How to Grow Raspberries, Blackberries and Blueberries at Home
June is my favorite month of the year. Days grow longer and warmer, and plants are blooming everywhere. My raspberry bed is overflowing, and in just a short time, I’ll be harvesting black, red and yellow raspberries. I have grown blueberries in the past, but their growing requirements are a bit challenging. If you are willing to sacrifice the time and energy needed to maintain berries, the reward is great.
The Dirt on Growing Berries
So how hard can it be? The most important aspect of success is soil. Raspberries are relatively easy regarding soil pH, but one thing that should be considered is soil drainage. Raspberries don’t like “wet feet” yet still need an ample water supply to produce fruit. They also need full sun. And of special importance, raspberries should not be grown in an area where tomatoes, potatoes, peppers and other plants that are susceptible to Verticullium wilt have been grown in the past several years. Berry gardens need to be kept weed free as well. Mulching will aid in keeping weeds under control.
Singing the Blues
Blueberries, on the other hand, have specific requirements. Your soil must be tested for its pH. Blueberries need an acidic soil in the range of pH 4.5 to 5.1. High levels of organic matter are also needed, with sand and peat mixtures providing the best option. Blueberries do not tolerate heavy clay soils. If you can amend your soil to grow blueberries, you will enjoy the benefits of growing them yourself. The best option for all berries is to have the soil prepared a couple years in advance of planting.
When selecting your plants, choose a reputable nursery and obtain certified virus-free stock. Start with a few berry plants. Black raspberries will produce from the same rootstock for up to eight years, and new plants can be obtained through “tip layering,” which will produce a genetically identical plant. Red and yellow raspberries send up new growth from their roots and reproduce quickly.
If you can grow blueberries, I would invest in six to eight plants to start. Once planted, it will take two years to enjoy the fruit of your labors. While blueberry maintenance is minimal, raspberries require old canes to be removed each year. During each summer, new growth will need to be tip-pruned to provide the most berries the following year. Pruning instructions are given to you with your purchase. At first, it may seem a little daunting, but once done, you’ll find it’s really not that difficult.
Growing berries is an investment that grows over time and rewards you with the most wonderful, fresh, full flavors of summer.