Blueberries have many healthful properties and for this reason they have been increasing in popularity in home gardens. Many people have been hesitant to grow them because of the requirement for the soil to be acidic. However, with the development of the Bushel and Berry series of compact plants that can be grown in containers, growing blueberries is now easier.
Blueberries in the Garden:
Blueberries grow best in moist, well-drained soils, high in organic matter. They cannot tolerate “wet feet”, so be sure that the location is in a well-draining site. The soil pH must be between 4.5 and 5.0. Prior to planting blueberries, amend the soil, so that these conditions are met. You can test your soil pH with a home test kit or send your soil to the University of Wisconsin Soil lab for testing. You can find information about testing at https://uwlab.soils.wisc.edu/soil-samples/lawn-garden/
Increase the organic matter in the soil by adding peat moss or aged wood chips. If acidification of the soil is needed (pH test above 5.0), add sulfur to the top 4” of the soil 3 months before planting. If the pH is above 6.0, more than 3 months may be needed to adjust it to the proper level. Monitoring and adjusting the pH of the soil will be something that will need to occur over the lifetime of the plants.
Blueberries in a Container:
Blueberries grown in containers still have the same requirements for soil; high organic matter and pH of 4.5-5.0. However, it’s easier to monitor and amend the soil in a container. Plant in a container that is at least 16” in diameter.
Plant the berries in full sun, where they will receive 6-8 hours a day. Less than that will result in reduced or non-existent berry production and/or reduced quality of the berries. Plants should be spaced 3-4 feet apart in the garden.
Due to their shallow root systems, blueberries are sensitive to water fluctuations. They require 1-2 inches of water per week. Less than that while they are fruiting, will adversely affect berry size and quality. The flower buds for the following year are formed in late August and September, so it’s important to provide adequate water during this period of time or fruit production for the next year will be affected. The best way to deliver water is with a soaker hose.
Remove the flowers in the first year and second year to stimulate growth and to help the plant get established. For the first three years, blueberries do not require pruning unless a branch is broken or damaged. In the fourth year, plants should be pruned in March while they are dormant. Thin interior branches to allow more light into the center of the plant or any dead or spindly branches.
Starting in the 5th year, remove a few of the older branches to force new shoot growth from the crown. Flower buds are produced at the shoot tips on the previous year’s tips. Blueberry bushes tend to produce smaller berries when they are overloaded with fruits, so it’s important not to have too many flower buds. Keeping the bushes pruned properly will prevent this problem.
Fertilize with an acid fertilizer each spring and fall, such as Espoma Holly-tone or Espoma Soil Acidifier. Always follow package instructions for fertilizer application and be careful not to over-fertilize. Make gradual additions of acidifier so as not to stress the plant.
Apply 2-4 inches of mulch over the roots of blueberries. This helps with weed control, retains moisture, keeps the roots cool and adds to the organic matter content of the soil over time. Apply new mulch each year to keep 2-4 inches of mulch on the plants at all times.
If birds are an issue, apply bird netting over the plants to deter them.
Blueberries do not ripen evenly, so they should be picked at least once a week. Ripe berries are a uniform blue throughout. Harvest the berries only when they are dry and store at 32-35 degrees for up to two weeks.
Mulch plants before winter. If growing plants in containers, move the containers to an unheated garage or bury the pots in the soil and mulch over.
Even though many blueberries are self-pollinating, it is usually best to plant more than one variety for best fruit set and size.
Good hardiness and productivity
Largest berries on the market
Early to mid-season ripening
Large, firm fruits
Early to mid-season ripening
Medium to large, firm fruits
Vigorous, upright plants
Vigorous, upright plants
Bushel and Berry Blueberry Varieties:
Blueberry Glaze (Self-Pollinating)
Berries turn yellow, to red to dark blue
Berries good fresh or for cooking
2-3 ft. tall, berries ripen in July
Jelly Bean (Self-Pollinating)
Foliage is unique with elongated leaves with reddish tints
1-2 ft. tall, berries ripen late July to early August
Berries taste like blueberry jelly
Peach Sorbet (Self-Pollinating)
Leaves are peach, pink, orange, green
1.5-2 ft. tall, berries ripen mid-July
Tropical flavored, sweet berries
2 sets of berries, Ripens in Early July and fall crop ripens in October
Leaves dark green turn red in winter
4-5 ft. tall
Pink Icing (Self-Pollinating)
Spring foliage is shades of pink, blue and green, turn turquoise in winter
3-4 ft. tall, berries ripens in mid-July
Blackberries are very similar to raspberries, and grown the same way. Plants consist of thorny canes that grow perennially and bear fruit over the summer. Blackberries are either trailing, semi-trailing, or erect and require different spacing depending on the variety. Some people trellis trailing or semi-trailing varieties, but it isn’t always necessary. Allow fruit to fully ripen before harvesting.
Blackberries are self-fertile meaning the pollen of one cultivar can pollinate flowers of the same cultivar. Flowers must be pollinated to produce fruit, which about 90-95% of pollination is done by bees. Plant far away from wild blackberries which may carry viruses.
