Gardening & Outdoors

The Ultimate A-Z Berries Gardening Guide

The Ultimate A-Z Berries Gardening Guide

So, I go on this date, and its awesome, stunning personality and cute as they come, just the way I love it, hell, way all singles like it.

Then the ambiance,oHh it was something.

Breathtaking lights, calm music and the bombshell "food!"

Now, take this from me, I'm the most distant thing there is from a foodie, so, maybe, I was a little carried away, teensy-weensy bit, but still!.

But one thing I love, second only to an elegant home is sugar, spice and all things nice. And there was sugar, a lot of it.

The berry and custard tart dessert was everything and a sensual experience, could be, its the person who did the dessert-bless him-, or maybe, berry-custard turt should naturally taste that good.

Whatever it was I made a resolution to grow my own berries, coz honestly, they were the icing on the cake, literally.

And that's where your indulgence into my love life or lack thereof- ends, so back to gardening.

Here is everything I have since learned about berry gardening.

Types of Berries to Grow in Home Gardens

Blueberries

Highbush blueberries are perennial, long‑lived deciduous shrubs with a mature height of 5 to 9 feet. Attractive as ornamentals, they progress from white or pink blossoms in spring to colorful foliage in fall and wood in winter.

Blueberry fruiting season extends from late June through September and fruits on each plant ripens over a two to five weeks period. However, the fruiting depends on the type of blueberry cultivar and the growing region.

You can grow plants in beds, rows, hedges, or individually. Dwarf and semi-dwarf cultivars (varieties) are available for growing in containers.

Blueberries can be eaten fresh, made into pies and other desserts, or freeze, dry, or can them for later use.

Blackberries and Raspberries

Blackberries and raspberries (brambles) are a commonly planted as small fruit in home gardens. They have vigorous growth, are seldom injured by spring frost and consistently produce high-quality fruit.

Brambles make companion plants since they practically are the same. Both berries belong to the plant genus Rubus with the growing, culture and maintenance needs pretty much the same.

Because of their vigorous growth, brambles should be planted in an area where they can easily be contained, when properly groomed and well maintained, they can be used for ornamentation same way as blueberries.

By choosing different types of brambles, you can harvest fresh fruit five to six months each year and use the harvest for jams, jellies, pies or eat them as fresh fruit.

Brambles can vary in cultivars but then there are the obvious types to learn, see below.

Types of Blackberries

Blackberries come in two main variants, thorned with undesirable sharp burbs that make them too much for home gardening and then there are thornless blackberries.

Thorned blackberries do not require trellis, they mature their fruit two to three weeks earlier than the thornless varieties and usually, they have sweeter fruits. They are propagated by root suckers.

Thornless blackberries are easier to prune and maintain, however, they produce trailing canes eight to twelve feet long that are not strong enough to support themselves and require trellis support. They are propagated by tip layering and sometimes fruit will sunburn because they mature in the hotter periods of Summer.

Types of Raspberries

Raspberries are either summer or fall-bearing red fruited,black-fruited or purple fruited.

Summer-bearing, red fruited raspberries usually reproduce by root suckers and may bare thick hedges after three or four years, they produce fruits in summer.The Fall-bearing, red-fruited raspberries produce both a fall crop and early summer crop. The fall crop is the largest and produced on the upper portion of the cane, while the smaller summer crop bares on the lower portion of the cane.

Purple raspberries mature later in the summer than the red-fruited raspberries. They are vigorous but usually require trellising and are propagated by tip layering. The black fruited variant which is perceptible to attack doesn't produce roots hence its also propagated by tip layering.

Currantberries and Gooseberries

Currants and gooseberries are hardy and easy to grow, few plants will produce enough fruit for typical family use and are prized for making excellent jellies and pies.

Currants are especially outstanding for jellies, while gooseberries are excellent for the very rare pies. Gooseberries are also used to make preserves.

Both Currants and gooseberries belong to the same Ribes genus and hence the growth and culture is fairly related

Currants and gooseberries prefer a cool climate and a rich, moist, but well-drained soil high in organic matter. Silt and clay loams are best; however, plants should do well on fertile sandy loams.

Generally, both plants perform dismally in hot, dry areas.Blossom is usually in spring, hence plants not be planted on low lands or in pockets where late spring frost may injure the crop.

Gooseberries are subject to mildew and should be planted in places with good air circulation.They thrive when planted on a northern showing, where they are shaded during part of the day.

