Tips and Tricks: From old-school brambles to new thornless compact ones, it’s all about the pruning.
Primocanes, erect, hybrids–all have different pruning needs which, while not complicated, should be met.
Blackberries and hybrids are all self-fertile, so you don’t need lots of plants to get good yields.
Plant in full sun; can take some shade, but the trade-off is fewer berries. In the hottest regions, blackberries appreciate some shelter from hot afternoon sun.
Provide well-drained soil with mildly acidic to neutral pH (about 5-to-6). Amend as needed (see blueberries).
Water regularly during the first growing season to establish a deep, extensive root system.
Fertilize before new growth begins in spring.
Cover with a 3 inch layer of organic mulch annually (less if planted in a container). Make sure the mulch is placed 2 inches away from the crown to prevent rotting.
Blackberries are ripe when they go from glossy to dull, a transition that usually takes two to three days.
Strawberries Tips and Tricks: For prolonged productivity and unique flavors, consider growing several types.
Strawberries die back in winter and start growing vigorously in spring, producing fruit and offspring. They typically rest in mid-summer and ramp-up again in the fall, developing latent buds that will become next spring’s flowers.
Strawberries fall into two main types: June-bearing that produce their crop over three weeks from late spring to early summer (good for canning or jam), and ever-bearing (also called day-neutral) that produce a heavy set of berries in early summer, followed by several lighter flushes of fruits in late summer and fall.
Plant in full sun. Provide fertile, evenly moist, well-drained soil.
Plant the crown at soil level. After harvesting, remove old leaves with hand pruners. Leave the crown and new leaves untouched to allow sunlight into the center of the plant.
Plant strawberries as early as six weeks before your last frost. Use row covers to protect new plantings from extreme cold and wind. In mild areas, you can plant in fall.
Removing all runners from ever-bearing varieties will increase the production of big, juicy berries.
Grow Goji Berries
The first step in growing goji berries is to locate the plants. You probably won’t find goji shrubs for sale at your local garden center. Try a mail-order nursery or a local one with a particularly large variety of fruiting plants. Although several named cultivars are sold by mail order, little information is available about their characteristics. Often, a nursery will state only that a particular cultivar is grown commercially in China. Some nurseries will sell goji seedlings, but because goji seed doesn’t grow true to type, you should expect some variability in these plants. My advice is to trial several cultivars to see which works best under your own growing conditions.
The ideal soil pH for growing gojis ranges from 6.5 to 7.5. Plant the shrubs in fertile, well-drained soil. Full sun is best, but gojis will tolerate some shade. My plants grow in full sun and in soil with plenty of organic matter, and they’re very happy. Gojis should be watered well during the first year of growth but are quite drought-tolerant after they’re established. Space them 4 to 5 feet apart within a row. I prefer a spacing of at least 5 feet to give the shrub plenty of room to develop and to make the berries easier to harvest. Your new shrubs will grow vigorously from the base of the plant.
Grape vines should be located in sites with well-drained sandy soil that receive full sun. Work at least 2″ of organic soil conditioner into the top 10″ of the planting site. Grape vines require a trellis or support system of some kind. As a general rule, each grapevine needs about 4′ to 5′ of trellis space. It’s wise to position the trellis before planting the grape vines.
Soak the vines in a bucket of water to keep the roots hydrated. Dig a planting hole at the base of the trellis. If planting multiple vines, space the holes 5′ to 8′ apart. Place the grape vine in the hole and fan out its roots. The point on the stem where the roots flare out should be about 1″ below the soil line. Backfill with soil until the hole is three-quarters full. Water well to settle the soil. Finish filling the hole and water again. Add mulch around the vines.
Proper pruning techniques can make or break the success of a grape vine. After planting, prune the vine back to just one vigorous cane. The following spring, prune all but the most vigorous canes. Carefully tie the remaining canes to the trellis with twine. In future years, continue to keep only the most vigorous canes while pruning older, weaker ones.
Young vines need a fair amount of water while they are getting established. Drip irrigation is the best method since it prevents water from getting on the leaves, which can cause disease. For mature vines, too little water is better than too much water. In late spring, apply a slow-release 10-10-10 fertilizer around the plants but away from the stems.
The first year, thin all the flower clusters that appear on the vines. This focuses the plant’s energy on producing healthy leaves, branches and roots. In following years, thin flower clusters to just one or two per shoot. This provides more room for the remaining clusters to grow to full size.
The best way to tell when table grapes are ready for harvest is by tasting them. Grapes don’t ripen after picking, so make sure they’re fully ripe before harvesting them. For wine grapes, the use of a refractometer to test the fruit’s sugar content may be necessary. The grapes should have between 18 and 22 percent sugar.
Usually grown from cuttings rather than seeds
Plants need a few years to establish before berry production begins
Planting in ground, allow approximately two square feet per 1 yr old plant to spread. Remove soil to a depth of six to eight inches and clear all weed roots. Cranberries cannot compete with weeds. If your soil tends to be dry, the dug area can be lined with polythene with some drainage holes punched in the bottom.
Fill the area with either ericaceous soil or peat moss, some sharp sand, and add about a pound of blood meal and a half pound of bone meal. Add some high nitrogen fertilizer. Mix. Water, but do not over saturate.
Plant cuttings two inches deep and about one to two feet apart (1-1.5m) 3 yr old plants need 3 ft (1m) spacings
Water regularly so soil stays moist to the touch for the first year while cranberries establish themselves. Mulch is recommended.
Feed the first year or two with some high nitrogen fertilizer to encourage upright shoots then stop
About every 3 years during production, cut out any dead wood, never the uprights, and trim new runners to revigorate berry production
Ground growth works best for cranberries but they will grow in wide pots filled with ericaceous soil mix as above. Trim runners that escape the pot but leave others to grow fruiting upright stems. Keep well watered.