Herb and Plow Strawberries

Everyone loves fruit. Berries are a great fruit crop because it doesn’t take years for them to be established.

Berries and other so-called small fruits generally don’t require as much space as full-size fruit trees. By growing several different types, you can enjoy home-grown fruit from early summer through late fall.

Keep in mind that the term “small” in small fruits refers to the fruit size, not the size of the plant. In many parts of the country, a full-size, highbush blueberry plant may grow up to 12 feet tall and 6 feet wide. Blackberries can grow 8 feet tall and spread even wider. Growing your backyard berries in raised beds is a good way to keep them manageable.

Strawberries are short lived.  If you plant for commercial use, you want to plant in the fall-find out the right time for your zone, and then harvest in the spring. After they are finished you pull them out. If you  you are not growing commercially, you can keep them in for 2 years but after that they don’t do well.

Strawberries are greedy feeders so make sure their bed is fertilized with good compost, organic fertilizers, fish emulsion and mycorrhiza inoculants. Chandler is a large , sweet berry that has a high production. Sweet Charlie is one of the sweetest berries but they are not high producers.

Blueberries, raspberries, blackberries and currants are more perennial and when taken care of can last indefinitely. Blueberries require acid soil (pH 4.5 to 5.5) to grow well. You may contact your local extension agent to have your soil tested. If your soil is not that acidic, consider growing in raised beds, where it’s easier to control soil pH. Make sure that the nursery you purchased from gives you directions on planting and pruning. Find out which berries would be best for your area.

Altering the pH of soil in an existing site is a bigger job: Plant your blueberries with peat moss and mulch with pine needles. Once the soil pH has been adjusted, you will need to maintain the acidity by using an acidic mulch material such as pine needles.

Too keep your plants productive —whether in-ground or in raised beds— fertilize once or twice a year with fish emulsion, kelp and mycorrhiza.

Raspberries and Blackberries

Raspberries growing in a raised bedRasberries benefit from supports that keep the canes upright.

Berries in the genus rubus are also known as brambles, and they are among the easiest and most popular of all backyard fruits. They have a network of perennial roots that send up shoots, or canes, which usually live for two years. In the first year of growth, the canes are vegetative, producing only leaves. In the second year the same canes bear flowers and fruit, then die at the end of that season. Because the plants are continuously producing new vegetative canes, once the plants are established you can expect them to yield a crop of fruit every year.

Brambles are vulnerable to viruses and several other diseases. To reduce the risk of infection, avoid planting them on soil where a member of the nightshade family (tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, eggplant) or wild Rubus have recently been grown. For the same reason, it’s best to locate raspberries and blackberries at least 500 yards away from any wild brambles.

Raspberries and other cane fruits have shallow root systems, so it’s important to remove any weeds, which will compete for nutrients. The most common way of growing raspberries is in rows spaced 6 to 12 feet apart. This generous spacing allows mulching between the beds with weed fabric and wood chips, or cultivating between the rows with a rototiller,. It also ensures good air circulation around the plants (to limit disease problems), and permits easy access for picking from both sides of the bed.

To enjoy bountiful crops of these berries, the plants should be pruned annually and kept weed-free. A well-tended bed of brambles will produce for ten years or more before the original plants start to decline and need to be replaced. Rasberries benefit from supports that keep the canes upright.