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For Perennial Fruit Gardens, Berries Are the Way to Grow
Hardy, easy to cultivate, resistant to disease, and quick to yield, berry bushes are perfect for just about any garden environment. Whether you have a large lot in which to plant fruit-bearing hedges, or a sunny balcony that would be perfect for hanging baskets, there’s a berry plant that’s ideal for your home. Best of all, if you choose a perennial species, you’ll only have to put in a bit of maintenance work now and then in order to enjoy a beautiful, bountiful harvest year after year.
*Note: when it comes to choosing a berry bush or shrub for your garden, most birds and animals are wired to regard blue, purple, and red fruits as “ripe”, so if you’ve had any problems with squirrels, raccoons, or voracious birds, you might wish to consider a variety that bears white, green, or yellow fruits instead. The wild foragers will assume that the fruit is unripe, and won’t decimate your crop!
Keep in mind that most berry bushes and shrubs prefer acidic soils, so it’s important to do a soil pH test to determine whether your soil needs any amendments before establishing the bushes: it’s better to test ahead of time than risk disappointment from a failed crop later.
Tart and delicious, raspberries pop up in wild spaces all over the world. They’re as common in woodlands as they are in roadside ditches, and seem to be able to thrive in even the harshest conditions. Although there are a few different species, depending on the country in which they happen to grow, they’re all very, very tasty, and easy to grow. You can grow raspberries from seed, but they’ll take a couple of years before they start to produce fruit—it’s far easier to buy bushes from a local garden centre if you’d like to start harvesting as soon as possible.
Raspberries like a lot of sun, and well-drained soil that’s a bit on the acidic side, but make sure that you don’t plant them in an area that had nightshade plants (tomatoes, eggplant, potatoes) or flowering bulbs in previous years, as those plants can carry a wilting fungal disease that thrives on fruit- and nut-bearing plants.
This fruit is one that nearly any gardener in any zone can plant with hardly any effort whatsoever. It’s cold-hardy, deer-resistant, as beautiful as it is delicious, and comes in several different varieties to suit anyone’s taste and aesthetic preferences. Like most other berries, currants prefer a slightly acidic soil, but will grow just fine in neutral soil as well; just make sure it’s well-drained, cool, and moist, and keep a couple of inches of mulch around the roots at all times. Currants can thrive in partial shade, which is ideal for urban gardens and heavily treed spaces, and will start bearing after 2 to 3 years.
Like golden raspberries, white currants aren’t decimated by birds and other animals the same way that red or black ones are, as the pale flesh registers as unripe to animals on the lookout for lunch.
Who doesn’t love blueberries? These luscious little blue beads have a lovely mix of tartness and sweetness, and are as amazing raw as they are cooked. You can scatter them on your cereal, add them to smoothies, bake them into pies and muffins, or even add them to savory dishes like salads or quinoa bowls.
When it comes to planting them in your own garden, it’s important to plant a couple of different species so they can cross-pollinate: this will encourage your berries to develop larger fruit (and more abundant yields), and if you plant varieties that mature at different times of the season, you can enjoy these luscious berries for a good 2 months every summer. Choose a bright, sunny spot for your plants, and ensure that the soil has plenty of peat moss worked into it. Blueberries enjoy soil that’s quite acidic—pH 4.0 to 5.5 is ideal. If your soil is a bit too alkaline, you can amend it with sulfur the season before you plan to plant your berries, and all should be well.
There are a couple of different species that are referred to as serviceberries, but the two most common ones are the Saskatoon berry (Amelanchier alnifolia), and the Juneberry (Amelanchier canadensis). Both are flowering shrubs that are native to North America, with the former ranging from Alaska through half of Canada, and into the northwestern USA, and the latter trickling down along the eastern coast from Newfoundland down to Alabama.
I’ve only had Saskatoon berries, but was blown away by their flavour, which is sweeter and “nuttier” than blueberries. They like to grow in soil that’s fairly pH neutral, but be sure that you don’t plant them anywhere near juniper bushes, as they can cause a rust disease on one another. One-year-old bushes are best planted in springtime, and tend to do best on sunny, east-facing slopes.
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