There are two common gooseberry cultivars, the European variants which bare bigger tastier fruits and the American variant which are likely to be healthy and less prone to attacks.

European types are native to North Africa and the Caucasus Mountains of Eastern Europe and western Asia, while the American types are native to the Northern United States and Canada.The American type includes Pixwell, Downing, and Poorman while Fredonia is good-late European cultivar

Currant fruits color types include red, white, pink, and black growing on thornless plants. The fruits are small and are produced and harvested in grape-like clusters called strings.

The most common Red Currants are Redlake which are more desirable than Wilder. Black Currants are susceptible to Pine Blister Rust and only immune cultivars should be planted, Consort, Crandall, and Crusader are some of the immune types.

Jostaberry is a cross between gooseberries and black currants with fruit larger than currants, are gooseberry-like, and are black in color with thornless stems.

Fruit quality has not gained wide appeal for either fresh or processed use, but it has inspired renewed breeding efforts, with new and improved crosses being developed.

Strawberries

Growing strawberries in your home garden can be an interesting and fulfilling experience. If you grow a variety of strawberry, you can pick ripe fruit from late spring until frost. With proper care, you can obtain enough berries from a relatively small area.

Strawberry plants have a short, compressed stem called a crown which produces a whorl of leaves, fruiting structures, branch crowns, and runners which can be used to propagate new plants.

The strawberry fruit is fleshy, with achenes on the surface and topped by a calyx which might remain on the plant when the fruit is picked.

Strawberry types are June‑bearers, Everbearers, and Day‑Neutrals. June‑bearers produce only one crop a year, in June and July while Everbearers produce two crops, one from June through early July and another in the fall. Day-neutrals produce fruit almost continuously through the growing season except when it’s very hot.

The fruit of Everbearers and Day‑Neutrals typically is smaller, and total seasonal yields often are lower, than those of June-bearers. However, the advantage in growing these types along with June-bearers is that you can harvest fruit for most of the growing season.

Day-neutrals are the better choice for fresh fruit throughout the season, as they have a longer fruiting period and better fruit quality. Unfortunately, retail nurseries often lump day-neutrals and Everbearers together, calling both “Everbearers."

All types are self-fruitful, so you need only one cultivar for pollination and fruit production.

Soil Considerations

Blueberry plants grow best in well-drained, light, sandy loam soils that are high in organic matter and with a pH between 4.5 and 5.5. Poor blueberry plant growth resulting from a soil with too high pH is the most common problem in the blueberries home garden.

Avoid plating blueberries on heavy soil with poor drainage, soil that retains too much water will slowly rot the blueberry roots.Plant blueberry plants in areas where the water table is at least 14inches below the soil surface to ensure the roots do not suffocate.

Blackberries and raspberries do best on sandy loam soils with added organic matter. However, they will tolerate a wider range of soil types than most fruits.

Good soil drainage with 2-3 feet of unrestricted rooting area is necessary for best plant performance. Avoid soils where tomatoes, potatoes or eggplants have recently been grown, to reduce the potential for verticillium wilt.

Currants and gooseberries are fairly tolerant of a wide range of soils and less-than-perfect sites. They perform best in well-drained silt to sandy loam soils with organic matter content greater than one percent and good water-holding capacity.

Planting in light sandy or heavy clay soils should be avoided, as well as areas in which water stands for any length of time. If the site is poorly drained, improve it by tiling or building raised beds.

The ideal soil pH is moderately acidic, from 5.5 to 6.5. Micronutrient deficiencies may occur at an alkaline pH greater than 7.0. Saline or salty soils near coastal areas should be avoided.

Strawberries can also tolerate a wide range of soil types if you properly modify the soil.The soil should be well drained with no standing water. Strawberries grow best in a raised bed of well-drained loam soil, high in organic matter, with a pH between 6 and 7.

Raised beds should be about one foot high with the width dependent on how many rows are on each bed. Raised beds can be constructed with wood walls or by hilling natural soil and organic material mix.

Choosing a Site

Blueberries require a sunny location, avoid areas surrounded by trees. which can provide too much shade, compete with plants for water and nutrients, encourage birds, and interfere with air movement around the plants which favors the development of diseases.

Plant blackberries and raspberries in full sun and a minimum of 300 feet away from wild or existing plantings of brambles, to reduce the potential for disease problems.

Site with a slight, north-facing slope is preferred to help prevent spring frost injury and to protect plants from southwest winds in summer. Additional wind protection may be necessary, because succulent first-year canes may be blown over and broken from the root system.

