|Have a berry good time|
|Written by c|
|Tuesday, May 01, 2012 3:17 PM|
The first strawberry in my garden ripened Sunday, April 29.
Can you believe it? Fresh strawberries in April in Indiana? Believe me, that first one was berry good, and so were the two that followed a day later.
Berries are one thing I wouldn't be without. We grow strawberries, gooseberries, raspberries and blackberries, and if ever were to move, small fruit would be the first thing I'd plant at a new place.
Strawberries, by the way, usually ripen in late May and early June. So yes, this spring is an unusual one!
So how do you grow berries? All of these fruits grow well in full sun but will tolerate some shade. Good drainage is a must for the strawberries, whereas raspberries will tolerate wetter soil. All prefer good, rich soil.
Let's go in the order of ripening.
Strawberries aren't trouble-free. Birds love to eat them, too, and if the spring is a wet one, slugs, snails and weevils may invade the patch. But oh! There's nothing like a perfectly ripe strawberry to pop in your mouth.
So how do you grow strawberries? You need only a few plants, as each will set about a half-dozen runners and within a year or two, you'll have as many as you want. Mine are Sparkle but there are many good varieties, including ever bearers. These usually produce a heavier crop in June, when the standard strawberries (normally) bear, followed by smaller amounts all summer.
There are lots of methods, but essentially you plant your new strawberries in the spring, keep the flowers picked off the first year to encourage runners, and space the runners around the mother plant, so the plants end up five or six inches apart. Keep the weeds pulled, or mulch around the plants with straw. Once the ground freezes, mulch the whole bed with straw until spring; then pull aside, watch them bloom, and soon, enjoy your crop.
If you grow them in rows, with the runners making the new rows each spring, you can turn under or pull up the oldest mother plants as they will lose their zip after a year or two. Or, to make a new bed, you can tuck the runners into small pots of soil until they root, then snip the runner vine and plant where you want them.
Black raspberries bear as the strawberry crop wanes, and you can grow different varieties to lengthen the season. There's nothing easier to grow, though a little management is required to keep the thorny canes where you want them as each vine will tip root and create another plant if allowed.
Black raspberries fruit on one-year-old canes, after which those
canes should be removed. Meanwhile, new canes shoot up and must be
protected as you pick fruit from the older canes. If you want
additional plants, direct the tips of these canes into the ground in
late summer. After they are well rooted, clip the cane a couple of
inches from the new plant. Plants should be spaced two to three feet apart.
Unless you have lots of space and want to let the plants sprawl, some sort of supports are necessary. Raspberries can be trained to wires stretched between posts; some folks use a double row of wires and keep the berry plants in between them. That kind of arrangement makes it easier to cover the plants with netting should the birds discover how tasty they are.
As a kid, I was introduced to gooseberries by an older lady who had a garden about two blocks from my house. As sour as they can be before ripening, they become a sweet treat as they blush. The plants are small to medium bushes, pretty much trouble free, although the branch tips will root and create a thorny jungle if allowed. The Pixwell berries ripen about the time my Bristol black raspberries are slowing down – usually in July.
Meanwhile, the blackberries come into their own. While there's nothing tastier than wild blackberries, the varieties we have at home are thornless. They don't spread like the thorny wild ones, and tip root only with a great deal of encouragement. But the tall, stiff canes produce huge, tasty fruit in July.
As with black raspberries, the fruit is produced on one-year-old
canes which should be cut out afterwards. Some staking is a good
idea, and due to the size, plants should be spaced at least three feet apart.
Birds don't seem to bother the blackberries as much as the other berries, perhaps because other wild fruit is available.
Red and yellow raspberries
Most varieties available seem to be ever bearers, though they
don't bear all summer as do ever bearer strawberries. Rather, they
will bear in late June or early July on one-year-old canes and again
in the late summer and fall on new canes up till frost. Some folks advise mowing the plants down
after frost for a larger, slightly earlier harvest on new canes only the following year.
Birds LOVE the red raspberries and netting or other means of discouraging their forages is a necessity. But they don't seem to realize the yellow raspberries are ripe fruit!
Experts advise keeping red and yellow raspberries far away from black raspberries due to certain viruses.
Most of these don't tip root, but will send up new shoots several feet away from the original plant, increasing your stand of plants over time.
Another, different kind of red raspberry is common in the Aurora area, where it was imported in the 1800s from Japan. The husk raspberry has larger leaves and redder canes than common black raspberries, and, as named, has a husk over the developing berry until it ripens. The jewel-like red berries have a different flavor than other red raspberries, and will cling to each other when picked into a bowl. I'm told they make a beautiful jelly.
They ripen in July as well, right after black raspberries.
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