How Cranberries Are Grown, Plus More Fun Facts

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cranberry bogs
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Michelle Henning

This is one crop that shouldn’t bog down any gardener!

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Ever wonder how cranberries grow—and where cranberry bogs can be found? This tart berry can be grown in your backyard, too. It’s one crop that shouldn’t bog down any gardener! Learn more about increasing cranberries, plus ten fun facts about this beautifully vivid superfruit.

How Are Cranberries Grown?

Cranberries are grown in bogs because these are constructed to protect the fruit: A bog can be quickly flooded when freezing weather is predicted, thus sparing the submerged blossoms and berries from spring and fall frosts. 

A bog is a freshwater wetland. It’s similar to a marsh. The bottoms are soft and spongy, layered with sand, gravel, and peat soil (partly decayed plant debris). These bogs were often formed by glaciers centuries ago, and their bottoms are clay, preventing leaching into the groundwater.

Do Cranberries Grown Under Water?

People think cranberries grow underwater all season long, but that’s not true. The bog is dry most of the season. 

When it’s time to harvest in early fall, the farmers add water to the beds to the top of the vines. The berries are still attached to the vines but begin to float. Machines under the water surface agitate the berries to release them.

Then, additional water is added so the berries float on the water’s surface. Then, all the berries are gathered from the surface!

Ripe Cranberries growing in a bog waiting to be flooded with water and harvested. Credit: M. Warwick

Where Do Cranberries Grow?

In the U.S., cranberries grow in cool, northern climates. You’ll find them in Massachusetts, New Jersey, Oregon, Washington, and Wisconsin.

In Canada, cranberries are grown in parts of British Columbia and Quebec.

Growing Your Own Cranberries

Did you know that you don’t need a bog to grow cranberries? They are a great addition to the home garden—and, come harvest time, they are a surprise condiment for holiday sauce and desserts.

Here’s all you need to know to grow cranberries at home:

  • A 10x5-foot plot will yield up to 10 pounds of delicious berries. Six 3-year-old plants spaced evenly throughout the bed will grow together to form a thick mat and produce during the first season.
  • Cranberries are best planted in late April through the end of May. 
  • For best results, cranberries should be grown in full sun in a 50–50 mix of garden soil and peat moss (for acidity and drainage). If your soil is sandy, remove the top 8 inches and line the bottom of the bed with a sheet of 6-mil plastic.
  • Poke plenty of drainage holes in the plastic, then fill the bed with the soil mix. Scratch in 1/2 pound of 10-20-10 fertilizer, and you are ready to plant. 
  • A light mulch of sawdust or sand will help to root the runners. Water the new planting every day for two weeks, as you would the rest of your garden. 
  • Flower buds open from late May to June and produce ripe fruit in late September to early October.
Cranberry Plant.  Credit: Grigorii Pisotckii/Getty Images

10 Fun Facts About Cranberries

  1. The cranberry is a genuine American native plant, Vaccinium macrocarpon
  2. The cranberry is a member of the heath family and a relative of the blueberry and huckleberry.
  3. Cranberries are harvested in the fall. Nearly all cranberry crops should have been harvested by the beginning of November. It has a short harvest season and comes right in time for your Thanksgiving feast!
  4. The cranberry is a “superfood.” They’re packed with health benefits, including anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and antioxidant properties. See our article on how cranberries are good for you.
  5. The Pequot people of Cape Cod call the berry ibimi, meaning “bitter berry,” and traditionally combined crushed cranberries with dried venison and fat to make a winter superfood called “pemmican.”
  6. The Pilgrims and those who followed appreciated the wild berries but did not start cultivating them until 1816, when a bog was planted and tended in the coastal town of Dennis, Massachusetts. By then, American and Canadian sailors on long voyages knew they could eat cranberries to protect themselves from scurvy—making them a cranberry counterpart to British “limeys.
  7. Millions and millions of hard, tiny, tart, ruby berries are grown in the bogs, a freshwater wetland with free-flowing water. 
  8. The cranberries grow on runners much like strawberries do. Each runner may grow up to 3 feet long and send up numerous uprights that bear thumbnail-size fruit.
  9. Contrary to belief, cranberries aren’t growing underwater. When you see pictures of cranberries floating on the surface, they’ve been released from the vine and are ready to be harvested.
  10. Cranberries add a unique burst of tart flavor and glorious color to any dish.

Cranberry Recipes

We’re a huge fan of this tart-sweet red berry. Enjoy a few of our favorite cranberry recipes:

  1. Cranberry Sauce
  2. Orange-Cranberry Sauce
  3. Cranberry Jelly
  4. Cranberry-Beet Cake
  5. Cranberry-Swirl Coffee Cake
  6. Cranberry Dream Pie
Cranberry Dream Pie: Make ahead and stick in the freezer! 
About The Author

Catherine Boeckmann

Catherine Boeckmann loves nature, stargazing, and gardening so it’s not surprising that she and The Old Farmer’s Almanac found each other. She leads digital content for the Almanac website, and is also a certified master gardener in the state of Indiana. Read More from Catherine Boeckmann

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