GROWING BEAUTIFUL BERRIES
Bringing home some sweet snacks from the store is one thing, but growing your own is another. We’re talking about berries, of course, nature’s sweetest confection! Along with being packed with plenty of juicy flavor, berries provide their own health benefits, so you don’t need to feel bad about sneaking a few more onto your plate.
With summer upon us, growing your own berry bushes is a breeze. Here’s how to grow and harvest the most delicious fruits of your labor!
Blueberries are easy-growing bushes, making them crowd favorites in the garden. With the right soil conditions, they’re low maintenance, and they grow an abundance of sweet blueberries all season. We’d be amiss not to mention how beautiful they are. Blueberry bushes turn a bright crimson red in the fall season, always giving you something new to admire all the way until the end of the growing season!
Blueberries come in two varieties, aptly called highbush and lowbush. Highbushes can grow quite tall, up to 8 feet, and yield more fruit than lowbushes. The flavor of the berries tends to be less intense than lowbushes. Lowbush varieties are short and sweet, producing smaller berries in a smaller volume, but they’re a tastier yield. If you want a mix of the two, you can elect for a hybrid “half-high” variety, which grows larger berries. Since these bushes are self-pollinators, you’ll need to plant at least two bushes together to get the best berries. As for where to plant them, blueberry bushes need plenty of sun, consistently moist soil, and a location away from the wind.
The most important thing to know when planting your blueberry bushes is to make sure your soil is acidic. This will mean adding some soil amendments to lower it to the perfect pH level between 4.5 and 5, but don’t let this simple step stop you. Adding some peat moss will help get you within those levels, and since blueberry bushes have shallow root systems, laying a couple of inches of mulch over your soil will help keep moisture in the right place for longer.
This might be tough to do since you’re growing these plants just for this purpose, but we advise you not to let your bushes produce any flowers in its first year. Pinch back flowers so your plant can continue to grow stronger— a fully matured blueberry plant will produce the best possible fruit, and we know that’s what you’re after.
Strawberry plants are as beautiful as they are delicious, blooming with lovely pinkish flowers and deep red berries. They’re perfect for a simple snack, a dessert topping, or the main component in your own homemade jams!
Just like blueberries, there are different types of strawberry bushes you can choose to put in your garden. For those who don’t like to wait, June-bearing strawberries will yield an abundance of fruit right at the start of summer. Ever-bearing strawberries are for those who like to enjoy their own strawberries throughout the season. Lastly, Alpine strawberries will produce the tiniest, tastiest berries, for those who like big flavor in a small package.
Whatever you choose, all strawberry bushes need to be in full sun to bring out their best flavor. Make sure your soil is organically rich and drains well. Strawberry plants are similar to blueberries, as they have shallow roots and thrive in acidic soil, so a generous layer of organic mulch would do well to keep them cool.
The telltale sign a strawberry is ripe for the picking is when they turn a consistent red color, without a hint of green or yellow. Harvest them on a sunny afternoon, which is when they’ll be the sweetest. Strawberry plants produce their best within their first three years. We recommend replacing at least a third of your crop after this timeline, to give yourself a good balance of younger plants, and your garden’s strawberry production strong!
Growing raspberries provides a wonderful mix of tart and sweet flavor at your fingertips. As you’ve probably caught on by now, raspberries also come in multiple varieties, depending on when you’d prefer to harvest.
Summer-fruiting raspberry plants are a one-and-done variety, producing all of their fruit between June and July. Fall-bearing raspberries, also known as ever-bearing raspberries, fruit in their first fall and the following summer. Every year after, you can expect delicious berries between summer and late fall.
For the best results, plant your bare-root raspberry bushes in the spring, and after the last frost if you’re transplanting a potted bush. Raspberry bushes need full sunlight to produce the most berries, but in case you’ve reserved your sunny spaces for strawberries, raspberry bushes still do well in shade.
Wherever you plant your bushes, you’ll want a soil that drains well and gets a decent amount of air flow, but not too windy. They’ll grow strong with a bit of organic compost to help feed them. Raspberries can be a little picky with water, and their roots shouldn’t dry out completely, so be sure to keep them regularly watered. Applying a generous amount of mulch will make your job easier.
Raspberries will grow new canes as they grow, which looks like a good sign. After all, the larger it gets, the most berries you should get out of it. In reality, this only increases the amount of moisture and nutrients your raspberry bush consumes. If you trim back new canes and let your plant focus on the ones it already has, the quality of the berries will increase as well!
The raspberries themselves are ready for picking when they’re of uniform color. They practically fall away from the vine when you give them a light squeeze. Pick them in sunlight and only wash them when you’re ready to eat them, as they’re fragile fruit that can get moldy quickly. They keep for five days in the fridge, but we suggest enjoying them soon after picking. Alternatively, you can freeze them for future use!
Blackberries are the black sheep of the berry world. These summer berries have a fuller flavor than the others we’ve mentioned, with notes of sweet, tart, and sour in one little berry.
Once again, it’s your choice as to what variety of blackberry bush you’d like to grow. Erect blackberry bushes support themselves structurally as they grow while trailing varieties need some assistance to keep it growing upright. You only need to buy one blackberry plant for it to grow its strongest, but you can play with even getting one of each variety if you’d like!
Blackberry plants prefer a place with full sunlight and nutrient-rich soil that drains well. It doesn’t hurt to throw down some mulch to retain moisture for these plants too. You’ll get the best possible fruit by planting in late fall.
Blackberries ripen in summer, between July and August. You can pick them when they’re a deep and uniform black color. They should feel firm to the touch and, like raspberries, will pull away from the stem without too much effort. However, unlike raspberries, you should pluck blackberries with the stem attached to it. They also don’t keep for long in the fridge, so enjoy them within a couple of days while they’re at their best!
You’ve probably noticed some common patterns between all the berries we’ve touched on. Truthfully, it isn’t difficult to create the right environment to grow the most delicious yields from berry bushes! The payoff comes in a small package, but you’ll notice its effect immediately whether it’s mixed in a smoothie, spread on toast, or plucked straight from the vine on a sunny day.