So far, my perpetual homestead has the start of a perpetual garden. In addition, it has an orchard that will produce peaches, pears, and apples but those will not bear for a few more years. What I have that will all begin bearing in the next couple of years is the berry patch.
There are, of course, many other berries that could be planted, but I decided not to over-extend myself this first year. One berry, you might notice, isn’t included on my list is blackberries. The reason for this is that I am able to get out and pick wild ones that are growing nearby. I hope, next year, to get some elderberries. They not only are good in pie baking, but they have excellent medicinal properties as well. I would also like to add currants, gooseberries, and goji berries. For now, though, I am growing June-bearing and everbearing strawberries, blueberries, and yellow raspberries.
June-Bearing and Everbearing Strawberries
The first berries that I started growing were the June-bearing strawberries. The reason that they are called June-bearing is that they put on one crop of berries in a short period. They generally produce one large harvest in late spring or early summer. I started growing these in a container garden while I still lived in Springfield. Last spring, I moved them out here with me, planted them in a temporary location in the garden. In September I finally transplanted them into a more permanent location where I am able to give them more room. I should be getting some berries from them this year because they had all winter to develop their root systems.
To plant the June-bearing strawberries, I planted them so that they were planted 12 inches apart in staggered rows twelve inches apart. After harvesting the berries, the strawberry plants will produce runners. Instead of allowing these runners to develop roots in the ground where they want, I am going to be putting pots under each of them and coaxing the roots to develop in the pots. That way I can move them and keep their roots more intact when I transplant them. My plan is to sell some of the plants and to plant the rest between the trees in the orchard to create a fruitful ground cover for the trees.
A second type of strawberry are everbearing strawberries. These produce two to three crops over the course of the summer and into the fall, with the larger crop coming in the summer. The berries on the everbearing strawberries are smaller and sweeter that the June-bearing plants and produce fewer runners. Like with the June-bearing, I planted the everbearing in two rows, with staggered plantings twelve inches apart. I planted them so that the strawberries roots are completely covered, but the crown remains above the soil line.
I planted the strawberries in late winter, so I spread a thin layer of partially decomposed chicken manure on top of the soil around the strawberry plants. This way, the manure will filter down to the roots during the spring rains and help nourish the plants’ roots. If I would have planted them in the spring after things started growing, I would have watered the plants with compost tea.
Next, I used sawdust to mulch the patch to reduce weed growth, hold in moisture and keep the manure from washing away or dissipating into the air. I have heard of people using plastic for mulch around the strawberries but because it can facilitate diseases such as leaf spot and anthracnose, I don’t recommend it.
Once things start growing in the spring, I will give the patch one inch of water per week if the soil is dry. It is important that strawberries get enough water until they are established. During production, Strawberries may have up to 2 inches of water a week.
If I would have planted the June-bearing strawberries in the spring, I would have removed blossoms and runners in the first year. However, because I planted them last fall, I don’t have to do that. For everbearers, I will remove blossoms and runners only until July 1. This will enhance strawberry plant growth and production.
I planted my blueberries in the ground where I grew potatoes last year. This way the soil was loosened with the broad fork several times and rocks and weeds were removed as well. Because I had mulched the area heavily with leaves and grass clippings, the ground was light and highly organic. Because blue berries prefer much more acidic types of soil, measuring a little closer to 4.5 to 5.0., I am continually adding coffee grounds to quickly increase soil acidity.
I planted two kinds of blueberries. One was Patriot and the other was Jersey. Blueberries should be planted during the early springtime or just when the winter season is about to come to an end. Choose a part of your garden where your blueberry plants get access to sunlight for most of the day, but without it being harsh and full sunlight. Companion plant with strawberries and thyme. I planted the blueberries to the depth that they grew when they were at the nursery.
I decided to grow Fall Gold raspberries. I may grow red and black raspberries in the future, but for now, I’ll stick to the yellow ones. One reason is that (I am told) that the birds are less likely to eat them than they would the red or black raspberries.
These berries are a primocane type which means they bloom and fruit on first-year wood. Sometimes people refer to the primocane varieties as “everbearing” because they produce two crops on each biennial cane (unless pruned otherwise). The fall crop comes on current-season canes, at the top 1/3 of the canes. After overwintering, and if not pruned, a second crop will be produced in late spring to early summer at the bottom 2/3 of the canes. If I wanted a single heavier crop, I would prune all the canes to the ground every year before growth started in the spring. This way the new cans would produce fruit in late summer or fall that same year.
To plant yellow raspberries, I Choose a planting spot for my raspberries where they had plenty of room to grow and lots of sunlight. I only have three plants right now, but that number will grow every season, so I planted them on the south side of the garden. Plants tend to grow toward the sun so by putting them south of the garden, they will grow away from the garden and not toward it.
Because the raspberries are at the edge of the garden, I didn’t have to worry about breaking up hard ground. I worked some aged chicken manure into the top couple of inches the soil for a nitrogen boost. If I were limited on space, I would have put the raspberries on trellises, but since I am just growing a patch right now, I will let the raspberries grow naturally.
I dug a wide shallow hole for each bare root raspberry plant. If they would have been potted raspberries, I would have dug a hole big enough to accommodate the entire contents of the pot. Each raspberry plant was planted about 2 ½ feet apart.
I trimmed off damaged roots from the bare roots and spread them out. I would removed the plant from the pot and would have left the soil intact if I planted a potted plant. Prepare the raspberries for planting. Trim any damaged roots from bare root plants. Spread the roots out. Remove potted plants from the pots, leaving the soil intact around the roots.
I set each plant in a hole, bare roots spread out, into the soil. I didn’t plant the roots deep put left them less than two inches below the ground. I buried the roots and firmly pressed the soil to remove any air pockets. Potted plants should be planted so that the plant is buried no deeper than the surface of the soil in the pot.
I cut the canes to about six inches tall. I watered the raspberry plants just enough to settle the soil and mulched them to suppress weeds, hold in moisture and keep soil cool from the heat of the sun.
Now I have several berries that will soon offer me fruit from June until late summer and with a little maintenance work, they will do so year after year.
Now its your turn. Are you growing berries where you live? If so, what’s your favorite?