Thursday, 02 June 2022 17:19

Gardening with Peter Bowden: Growing Berries

By Peter Bowden | Home & Garden
Gardening with Peter Bowden: Growing Berries

Who doesn’t love berries?  I love all fruit but berries best of all. They sure have gotten expensive to buy these days so why not grow your own? The good news is that strawberries, raspberries, blackberries and blueberries are all very easy to grow. Best of all, they come back year after year on their own, so you only need to plant them once. 

I love the little wild strawberries and have fond childhood memories of harvesting them and bringing them home for mom to transform into strawberry shortcake. I can find some wild strawberries still but never enough for more than a little taste. Instead, I have a patch of a larger domesticated variety growing in my vegetable garden, and you can buy some right now at the garden center. It all started a few years ago with just a few plants. Of course, strawberries spread by sending out runners, so they soon grew into a large patch. Last year I had to dig out the patch and divide them. I replanted the best plants and had so many left that I was able to share them with gardening friends. The replanted patch looks great and I’m sure we’ll be overwhelmed again this June. 

There isn’t much to growing strawberries other than picking out a sunny area to plant them and feeding them in spring. I use Espoma Flower-Tone for this since the formula for my perennials is just what the strawberries like as well...they are perennials too, after all. Slimy slugs also love my strawberries, but these days we have Bonide Slug Magic which is simply iron phosphate. It works great and is totally safe around food crops and doesn’t harm anything other than slugs. Now I don’t have to share my precious strawberries with mucousy mollusks.

Blackberries and raspberries also require full sun and take up more space than strawberries. Some folks like to grow them on trellises or wire supports to make them easier to prune and harvest. Again, a little food in the spring is all they need. Go easy on the food though or you’ll get more leaves and less berries. Again I use just a little Flower-Tone. 

Raspberries and blackberries need to be pruned each year. Pruning is simple. After you harvest the berries, cut off the canes (stems) that they were growing on. There will be other canes on the plant that didn’t produce fruit this year...don’t prune them off...they are the canes that will make berries next year. Pretty simple.

Most of us have heard by now about the health benefits of blueberries. Blueberries are probably the easiest berries to grow. They are woody bushes that you plant in a sunny location...the more sun, the more and tastier berries you get. Like raspberries, blueberries produce berries on two-year-old stems, so simply snip off the stems that made this year’s berries. This is best done over winter when the plant is dormant. Blueberries like acid soil, so you’ll want to feed them with an evergreen food like Holly-Tone. Blueberries like their roots cool so mulching with acidic mulches like pine needles or pine bark mulch is also a good idea.

Blueberry flowers remind me of lily-of-the-valley. They are so attractive that you could tuck a blueberry bush into your landscape as a flowering shrub with benefits. What’s not to love? 

If you have some room to spare, try out some berries. Your effort will be rewarded for many years to come.

Thanks for the read!

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