Growing an abundance of berries

Strawberries growing in the garden

WORDS Linda Brennan

Beries often elicit the most romantic and intense cravings in us. For many people, just thinking of berries brings back wonderful memories of desserts with ice-cream, thick gooey jam and warm berry puddings. Do you love fresh raspberries, blueberries and blackberries? Perhaps you recall childhood joys of picking mulberries, only to find your clothes, face and hands were stained purple from the fruit?

We’ve tended to lose the skills of growing berries as our gardens become dominated by hedges and shady trees, but I encourage you to give it a go. There’s a berry for every garden, no matter how large or small and whether you are renting with a balcony or have a garden bed to fill.

You can grow tree berries such as elderberries and mulberries; you can plant canes such as raspberries and blackberries; or grow berries on bushes and as small perennial plants like blueberries and strawberries that are suited to container growing. Let’s look at a selection of each so you can choose your ideal berry. But to start, choose a berry you love to eat. It’s going to need a bit of TLC, so your favourites are worth it.

Tree berries

Think about your space. A tree berry will look gorgeous and will perform well in the ground. A weeping, grafted black mulberry makes a sensational feature tree, usually about 2-metres tall.

White King Shahtoot mulberries are a medium-sized tree with pendulous foliage that provide neat hidey spots for children with an inbuilt food source and no staining! They are deciduous, so will allow light into your winter garden.

Elderberries (Elderflowers) provide edible flowers and fruit, but the black fruit must be cooked before eating. Trim them to create a screening shrub. They flower profusely.

Panama berries are a fast-growing medium tree, suited to warm temperate and tropical areas. The fruits are held on a long stem and taste like caramel. They have a short life, but reward you with lots of fruit.

If you are keen on bush tucker, the orange berry (Glycosmis) gives small juicy fruits tasting like intense oranges. They are easy to grow shrubs in a warm spot, with full or part sun. Fruits are formed in winter to late spring. Grab a handful for all your Vitamin C needs.

Cane fruit

When choosing cane fruits such as raspberries, blackberries, boysenberries or youngberries, ask for a thornless variety, and plant them into rich soil in a confined spot such as an old bath.

This prevents suckers (runners) in the garden and ensures a painless harvest. Native raspberries want to take over the world, so confine them too! The sweetest is Rubus probus, also known as the Atherton Raspberry, but it comes with thorns.

European type raspberries can be purchased in several varieties so that you can harvest from early summer to autumn. Many cane fruits will die down in winter, when you cut away the old canes. After pruning, heap over manure fertilisers and wait until spring. Provide a trellis or fence to tie them to and harvest will be much easier.

Thornless youngberries and thornless blackberries are vigorous bushes but reward with loads of fruit. Tie them to a trellis for a more compact habit.

Shrubs and small plants

Blueberries are the berry fruit of choice for wet spots with acidic soil. No wet spot in your garden? Growing them in a pot with a deep saucer will keep those roots damp. Large pots are needed, so transplant them from the small nursery pots into pots at least 30–50 centimetres across. Add a little sulphur and some peat moss to your potting mix for acid conditions.

Strawberries are the ultimate in easy care plants for small spaces and pots. You can expect two main harvests per year and a few berries through the warmer months in between. Cut and re-plant the long new plantlets in late summer to autumn. Feed them monthly in spring to autumn with animal manures.

Growing care

All berries benefit from the application of sulphate of potash. Berry production needs plenty of this nutrient. Use seaweed solution foliar feeds during the growing season to fight fungal infections.

Fertilise the beds in winter if plants are deciduous. Manure fertilisers are excellent. Be generous in your application.

Evergreen trees and shrubs respond to regular fertilising. Add manure fertilisers during active growth, flowering and fruiting phases.

To read the full story, grab a copy of Sprout Magazine Summer 2017 issue at your local stockists or online, posted directly to your door.




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