Blackberries (and raspberries) are known as brambles. All brambles have a perennial root system which produces canes that are either biennial (grow for 2 years) or annual. During the first growing year, the canes are vegetative, meaning they bear no fruit. These canes are known as primocanes. During the second growing season, the canes bear fruit. Following fruiting, these 2 year old canes die. At the same time, the plant is also producing new primocanes. Most blackberries will grow and bear fruit for ten years, if they are given proper care.
Plant in full sun with good air circulation. Avoid areas that have been planted in tomatoes, peppers, eggplant or potatoes or other crops that are susceptible to Verticillium Wilt within the last 3-4 years. The soil must be well-drained, as they do not tolerate wet, soggy soil.
The soil should be high in organic matter, with a pH of between 5.5-6.5. Plants should be spaced 3 feet apart within the rows and rows should be 6 feet apart. Apply weed free mulch after planting to help retain moisture, prevent weeds and keep the roots cool. Plants require 2 inches of water per week when in fruit. Fertilize plants in spring when new growths starts and again after harvest. Use a 10-10-10 fertilizer such as Espoma Garden Food.
When the first year canes (primocanes) reach about 36 inches, cut the tip off to induce branching. Immediately after the plants produce fruit, remove floricanes at ground level and burn. This is important to prevent the spread of disease. In early spring, remove any dead or damaged canes.
Triple Crown (Self-Pollinating)
Triple Crown is named as such because of 3 attributes, vigor, productivity and flavor. This is a thornless variety with large, firm fruits. Fruit ripens around July 10 to August 10.
Plants attain a mature size of 4 – 5′ tall and 3 – 4′ wide.
Baby Cakes (Self-Pollinating) Bushel and Berry Variety
This is a dwarf, thornless variety that is perfect for containers. 3-4 ft. tall
Strawberries can be grown in the garden or in various types of containers. There are three types of berries, Junebearing, Everbearing and Day-Neutral. Junebearing produce one large group of fruit each season, typically in June. Day Neutral produce fruit throughout the entire growing season and Everbearing produce two crops during the year, one early in the season, in June and one later in summer. Strawberries require a relatively small amount of garden space. Each plant may produce up to one quart of fruit when grown in rows, beds or even in pots. Strawberry varieties all ripen about 30 days after bloom.
Strawberries can tolerate most soil types. However, a good well drained loam soil is the best. Plant in full sun. Avoid shaded areas, areas of standing water and those areas prone to spring frost. Do not grow strawberries for five or more consecutive years on the same site or where tomatoes, potatoes, peppers or eggplant have been recently grown because of concerns over the spread of the disease Verticillium.
Junebearing: These varieties produce fruits during the second year of planting. June-bearing strawberries produce a large crop lasting 2-4 weeks, in late spring early summer. Plants usually begin flowering in early May. June-bearing strawberries normally produces the largest yield per season, in a short period of time. If you want enough berries for freezing and processing choose June Bearers.
1st Year Care – Set Plants 1 to 2 Feet Apart Within The Row
The objective the first year is to establish a good row of plants. Approximately 30 days after planting, the plant will produce flowers. These flowers should be pinched or cut off. Do not pull them off. Removing the flowers prohibits the plants from fruiting and as a result, encourages more runners earlier in the season.
These runners need to be pulled into the row and then they “peg” or grow roots and become new plants. To properly peg a new plant you may have to help it by digging through the straw mulch and press the runner tip into the ground. The runner will only root when it comes in contact with the soil. These new plants are what will produce fruit next year. You should try to place a new plant every 6″ in every direction in a matted row that is 12 to 18 inches wide. Allowing plants to be closer than 6″ will crowd the plants which will result in smaller fruit. Remove all new runners that form after mid-August, as these will not have time to peg and produce a good plant.
In the late fall, after 3 hard frosts or a hard freeze, you should cover your planting with a weed-free straw mulch. This protects the plants from extreme winter cold as well as moderating the temperature to stabilize the plants environment.
Second Year – 1st Fruiting Year
Remove the straw mulch in early spring when growth starts. Do not allow plants to turn yellow under the straw. Remove the straw by parting it slightly allowing for a narrow row 12 to 18 inches wide to grow up through the mulch. Keeping the parted straw up against the narrow row will allow the fruit to sit on a straw bed while ripening. This will create a barrier to protect the fruit from splashing dirt. This is important as many of the fruit rots come from the soil. The thick straw mulch between rows will also help in weed control.
Fertilizing: The first season after new growth starts (when runners start) side dress with 1 lb. per 100 square feet. In Mid-August side dress with 1 lb. per 100 square feet. Feed with a 12-12-12 fertilizer.
2nd year and subsequent years after, broadcast with 2-3 lbs. of fertilizer at renovation and in Mid-August side dress with 1 lb. per 100 square feet. Feed with a 12-12-12 fertilizer.
Make sure fertilizer doesn’t get lodged on the leaves, as it will burn the leaves. Sweep any fertilizer off the leaves.
A crucial step in maintaining a productive berry patch is renovating. This is a 3 steps process performed each year as soon after harvest as possible that rejuvenates your planting and is essential if you want to have a long lived productive patch.