Although brambles have similar requirements, blackberries grow best in warm, temperate regions and are less winter hardy than raspberries. They are recommended for areas where winter temperatures stay above 10F.

Raspberries grow best where the season is long and summers are mild, with winters uniformly cool and long enough to satisfy chilling requirements.

Ribes, unlike other blueberries and brambles can tolerate partial shade.Northern to northeastern exposure is often ideal, as the air and soil will be cooler and plants will be protected from direct sun.

Full-sun exposure in cooler or mountainous climates, however, is desirable and leads to increased yields.

Strawberries require 6-10 hours of direct, full sunlight for best production. Since strawberries bloom in early spring, it's best to plant them in areas free of frost pockets. Avoid low-lying sites where cold air drains, or areas where the plant is surrounded by trees.

Avoid planting where tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, eggplants, strawberries, raspberries, or blackberries have grown in the past three years. All of these plants host fungi that cause diseases such as Verticillium wilt, and insect pests that build up in soil unless you follow a rotation schedule of at least three years.

Growing Blueberries

Plant your blueberries in late fall or early spring that is October or from March through April.

In poorly drained soils, plant blueberries in raised beds to avoid any waterlogging. The height of the bed depends on the water table at that particular site.Set plants no more than three-quarter inches deeper than they were growing in the nursery row or container to keep the seedlings from smothering.

Deep planting will result in a water-logging and poor aeration, which ultimately kills the plant. Moderately deep planting can result in poor root development and delay the overall growth and development of the plant. The best depth of planting provides optimal conditions for robust plant growth.

Space plants four to five feet apart in the row spaced at between eight to ten feet apart. The size of the planting hole depends on root ball size however for a two-year-old plant, twelve by twelve inches width and fourteen inches depth is recommended.

Before placing the seedling in the planting hole, fill a third of the hole with the substrate mix then place the seedling in an upright position. and cover the roots.

Be sure to water plants within a few hours of transplanting, then prune all branches back by about 30 to 40 percent while removing the weak and dead one, only leave three to four strong pieces.

Growing Blackberries and Raspberries

Brambles can be planted any time they are dormant, usually from early November to mid-March around the same time you plant blueberries.

Plant either root cuttings or root suckers. When plating root cuttings, place them about three to four inches deep and plant root suckers in holes large and deep enough to completely spread the roots and water appropriately.

While planting, hold the plants in a bucket of water to keep roots from drying out. Set red raspberry plants two or three inches deeper than they were in the nursery row. Other brambles should be planted about an inch deeper. A dark gray line on the upper root and lower stem area indicates the nursery planting depth.

Seedlings should be watered and mulched at the base to reduce winter injury especially if you plant in fall.

In-row spacing for thornless blackberries should be eight feet with rows ten feet apart, plant thorned blackberries at three to four feet apart in rows tens feet apart. Space raspberries two to three feet apart between plants and eight to ten feet between rows.

Growing Currants and Gooseberries

Plant either one or two years old plants in fall or spring.One year well-rooted, vigorous plants started in fall between October and November are best. Because Ribes break dormancy sooner, very early spring planting is recommended, plants which have just leafed can easily tolerate 20F.

If dormant nursery stock is available, fall planting can be done, however, avoid nitrogen fertilizer which may decrease winter hardiness. Additionally, plants should be mulched to reduce winter frost effects.

In general, red currants and gooseberries should be planted three to four feet apart in rows of six to eight feet distant. However, when black currants are overly vigorous they should be spaced four to five feet apart in rows between eight to twelve feet separate.

Avoid overcrowding as adequate air circulation and movement is critical in reducing foliar disease incidences.

Plants can be established as freestanding bushes at the above spacing, or planted at closer densities to form a hedgerow.

The roots of bare-root plants should be soaked in a bucket of clean water one to two hours prior to planting, trim damaged root parts. Plants should be set about an inch deeper than they were growing in the nursery. Cover one to three buds on the lower part of the cane to encourage a large root system.

Newly set plants should be pruned back to six to ten inches above the ground, depending on root system vigor to encourage new canes. With fall planting, this pruning should be delayed until spring.

Growing Strawberries

Matted-row and the hill systems are the most common for strawberries. The hill system is preferred for Everbearers and Day-Neutrals because they don’t produce as many runners as June-bearers which are grown in matted-row, but can also grow in a hill system

In the matted-row system, set plants about fifteen inches apart in the row or on the raised bed, with three to four feet between rows.

