Beginner Gardeners | Container Gardens | Edible Gardening

The Beginner’s Guide to Gardening with Berries

By | February 20, 2020


You’re daydreaming of your own berry patch this summer. This berry patch is filled with juicy raspberries, blueberries, strawberries or blackberries. With your own berry patch, you can create jams, jellies, pies, desserts and even use them in savory dishes. Before your berry patch dream becomes a reality, it is helpful to have a plan. With this plan, you will need information on the different types of berries you can grow, growing conditions and the level of maintenance required to have a healthy and happy berry patch.

Types of Berry Bushes and Plants to Grow in your Garden

The most popular types of berries to grow in your garden are strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, and raspberries. Even though they all have the word berry in their name their growing requirements and maintenance requirements vary.

When to Plant Berries?

Berry plants can be grown from bareroot or from a started plant grown in a container. Bare root berry plants are popular for spring planting. A bare root berry plant is the root portion of the plant that often has last year’s woody growth attached above ground. Bare root berry plants are commonly in a state of dormancy when shipped or purchased from a store. However, later in spring, you may notice some leaf growth on the woody portion of the berry plant starting to form. Most berry plants are cold-weather hardy and can be planted in spring when your ground is workable, and not too saturated.


Where to Plant Berries?

Since there are size variances as well as potential disease problems associated with planting different berries together, each berry will have a different answer to this question. One growing condition that affects site selection is how much light berry plants need. All berry plants do require a full sun location that receives 8+ hours of direct sun per day.

Blackberries and Raspberries are considered brambles, which colonize and spread. These types of berries need a considerable amount of room. Each plant will need at least 3-4’ between the next berry plant, therefore plan for each berry plant to grow at least 6-8’ wide. If you are planning to plant blackberries and raspberries at your property you will need to plant them in separate areas as these berries planted in the same location can spread diseases to each other. Spacing is important for berry plants as fungal problems can occur if not enough space is allowed between plants. Therefore, making sure you have adequate space between plants is important before you plan your berry patch.

Blueberries stay in one place and do not colonize or spread like blackberries and raspberries. Therefore, you have more options regarding planting location. Blueberries like full sun 6-8+ hours per day and require soil that is acidic to grow the best.

Blueberries can be planted in containers if your space is limited. Take note if you live in a cold climate that has many freeze and thaw cycles it will be difficult to overwinter your blueberries in containers. If you choose to plant your blueberries in containers and are located in a cold climate you can bury the pots in winter to protect the roots being damaged by the freeze and thaw cycles. This may be an attractive option if you live in a cold climate and a climate that does not have acidic soil, as you can add a soil blend and fertilizer that is specific to plants that need acidic soil.


Strawberries require the least amount of growing space of all the berries mentioned in this guide. Strawberries can be planted in a garden area such as near your vegetable garden. They can also be grown in hanging baskets or strawberry planters. A strawberry planter is a pot with small pockets on the outside that are meant for strawberry’s to be grown in. Strawberries need full sun 8 hours or more, and soil that drains well. Appropriate spacing of 12-15” between roots is also necessary to keep your strawberry plants healthy.

Good drainage is important for all types of berry plants. Strawberries and blueberries are a bit more finicky when it comes to the soil you are planting them in. To encourage a healthy root system that will encourage a healthy plant with lots of fruit you may need to amend your soil to make sure it has the proper drainage, nutrients and PH level.


How to Plant Berries

If you are planting bare root berry plants like Raspberries, Blueberries or Blackberries timing is important. If you are not able to plant your bare root berry plants right upon receiving them, you will want to be sure to keep them dormant and prevent them from drying out. When Holland Bulb Farms sends berry plants they are shipped in a cup with soil to keep the roots healthy prior to planting you will need to provide them water.

If your bare roots are not sent in a container with soil you will want to refrigerate the roots prior to planting in order to prevent them from drying out. When you are ready to plant your bare root raspberries, blackberries or blueberries you will want to soak the roots in water for 3-5 hours before planting to restore any lost moisture.

Good drainage is important for all types of berry plants. Strawberries and blueberries are a bit more finicky when it comes to the soil you are planting them in. To encourage a healthy root system that will encourage a healthy plant with lots of fruit you may need to amend your soil to make sure it has the proper drainage, nutrients and PH level.

When you are ready to plant your bare root raspberries, blackberries and blueberries planting depth is important. Generally, bareroot berries from Holland Bulb Farms have root systems that when spread-out can be as wide as 12” and that deep. Therefore, the hole you dig to plant the bare root berries in should be at least 18-24” wide and the same depth as the roots are long. You will notice the crown of the berry plant which is where the roots connect to the stem. The crown should be slightly above ground level. If the crown is planted too low this can lead to crown rot, which eventually will cause the plant to die.


Raspberry and raspberries can also be grown on a trellis or support structure, as this can make it easier to get fruit off the canes, as well as maintain your plants.

Strawberries are most commonly grown from roots or a started plant in a pot. Strawberries can also be grown from seed but take longer to mature and require a bit more work. When growing strawberries from a bare root the roots must dry out. If you are not able to plant your strawberry roots upon receiving them place the roots in a refrigerator prior to planting. Bareroot strawberries do not have a woody stem on them like blueberries and brambles like raspberries and blackberries. Identify the crown of the plant, which is where the roots come together, and eventually, top growth will form. The crown should be at or above ground level. Dig the planting hole 1.5 times the width of the roots when the roots are spread out. When planting strawberries spread the roots out in the planting hole.


How to Care for Berry Plants

In order to have the most fruitful and healthy berry plants and bushes, they do require care year in and year out. Berry plants require consistent moisture to be productive and healthy. Having a plan and the resources to provide water for your berry plants throughout the spring, summer and fall months is important.

Pruning on raspberry and blackberry plants needs to be done annually. In spring remove any small, weak or old canes so that the strongest and healthiest canes have the energy to produce fruit.

Strawberry plants spread by runners. For the healthiest patch of strawberries, you will want to thin out any weak runners that form. During the growing season remove weeds that are growing among your strawberry plants. In fall apply a layer of mulch such as straw to the strawberry plants to provide protection for winter.

Blueberry plants don’t require the same level of pruning that raspberries and blackberries do. If you notice any dead or dying branches in your blueberry plant it is best to remove these branches. Since blueberries need acidic soil to thrive, the biggest maintenance requirement will be testing your soil to make sure the PH isn’t too high. If the PH is too high you will need to amend the soil to help lower the PH. If you are unsure what to add to your soil, you will want a product such as elemental sulfur that states it is for acid-loving plants.


Basics of Berry Planting

Growing berries does require work to make sure the berries are healthy and productive, but the rewards are fresh-picked berries from your garden. There are many varieties of raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, and strawberries to choose from. Some varieties produce fruit early in the season, while others may produce later in the season. For the most bountiful harvest of berries planting multiple varieties if your space allows will help yield the most fruit at different times of the growing season. Planting multiple berry plants in an area can also help to increase your harvest as pollinators have flowers to pollinate in nearby areas. Holland Bulb Farms has a nice selection of berry plants to get your first berry patch started!

Need Gardening Help?

If you need any help with gardening or if you have plant-related questions or concerns, feel free to reach out to Jenny San Filippo. She can provide you with the knowledge and tools needed to succeed with your next project!

Contact Jenny

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