by Gene Henson
As anyone who has grown, or has attempted to grow a vegetable garden this summer knows, nothing is absolute when it comes to Mother Nature. Right now though, is a fine time to get ready for next year, when it comes to starting a good berry patch. Blueberries, raspberries and strawberries, while requiring a moderate amount of care, can fill the gap between flowers and mainstream veggies, when some variety is wanted in the home garden. Who doesn’t like blueberry pie? Blueberries are native to the US, and indeed, in the great state of Maine, they grow wild and are a cash crop to be reckoned with. However, a small homeowner’s garden will be enhanced with one or two blueberry bushes which, given moderate care, will produce more than enough crop for an average family.
It’s best to begin a blueberry patch at least six months or more before you intend to plant. There are many varieties to choose from, but make sure that the plants come from a reputable grower.
Blueberries are shallow rooted plants, and prefer a PH of 4.6 to 4.8, but they will do all right in soil that’s 4.0 to 5.0. As with any soil, it’s important to get it tested beforehand. Amend the soil with good organic matter, like well aged cow manure several months before planting. This will go a long way toward promoting healthy plants that will produce for years.
Raspberries do better with some support, like a trellis. Growing them in front of a south facing wall is good; well drained soil is important, as they require a lot of water during their growing season. They like a PH of 5.6 to 6.2. Because they carry a root rot known as Verticillium, do not plant raspberries where tomatoes, potatoes, peppers and egg plant have been grown within four years. Also, destroy all wild blackberry and raspberry bushes within 600 feet of where you intend to plant yours. This is to prevent cultivars prevalent in wild bushes from infecting new plants.
Strawberries prefer well drained sandy soil with a PH of 5.8 to 6.2. Work in composted cow manure a few months before planting to give the new plants a head start.
There are many different varieties of berries which will do well in a home garden; the particulars are outside the scope of this article. However, a trip around the internet, and some questions posed at your local garden center will put you on the way to enjoying something different in gardening.
Gene Henson is a University of Connecticut certified Advanced Master Gardner.