Ready for a berry good time? My friends over at Pike Nurseries are here to share everything there is to know about growing luscious berries conveniently in the backyard! Berries – such as blueberries, strawberries, blackberries and raspberries – are nutrient-packed super fruits, known to help fight against disease, aging, vision and memory loss as well as high blood pressure, bad cholesterol, heart disease, poor immune function and so much more! Plus, they contribute to beautiful, colorful landscapes and are fun to harvest with the whole family. The experts at Pike Nurseries have some simple, surefire tips for growing, harvesting and consuming these colorful diet staples!
Juicy tips for perfect backyard berries
Soak up the sun
To ensure a juicy berry come harvest season, plant all varieties of berries in full sun, ideally where they get six or more hours of direct sunlight every day. If the backyard tends to be shady or a full sun spot is hard to find, the pros recommend planting berries in containers on a porch or balcony that receives ample light.
If berries are being planted in pots, it is crucial to use potting soil, which is designed and formulated to help the plants grow, while preventing the dirt from staying over-saturated or drying out too quickly. Berries in pots need this kind of moisture control to thrive! For berry plants going directly in the ground, it is best to place them in a slightly elevated location so that natural drainage will prevent the berries from being over saturated at any time. Be sure to amend any dense clay soil with a planting mix to improve drainage, provide additional nutrients and ensure tender new roots can push through the dirt and get established.
Strawberries, which are perennials, will come back year after year and are typically planted in containers or hanging baskets to keep fruit from touching the ground. Blueberries, on the other hand, are shrubs that can be planted directly in the ground and even in small spaces. While many blueberry varieties are self-pollinating, the pros recommend planting more than one for cross-pollination to get a more bountiful harvest! For the vining nature of blackberries and raspberries, planting in the ground on a trellis typically yields the best results for these self-pollinating fruits.
Water berries consistently – especially in warmer months – paying attention to rainfall levels that may substitute for regular watering sessions. Strawberries prefer to be watered about one to two inches per week while blueberries, blackberries and raspberries need watering one to two inches a week during growing season, but as much as four inches per week when ripening. Not enough water will cause berries to not have that signature juicy, plumpness that makes them so delicious!
Don’t forget to fertilize
Regular fertilization is key for healthy growth and a larger harvest! Fertilize berries with an organic fertilizer every four weeks before, during and after peak growing season. The pros recommend using a fertilizer specific to berries to ensure crops get all the nutrients they need.
Picking blue ribbon berries
Once berries are planted and ready to grow, it’s important to know how to pick and harvest the best ones. Berries that are ready to go will have bright and vibrant coloring: ones that look muted may not be ripe yet, or dark and over saturated berries may be past ripe. Berries at their best should feel plump and juicy: any berries that are shriveled up may be past ripe. To enjoy later in the year, berries can also be frozen on a single-layer cookie sheet and will keep in airtight containers for 6-8 months!
For more tips and berry-licious fun, gardeners of all skill levels are invited to all Pike Nurseries locations for Super Strawberry Saturday on March 9! During the celebration, all Pike stores will be giving away a free three-inch strawberry plant with any purchase while supplies last, limit one per customer.
For more information on Super Strawberry Saturday and other events offered at Pike Nurseries, please visit www.pikenursery.com.