by Mark Anderson, owner of Anderson Seed and Garden
Remember as a child going out into the garden and picking a fresh strawberry or raspberry off the plant and savoring the amazing flavor? We can experience that same memory with our children in our own backyards. Early Spring is a great time to plant all kinds of berries like blackberries, blueberries, strawberries and raspberries. All it takes is a little time and effort, and you and your children can pick handfuls of juicy berries to enjoy.
When planting berry plants, make sure your location has good drainage. Rocky and sandy soil works better than heavy clay soils, so be sure to amend your soil with organic matter (a rich compost with poultry manure, avoid steer manure if possible) and incorporate it into the soil 6-8 inches deep. Berries like full sun, so make sure the area you are planting gets sunlight for a minimum of 10 hours a day. They also prefer heavy waterings, but not too frequently. I water our berries once a week with a soaker hose for 4-6 hours and it works great.
Before planting, start working on a plan to protect those yummy berries from birds and other damaging pests (deer, insects, slugs). You aren’t the only one who thinks that berries taste amazing. Nets and fencing work better for deer and birds, but I have had great luck with motion sensitive sprinklers as well. As for insects and bugs, a little prevention goes a long way, and there are some very inexpensive and effective (yet very safe!) products that will stop them before they get started nibbling.
As you select what plants you want to grow, keep in mind that everbearing fruit rarely produce all the time; they consistently produce a late spring/early summer crop and a fall crop. My favorite varieties are: Tri-star and Honeyoye for strawberries, Heritage and Canby for raspberries and Arapahoe for blackberries. When planting, use a mycorrhizae and root stimulator to get them established quicker and go through less transplant shock. Kangaroots by Bushdoctor is my personal favorite, it gets plants established faster and promotes more early root development than anything I have ever used. Fertilize with a slow release nitrogen and iron fertilizer, as all these berries tend to be iron deficient. I use Hi-yield Iron+ as it has what it takes to keep those berry plants green, healthy and producing.
If you’re tired of eating firm, tasteless strawberries from the grocery store, rest assured that you can grow your own in planters, raised beds, flower beds or even gardens. They’re easy to grow, and nothing in the store tastes like they ones you’ll grow yourself.