|Beautiful berries can be grown on your own
Erik’s Gardening Tips
For the average garden, a few blueberry bushes are wonderful. They are attractive and almost carefree ornamentals as well as providing a tasty treat.
The only requirement is to make sure you have acid soil, or add soil amendments and fertilizer to make your planting area an acid soil type. What you get for your labor is a long living berry producing bush.
They are showy at all seasons, too. Spring displays small urn shaped creamy white flowers in clusters. These yield the crop in summer and while ripening, the blueberries are showy as well. Fall foliage turns vivid autumnal tints in yellows, oranges and reds and winter has twig color in greens and bronzes.
There is a new pink blueberry coming. They taste the same as the typical blueberries, but have added color in pink. Additionally, the bare stems in winter are redder and showier.
For those that do not want to take the trouble of making the planting soil acid, you can try honeyberries. These are relatives of the honeysuckles (both vines and shrubs). These are shrubs with a decidedly nonornamental character. But the fruits are dark blue, elongated beer keg shaped and taste just like blueberries.
You can plant these anywhere in sun to shade. They mature anywhere from 3 to 6 feet and as wide. They bloom very early in late winter, very early spring and fruit in May or so.
They are known botanically as Lonicera caerulea, or Lonicera caerulea kamchatica and come in several varieties. Choose the varieties that bloom and ripen later. This is because they are very cold hardy coming from Siberia and very northern Japan so any warm spells bring them into growth. Fall is an excellent time to plant these.
Managing a blackberry bush
Almost everybody loves the cane type berries (blackberries, raspberries, boysenberries, etc.). Marion, Olallie, etc. are varieties of blackberries.
What people do not like is the amount of work needed to keep a berry patch tidy. If done in the regular old way, you tie up 1-year-old canes to wires (yes, you will need to have staking and wiring in your rows). These fruit in their second year. Meanwhile, you have new growth from the base also growing when the second year canes are fruiting so these must be tied up.
You need to allow for space between all the canes and must cut out excess growth. They are thorny so care is needed when you do any work around the plants. After fruiting, the older canes that have fruited and all weak growth is cut out so there is space for the tied up 1-year canes for the coming season to produce.
If you have any type of busy life, you just won’t have much time
do all this and the berry patch gets away from you.
Much better is to choose summer and fall ripening varieties and do you maintenance thus. Since these fruit on 1-year-old canes, all you need to do is allow these 1-year canes to grow and fruit in summer or fall, then mow the entire row, patch down after it is finished producing in late fall or winter.
New canes grow from the roots in spring and you just tie them to
wires and that is all the maintenance you have to do. Much time
is saved and you can use that to enjoy the harvest, or cook with the berries (cobblers, pies, jams, etc.) as well as enjoy them fresh.
You don’t get that first spring crop, but you have also saved a huge amount of time and effort by this method and can enjoy the summer or fall crop.
Erik Hagiwara-Nagata is the owner of Garden Delights Nursery in Penngrove. He can be reached at 665-9112 or www.hanascape.com.