Raspberries, blackberries, and strawberries are enjoyable edible fruits that you can learn to grow in this section.
Raspberries and Blackberries
These fruits grow on thorny canes, which are elongated, semiwoody flowering stems about five or six feet tall. They spread with underground runners and can be aggressive unless severely checked. But they are worth the trouble for the absolutely delicious berries, which can be eaten, still warm from the sun, right off the plants in summer. You may have to cover the ripening berries with netting to protect your crop from the birds.
Fruit breeders have given us types of raspberries that are everbearing or repeat bearing, instead of bearing fruit just once a summer.
Blackberries, too, have been worked on by breeders, and you can purchase thornless types that are delicious and have very large berries. Some of these prefer to have their canes staked to poles or other supports. They are self-pollinating and easy to grow, performing best in well-drained soil.
- Cut the canes on blackberries and raspberries when first setting out new plants. The canes are the elongated flowering stems. Leave just a few of the leafy buds at the base of the stems. This eliminates any cane diseases that may have hitchhiked to your garden on the plant. It also discourages spring flowering, letting the plant become well established before moving on to berry production.
- Thin out one-third of all blackberry and raspberry canes each year to keep them productive. If you've ever tried to walk through an abandoned farm field bristling with blackberry thickets, you know what a thorny tangle these plants can grow into.
Not only does crowded growth make blackberries and raspberries hard to work around, it also forces the canes to compete for sun, nutrients, moisture, and fresh air. The result can be smaller berries and more diseases. As soon as canes are done bearing fruit, you can cut them off at the base to provide more space for new canes. Remove any sick, weak, or scrawny canes. Then selectively remove additional canes from areas that are crowded to keep them from creeping into other parts of the garden. Pruning is easier if you wear thick, thornproof gloves and use long-handled pruning loppers. A pair of sunglasses to protect your eyes won't hurt either.
Strawberries Strawberries are fun to have around for garden tastes, even if the crop is not that large. Various raiders such as birds and squirrels will get most of the crop if you don't keep them out with netting or repellents. The plants like full sun or bright partial shade and moist, rich soil. Buy your plants from local sources for types that thrive in your climate. Mulch strawberries with straw to keep the fruit clean. Straw keeps soil and disease spores, which cause berries to rot and mold, from splashing up onto the berries. As a result, they look nicer and keep longer. Straw also keeps the soil moist, so the berries can plump up, and it helps reduce weeds.
Grow day-neutral strawberries for a summerlong harvest. While June-bearing strawberries bear fruit heavily in early summer, and ever-bearing strawberries bear in June and again in fall, day-neutrals can keep flowering and fruiting throughout much of the summer.Plant day-neutral strawberries as early in spring as possible and pinch off all the flower buds for six weeks afterward. This lets the plants grow strong before they begin to fruit. Once the plants are flowering, fertilize them monthly to keep the plants vigorous and productive.
Heavy producers such as these may not keep up the pace year after year. When you notice berry production diminishing, consider starting a new strawberry patch with fresh plants.
Plant strawberries in a strawberry jar for a delicious feast on a patio. Strawberry jars stand about two feet high and have openings along the side, perfect for planting with strawberry plants. They look especially charming when little plantlets sprout on runners and dangle down the sides.
These guidelines should take the mystery out of cultivating your own fruits and berries so that you can readily enjoy nature's freshness from your own garden.
©Publications International, Ltd.