In a hill system set plants twelve to fifteen inches apart in double or triple-wide rows or raised beds if necessary. Aisles should be one to two feet wide.

At planting, dig a hole for each plant large enough to accommodate the roots without bending them. Spread the root mass and set the plant at the same depth it was in the nursery container.

For bare-root plants, the midpoint of the crown should be level with the soil surface with the topmost root just below the soil surface and not exposed to air even after a good irrigation.

If you set plants too low, growing tip at the crown may be smothered and rot.Cover roots with soil and press firmly to remove air pockets then Water the plants to settle the soil.

Growing Berries and Other Small Fruits in Containers.

Container Specification

Most berries; especially blueberries, brambles, and strawberries can grow in different types and sizes of containers including wooden, ceramic, metal or plastic tubs, buckets, pots, or even grow bags.However, because of their large water needs bigger container are essential to keep the plant adequately watered.

The substantial amount of soil in bigger containers will serve as water reservoirs and thus be available during dry periods. Be sure the container has drainage holes at the bottom to allow good water seepage, alternatively use a few inches of small stones or gravel.

Choose the Right Soil

An ideal soil will have good water and nutrient holding capacity, have a sufficient amount of air for proper root growth, and be heavy enough so that the container and plant do not fall over.

Your average garden soil is not recommended coz it lacks may contain weed seeds, water drainage may be too slow, and frequently it is deficient in organic matter. Garden soil or commercial topsoil can be used if they are amended with peat and either vermiculite or perlite.

An appropriate mix should contain two parts topsoil, one part peat, and one part vermiculite or perlite. Generally, except for blueberries, it is appropriate to mix in a cup of lime for each bushel of mix prepared.

Commercial potting mixes are available, but if used alone, they are usually too light and dry out rapidly.

How to Care and Maintain Your Berries

How and When to Water Your Berries

Blueberries have shallow, fibrous root systems which are deemed susceptive to drought injury. Uniform and adequate watering schedules are essential for optimum growth.

Blueberries water needs are uniform from blossom to the end of harvest.

Water plants lightly before the soil dries, make several rounds until the soil is fully saturated to prevent the earth from collapsing and to keep the plants moist.

On average, young plants need about one to three inch of water per week, which should be adjusted in the rainy season to avoid overwatering. To much water will cause poor aeration in plants and in turn the roots will suffocate or rot.

When irrigating use drip or any other form of under canopy irrigation, overhead systems overly wet the foliage and crown which promotes diseases.

Blackberry plants are able to survive periods of drought, but they will be unproductive. For best result in both black and raspberries adequate water whether via rain or irrigation is required.

During the growing season, blackberries and raspberries need one inch of water every seven to ten days, although there is rain in spring and summer always inspect your crops to learn when they need to be watered.

Adequate water supply is especially vital during the first growing season to aid in cane establishment and for subsequent harvests. Poor fruit development, lower yields, and smaller fruit, in addition to fewer primocanes and decreased cane diameter, could be indicators of poor watering.

For quality currants and gooseberry fruits, from bloom to the end of harvest water about one inch of water per week. This ensures good plant growth, high yields, and large berry size.

In most areas, rainfall is usually adequate, especially if mulch is being used. However, if rainfall is short, supplemental irrigation is advised, preferably drip or trickle irrigation.

Strawberry plants will need about one to two inches of water a week. If your soil is sandy, you will need to pay more attention to watering.Often, watering plants lightly but frequently should work.

Common Pest and Disease Problems

Blueberry plants are relatively free from disease, pest, and nutrient-related issues. However, the main concerns for blueberry growers would be aphid.

Aphids can be easily be diagnosed by closely monitoring plants, using yellow sticky traps and looking out for nymphs, skin droppings, or glossy, sugary substance on leaf surfaces.

Infestations can be controlled by introducing natural predators like ladybugs, using yellow sticky traps or by applying low concentrations of Nitrogen fertilizers or high volume insecticidal soap.

The other concern for blueberry grower would be birds, many species feed the fruits and can harvest 100 percent of the berries if not controlled.

Scare tactics like aluminum plates and strips of foil flapping in the wind have limited effectiveness coz birds become used them. Use more effective methods like placing nets over the plant, which will create a challenge during harvest but should keep birds at bay.

