Beginner’s Guide to Growing Berries
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. It often has last year’s woody growth attached above ground. Bare root berry plants are usually dormant 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?
Berry plants mature in a variety of sizes and will have different space requirements. A 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.
Where to Plant Raspberries and Blackberries?
Blackberries and raspberries are considered brambles, they 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. Plan for each berry plant to grow at least 6-8’ wide.
When planting blackberries and raspberries plant them in separate areas of the garden. When these two types of berries are planted in the same location they 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.
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.
Where to Plant Blueberries?
Blueberries stay in one place and do not colonize or spread like blackberries and raspberries. Plant blueberries in a full sun location that receives 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. In cold climates that have many freeze and thaw cycles overwintering blueberries in containers will be challenging. If you choose to plant your blueberries in containers and are located in a cold climate 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.
Where to Plant Strawberries?
Strawberries require the least amount of growing space of all the berries mentioned in this guide. Strawberries can be planted in a garden area 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 to be grown in.
Strawberries need full sun 8 hours a day or more. They also require soil that drains well. Appropriate spacing of 12-15” between roots is also necessary to keep your strawberry plants healthy.
How to Plant Berries
Timing is important when planting bare root berry plants like Raspberries, Blueberries or Blackberries. Keep bareroot berry plants dormant prior to planting. When Holland Bulb Farms sends berry plants they are shipped in a cup with soil. In order to keep the roots healthy prior to planting you will need to provide them water.
Refrigerate dormant bareroot plants that don’t have soil by storing them in a refrigerator. Soak the roots of bare root berry plants for 3-5 hours before planting to restore moisture.
Soil Type and Planting Depth
Good drainage is important for all types of berry plants. Strawberries and blueberries are a bit more finicky when it comes to the soil they are planted in. To encourage a healthy root system amend your soil to make sure it has the proper drainage, nutrients, and PH level. Healthy roots result in healthy fruits.
Planting Bareroot Raspberries, Blueberries and Blackberries
Planting depth is important when planting berry plants. 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 to plant the bare root berries in should be at least 18-24” wide and the same depth as the roots are long. The crown of the berry plant 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.
Planting Bareroot Strawberries
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 not 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 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 Raspberry and Blackberry Plants
Pruning on raspberry and blackberry plants will need 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.
Maintaining Strawberry Plants
Strawberry plants spread by runners. For the healthiest patch of strawberries, thin out any weak runners that form. During the growing season remove weeds that are growing among the strawberry plants. In fall apply a layer of mulch such as straw to the strawberry plants to provide protection for winter.
Maintaining Blueberry Plants
Blueberry plants don’t require the same level of pruning that raspberries and blackberries do. Remove dead and dying branches, stems, and leaves from blueberry plants. Blueberries need acidic soil to thrive. The most important maintenance requirement will be testing the soil to make sure the PH isn’t too high. If the PH is too high amend the soil to help lower the PH. Elemental sulfur for plants that like acidic soil is the best product to use to make your soil more acidic.
Basics of Growing Berries
Growing berries does require work to make sure the berries are healthy and productive. The reward is 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 it later in the season. Plant multiple types of berries to increase your berry harvest. 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!