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Growing Berries

Growing Berries

“Dynamite comes in small packages”, they say, and such is the case with berries.  These little fruits are just packed with vitamins, minerals, anti-oxidants and a plethora of healing properties. Best of all, you don’t  have to wait too long for your first pickings as most berries will bear fruit within their first year after planting and, as most berries are self-pollinating,  even one plant in a pot on a sunny balcony will provide you with enough fruit for your early morning smoothie!

Lifestyle Home Garden offers you a range of berries, ready for the planting!

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The General Run Down

  • As most berries go dormant in winter, the best time to plant your new berries are either early autumn or early spring and fruiting will occur from summer to autumn.
  • Very important is a well-draining soil, very rich in humus, like the forest floors from which most of them hail. Ensure that the site has good drainage and work a generous amount of compost into the soil before planting.
  • It is essential to keep berry plants consistently moist, especially during hot summer days. Spread a thick layer of mulch around the plants to help retain moisture. Find out more about watering |HERE|
  • Fertilise berries with an organic general fertilizer like 2:3:2 or 6:3:4 in early spring and with an organic 3:1:5 fertiliser in early summer and early autumn.
  • Berries do not ripen after picking and should therefore be harvested periodically from the time they start ripening and used as soon as possible. The berry should come off the plant easily, without being yanked.
  • It is our feathered friends’ nature to feed on berries and investing in bird-netting to cover the plants, while fruiting, will ensure that you get your fair share.
  • Read more about companion planting |HERE| -this will help you in your gardening with berries!

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Blackberries and Raspberries

Blackberries and raspberries are both brambles.  They are easy to grow and will reward you with an abundant harvest.

Plant these plants in full sun to semi-shade – an ideal position would be full morning sun, with protection from the harsh afternoon sun.  Space the plants about 50cm apart in rows that run in an east-to-west direction to ensure that the plants receive sunlight on both sides. Rows should be about 1m apart. These berries can also be planted in large containers, but will need regular watering to ensure that they never dry out.

Plant the plants slightly deeper than they were planted in their growing bags and add a handful of bone meal to each plant when planting. If you have canine friends replace the bonemeal with Fertilis. Prune the cane down to about 50cm after planting, if needed.

Most blackberries and raspberries are rambling plants and need to be supported.  If you have space, train the canes on 2 to 3 lines of wire stretched between 2 poles.  They can also be trained against trellis or a fence.

The fruit of blackberries and raspberries are borne on canes that live for 2 years. In the first year the primary cane (primocane) will grow and produce leaves only. This cane will go dormant in winter and produce a secondary cane, called a floricane, in spring on which the first fruits will be carried from mid-summer onwards.  These canes die after bearing fruit and need to be pruned back completely.  Each year the plant will produce new primocanes, which will bear the next season’s fruit, ensuring a constant harvest.  When pruning, take care not to cut back the new canes – they are easy to distinguish from older, dark brown canes.

Youngeberries are a cross between blackberries and raspberries and they enjoy the same cultivation and soil requirements.

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Blueberries

Until the 1900’s foraging in the wild was the only way to find blueberries.  Thankfully these precious bushes with their scrumptious berries are now available for all to grow and enjoy!

Blueberries are deciduous shrubs that will bear fruit for up to 20 years.  With their striking autumn foliage and beautiful white spring blossoms, they are a stunning addition to any garden.  Although most blueberries on the market are self-fertile, a better quality and size fruit can be yielded by planting more than one variety.   Plant your bushes in early spring  in a position where they will receive morning sun and afternoon shade in well-prepared beds or pots. They will also do very well if grown under 50% shade cloth.

We have further reading about deciduous fruit trees |HERE|.

These berries are from the same sub-family as azaleas and camellias and, like them, prefer a well-draining, acidic soil.  Blueberry plants should therefore be planted in a soil mixture consisting of equal parts of peat, acid compost and riversand, or, alternatively, a ready-to-use plant mix for acid-loving  plants.  The perfect conditions are easier to achieve if the bush is planted in a pot.  Plant the bushes about 90cm apart in 2m wide rows if you are planting on a larger scale.  Blueberries make excellent hedge and screening plants.