Bramble crops are subject to attack by viruses, fungi and several types of insects, but many problems can be prevented by proper planning and care. Select varieties that are hardy and disease resistant, and plants that are certified virus-free.

Currants and Gooseberries can be affected by several insect and disease problems. Powdery mildew and leaf spot are the two most common disease problems that can lead to defoliation by midseason if the plants are not protected. Aphids, mites, scale, and cane boring insects can also present a problem, and regular scouting should be conducted.

Careful site selection, choosing resistant cultivars, and proper pruning often provide fair control, but plantings should be monitored through the season and pesticide applications may be required.

The most serious disease problems of strawberry are Botrytis fruit rot, root rot, and Verticillium wilt. Insect problems include root weevil, aphid, spider mite, crown moth, and symphylan.

How and When to Prune Your Berries.

You should start pruning your blackberries after the third year. Pruning should be done every winter between January and March.

If you prune don't prune well enough, plants produce too many small berries with weak shoot growth. Plants will have weak, twiggy growth at the end of the season and fail to develop strong wood for better fruits in future. Severe pruning produces fewer, larger berries and more new wood.

Pruning brambles should begin immediately after harvest by removing all the canes that fruited. This improves light penetration and airflow for the canes that will fruit the next year. Also, remove any new canes that are growing outside of the 12-to-18 inch row width, any very weak canes, and any that show obvious symptoms of insect or disease damage.

In the spring before the buds break, thin remaining canes, leaving only four to five of the sturdiest per foot of row. Spread the canes that are left onto the wires of the trellis and tie them with twine or some other soft material.

Currants and gooseberries should be pruned in the dormant season, during late winter and early spring. Red currants and gooseberries are similar in their fruiting characteristics hence should be treated the same.

Black currants should be pruned following the specific guidelines. Sometimes you will need to prune in summer to keep the plants open and to facilitate easy harvesting.

Since strawberry plants don’t live forever, renovating right after harvest can keep them vigorous for up to five years as new runner plants are given the chance to replace old or weakened plants. Prune the tops of the plants to one inch above the crowns take special care not to damage the crowns.

Harvesting Your Berries

Each blueberry cultivar ripens berries over a two to five week period. A well-managed, mature highbush plant will produce from thirteen to eighteen lb fruit occurring in clusters of 5 to 10.

Don’t pick the berries when they first turn blue they mostly are not fully ripe. They’ll develop better flavor, become sweeter, and grow about twenty percent larger if you leave them for a few days after they fully turn blue.

Pick about once a week or more often in hot weather.Gently roll berries between your thumb and forefinger, removing fully ripe berries and leaving unripe berries for the next picking. Collect berries in an open container attached to a belt or cord at waist level which frees both hands for picking

Raspberries are ready to pick when they separate easily from the receptacle or core. However, Blackberries do not separate from the core, and they should be accessed by color and taste. All bramble fruit are extremely perishable and should be harvested frequently.

To maintain fresh quality, place fruit in shallow containers, no more than three fruit deep, and cool the fruit to 33F as quickly as possible. Fruit properly harvested and held at this temperature can maintain fresh quality for three to seven days, unless infested by pest or disease.

If the fruit is to be made into jam or jelly, process it immediately, or freeze it until ready to use.

Currants and gooseberry plants can be very productive at maturity, with yields of four to six quarter gallons or eight to ten pounds gooseberries and five to eight pounds currants per plant. However, don't be overly pressure to hit these marks, coz home gardens conditions vary from place to place.

Fruits are harvested in mid-summer with currants ripe for over two weeks while gooseberries take from four to six weeks to ripen, depending on the weather. Once a berry fully ripens, it can be left on the bush a week or more without becoming overly mature. Weekly harvest allows slower-maturing fruit to ripen and can condense the harvest number to two to three pickings

Black currants, jostaberries, and gooseberries are harvested as singular berries, red, white, and pink currants are picked as whole strig clusters. Red currants are smaller and more tightly bunched than black currants whereas gooseberries fruit are borne singularly or in small clusters.

Strawberries should be picked every few days, depending on cultivar and weather. Warm temperatures or rain necessitate frequent harvesting. Pick all ripe berries fruit left on the plant before they overripe, which expose berries to disease and insect problems.

Expect yields of one to two pounds per plant.However, yield varies greatly with cultivar and the plant's age, the best yield is usually in the year after planting.

Pick fruits in the morning to keep the green, leafy cap on which give strawberries longer shelf life. Avoid washing fruits until just before using them, to prevent softening and decay.