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Growing Berries

We have a lovely nursery about 40 min away called Hilltop Gardens and they have a wonderful newsletter every week- here is this weeks tips on growing berries

Oscar continues on small fruit:

Raspberries:

Raspberries do not ship well or keep well – the fruit is just too soft.  The ones available at the grocery stores are ok, but to really experience raspberries you need to either buy local or (better yet) grow your own!

All raspberries prefer full sun, decent soil, and even moisture.  They are certainly not difficult to grow.  Most varieties reach 3-5’ tall, so there is no stooping to pick like there is with strawberries.

Raspberries come in red, purple, black, and yellow colors and each has advantages.

Fall producing red raspberries are by far the most popular and possibly the easiest to grow.  Plant them 3’ apart in rows at LEAST 6’ apart!  They will sucker wildly from underground and spread an unbelievable distance!  The canes are quite stiff and hold themselves erect without needing to be trellised.  In late winter or early spring, you just mow off the patch and allow new fruiting canes to emerge.  New canes will reach full height by July and be full of fruit!  Really!  (It sounds too easy!) To control any canes in the wrong place, just mow that area down again when the canes come up.

Yellow raspberries have the same needs and characteristics as the red, but the fruit is sweeter and softer.  Plan to use the fruit shortly after picking to keep them from spoiling.

Black and purple raspberries are a rarity in the market place.  The fruit is very perishable, so if you want them, you’d do best to grow your own.  Black raspberries have a distinct flavor, richer than that of red raspberries.  (Amy loves black raspberries!)   Black/purple raspberries have a different culture:  As their canes appear around the plant base, they will need to be pruned to about 30” in height.  This will result in a branched cane that will produce more fruit the FOLLOWING year.  After your harvest is complete in mid-summer, the finished-fruiting canes should be pruned to the ground.  (They will die anyway, so might as well get them out of the way.)  Black/purple raspberry canes tend to be more limber than other raspberries, so plan on tying them up on a fence or a trellis of some sort.

Our experience growing raspberries is that they are fairly trouble free.  Japanese beetle can be a problem, as can drought if you don’t water; but beyond that, if your soil is well prepped, you’re well on your way to fresh berries!

Blackberries:

The blackberry tribe consists of both thornless and VERY thorny varieties.  Most people are interested in the thornless kinds.  (duh.)  Thornless blackberries tend to be limber and appreciate being tied to a fence or trellis.  The yield can be incredible!

Space blackberries 6’ apart in rows 6’ apart.  Blackberries do well here and if kept mulched and supported can be a pleasure to pick and maintain.  After the fruiting season is over, remove the now-done fruiting canes, cutting all the way to the ground.  The younger canes will mature and bear the next year.

Raspberries and blackberries can be frozen as picked.  Usually the fruit is clean enough without any washing, so they freeze nicely in 1 quart packages and are easy to pour out as needed.  We just pick into zip-lock bags, making sure to not leave them in the sun!

Figs:

There has been a lot of interest in figs.  Some varieties are hardy here and one plant can fill a family’s needs.  Figs do need to be sited carefully for best results.  Often figs are winter-killed right back to the ground, but re-grow quickly and produce a nice fall crop.  By siting them on the south or west side of a building, a wall, or substantial privacy fence, the figs will grow faster because of the added heat from the “backdrop”.  Faster growth equals an earlier and heavier crop.

A fig tree can grow to be 8’ tall and wide over the summer.  Figs love rich soil and even moisture.  Typically there are no problems; however, I have had “issues” with a gourmet possum that became a poacher.

Rhubarb:

Rhubarb isn’t even a fruit; it’s a veggie that we eat like it’s a fruit.

Rhubarb needs very rich soil that is kept evenly moist but not swampy.  Rhubarb is suited for areas with cooler summers than we normally get, but it can be grown here, just not as easily as in Minneapolis!  The best place to grow rhubarb here in Missouri is on the east side of a building or substantial privacy fence where it will get full morning sun and then be shaded from the hot afternoon sun. 

Rhubarb does yield well so you don’t need too many plants.  For those who don’t know – the leaves are quite toxic!  You eat only the stems!  Rhubarb is usually picked in the spring when it is the most tender,  but you can eat it all summer long.  (We’ve even harvested it just before the fall killing freezes hit; to put in the freezer.)

Rhubarb is easily prepared to freeze or for use.  Just wash the stems; chop off the leaf and the very bottom and then chop up the rest into pieces.  Bag and freeze, then use it whenever the rhubarb bug strikes you.

Blueberries:

We did a whole discourse on blueberries some time back (last year?), but the info is posted on our web-site www.hilltop-gardens.com under Variety Spotlight.  Check it out.  Or ask us to email the archived newsletter to you.

Maybe you’ll try a fruiting something this year? 

Have a blessed week and thanks again to all who made our Open House loads of fun!

Amy & Oscar

Please check out their website and if you live close enough stop in and see them. GREAT folks!

me- I totally forgot they had an open house- sigh but will definitely be going out later on in the season when things are available to plant. We had a lot of rain yesteryday  YAYAYAY! I am thanking Heavenly Father for the moisture that is filling our wells, lakes, streams, etc. It is desperately needed.  I am so tired of all the whining and complaining about the weather around here and on facebook-   its just an temporary inconvenience! Without the snow, ice and rain we would be as dry as a soda cracker this summer and plants, crops, animals and people will suffer.  Instead be grateful!

off my soapbox and off to get my hair(s) cut today  hope your day is amazing!

hugs

Gwen

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