Mulch the plants with a thick layer of acid compost, as their rootsystems are very shallow.

Feed blueberries with a water-soluble, acid plant food once a month until mid-summer in addition to the above recommended fertilising to promote prolific fruiting.

Blueberries only need pruning after 5 years to promote new growth and production.  Prune the bushes in late winter or early spring before new growth starts.  Prune by cutting away all dead, diseased and weak growth.  Remove purely vegetative and older growth and ‘lighten’ the centre of the bush to allow air and light to circulate more freely.  Also trim low-growing branches where fruit might touch the ground.

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Cranberries

Cranberries plants have a low growth habit, similar to strawberries and prefer to grow directly  in beds, where they can spread as a groundcover (about 40cm high) to their hearts’ content.  They can also be grown in containers, provided the pots are at least 50cm x 50cm in size.

They are from the same family as blueberries and also prefer an acidic environment; they therefore  can be planted in the same mix as used for blueberries and mulched with a generous layer of acid compost.  Space the plants 50cm apart in rows that are 50cm wide.

Make sure you keep these plants moist at all times – they do not tolerate drying out. Cranberries are very cold tolerant and don’t need protection from frost.

Cranberry bushes take about 3 years to start fruiting, but once established and well cared for, they will produce for most of your lifetime. Fruiting starts in late autumn, just before the winter sets in.

Feed them with a water-soluble, acid plant food once a month to promote prolific fruiting. Light pruning can be done from the third year onwards to control the new runners and encourage a more upright growth.

Goji Berries

Goji berries are the new kids on the block and, up to quite recently, were only privy to the real health fundi’s. They are borne on tall, rambling, deciduous shrubs that can be grown either in beds or containers.

Goji berries are tolerant to a wide range of conditions – they are more cold, heat and drought tolerant than the other berries.  They prefer a more sandy soil and will thrive in alkaline soil conditions, so will benefit from an addition of agricultural lime to the planting hole of pot at the time of planting.

Plants should be spaced 1m apart in rows 1.5m wide.  Stake the plants for the first 2 years to provide support.  Keep the new plants moist until well established. If you choose to plant Goji’s in containers, ensure they are big enough (± 50 x 50cm) and add some riversand to your potting mix.

Berries are produced from the second year onwards and can be harvested from late summer.

As with blueberries, only an occasional pruning is necessary to promote new growth and production, but cutting back the sprawling, lateral branches to about 1m in late winter or early spring will make it more manageable and bushy.  Cut out all dead branches as they appear.

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Cape Gooseberries

Cape Gooseberries are herbaceous perennial shrubs that produce an abundance of round, orange berries encased in a papery husk or cape.  They are grown as annuals in cold areas of the country.  They can either be grown from seed, sown in early spring, or from young plants – both options are available at Lifestyle Home Garden.

These yummy shrubs make good additions to garden beds and borders and are also very at home in pots and other containers.  Plant the bushes about 70cm apart in rows that are 2m apart if applicable. If planting in pots or tubs, these should be at least 50 x 50cm in size and have good drainage.  When planting, mix some riversand into your potting soil to avoid waterlogging.

Gooseberries are easy to grow in a position that receives full sun in very well-draining, slightly sandy soil.  They need less, but still consistent watering, than the other berry types and certainly don’t enjoy having their feet wet.

Gooseberries are also less frost tolerant and will need some frost protection in winter in cold areas of the country.

Prune the bushes back hard in early spring when all danger of frost has passed to encourage new, strong growth on which fruit will be borne.  Gooseberrries can fruit more than once a year, in which case a light pruning can be done again during summer after the first flush of berries.

The berries can be harvested from mid-summer until autumn.

Strawberries

We have a comprehensive blog all about growing strawberries, that you can visit by clicking |HERE|.

Get in touch! We’re Berry Keen to hear from you. 🍓

Email us at marketing@lifestyle.co.za if you have questions, and find us on Instagram @lifestylehomegarden and on Facebook  

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