Step 1: Set the mower blade on your lawn mower at a setting that will remove the leaves from the strawberry plant but won’t damage the crowns. Trimming off the old leaves will decrease the disease problems for the rest of the summer. If this step is delayed and runners begin to grow, skip this step. Waiting too long to mow off the leaves will damage next year’s yield.
Step 2: Lightly fertilize your patch with a balanced 12-12-12 fertilizer at 2 lbs. per 100 square feet.
Step 3: Till between the rows narrowing down the row to 10 to 12 inches. Thinning or narrowing the row will keep your plants healthy and productive by allowing more sunlight and airflow throughout the row.
After renovation, keep your planting free of weeds and mulch with straw in the fall. Repeat each year for many years of great strawberries. Once you see a significant decrease in yield from one year to the next it is time to replant.
Everbearing: Two crops are produced that together generally equal the quantity of that produced in the single harvest of the Junebearers. The overall berry size of Everbearers is smaller than Junebearers.
Day-Neutral: These varieties can potentially produce flower buds regardless of the daylength, so the fruit can be harvested throughout the summer and fall. The summer crop can be affected by high temperatures, as they do not initiate flower buds at temperatures above 85 degrees.
Everbearing and Day-Neutral strawberries should be planted 6″ in between each plant.
The first year, remove all the blossoms that appear during the first 2-6 weeks of growth. This allows the plants to become better established before trying to produce fruit. After removal of the first blossoms, put straw mulch around the plants to provide a bed for the fruit to lie on. Allow flowers to remain on the plants as soon as the plants seem well established. Fruit will follow approximately 30 days after blossom.
Since plants have already been planted 6″ apart you should remove the runners that form. This produces larger single plants for higher yields. Do not allow your bed to become overpopulated.
The second year Day-Neutrals and Everbearers will produce a spring crop simultaneously with June bearers. This fruit tend to not be as large or flavorful as June Bearers which is why many growers do not keep plants more than one season. The accumulation of weeds and pests is large enough by the end of the second season year that is not economical to carry plants over for a third year.
Do not renovate your Everbearers or Day Neutral strawberry patch.
Do not fertilize at the time of planting. Fertilize after the second harvest. Over-fertilization results in excessive leaf growth and poor flowering. Do not fertilize late in the season as this will promote new growth that will be damaged by frost.
Junebearing, large fruit
Berries are lighter red
Use for eating, cooking, baking
Junebearing, large fruit
Use for fresh, frozen, jams or wine
Good runner production
Seascape: Self Pollinating
Large, firm fruit
Use for fresh, frozen, jams
*Information taken from Indiana Berry
Raspberries come in two bearing varieties – Summer-bearing and Fall-bearing. Summer-bearing produce one crop between early-July and early-August. Fall-bearing produce a large crop in the fall and a smaller crop the next summer. Raspberries come in many flavors and colors such as red, black, yellow, and purple.
Plant in full sun, on a site with good air circulation, but not too windy. Avoid areas where tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, potatoes or other crops susceptible to Verticilium Wilt have been grown in the last 3-4 years. The soil should be high in organic matter with a pH of 5.5 to 6.5.
Red and Gold raspberries should be planted 2 feet apart within rows. Black and Purple raspberries should be spaced 3 feet apart within rows. Each row should be approximately 2 feet apart. Utilize mowing or tilling as a management tool to keep raspberries from creeping out of rows.
Fertilize in early spring with a 10-10-10 fertilizer such as Espoma Garden Food. Keep the soil evenly moist and provide at least 1-2 inches of water per week while the plants are bearing fruit.
**Regular pruning will encourage the plants to produce top quality berries. For a single fall crop on Fall-bearers, simply cut off all the old canes at ground level when they are done fruiting. Summer-bearing red raspberries produce fruit on 2-year-old-canes. Cut down the old, grayish brown fruit-producing canes after you harvest, but leave the new, current-season canes to produce berries next year. In late winter, remove the smallest canes to leave three to six sturdy canes per foot of row.
Black and purple raspberries produce fruit on side branches that grow off the older canes. During summer, cut off the fruit-producing canes after your harvest, and snip off the tips of new canes when they’re 3 to 4 feet tall to make them branch. During the dormant season, remove the smallest canes to leave four to six sturdy canes per foot of row. On the remaining canes, cut out any spindly side branches and trim the remaining side branches back to 8 to 10 inches long.
Huge, sweet fruit
Heritage Red: Self Pollinating
Fall bearing- produces 2 crops, 1 in July, 1 in September
Berries brilliant red and very firm, tart flavor
Berries good for freezing or fresh
Number 1 fall bearing variety
K81-6: Self Pollinating
Very large, firm berry
Hardy to -34 degrees
Fall Gold: Self Pollinating
Berries are conical, non-crumbling, extremely sweet
Eat fresh or use for processing
Hardy to -25 degrees
Very large berry
Raspberry Shortcake: Bushel and Berry Variety
Compact, rounded habit, perfect for containers- no staking required
**Information taken from Indiana Berry