Some Berry Good Ideas

August 1, 2015

Imagine having plump, flavorful strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries ready to harvest right in your own backyard. Listen to learn how easy it is to make this dream come true.

This segment of The Old Farmer’s Almanac Garden Musings podcast series was written by George and Becky Lohmiller and is read by Heidi Stonehill, an Almanac editor.


Strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries are three small fruits that are big on flavor and easy to grow. They all require   rich, well-drained soil; plenty of sunshine; and an ample supply of moisture. To prepare the planting site, remove all grass and weeds, and till the soil to a depth of 12 inches. Incorporating compost or manure will add nutrients and moisture-holding organic matter. Strawberries and raspberries prefer a sweet soil and will benefit from adding lime or wood ashes. Blueberries need more-acidic growing conditions, so fertilize with sulfate of ammonia.

For a bumper crop of strawberries, grow Junebearing varieties like ‘Guardian’, ‘Surecrop’, and ‘Honeoye’. Most of these berries will ripen at about the same time, so you can do all your canning and freezing at once and have plenty left over for fresh eating and strawberry shortcake. Everbearing varieties produce most of their fruit in June, with a smaller second crop later. Day-neutral strawberries will flower and fruit irrespective of day length and will produce well into autumn.

If you are a raspberry lover, growing your own is a must. Varieties like ‘Boyne’ and ‘Algonquin’ produce all their fruit in midsummer; ‘Heritage’, ‘Ruby’, and other everbearing raspberries produce two crops—a small one in midsummer and a larger one in the fall. For a variety of tastes and colors, grow some of the black, yellow, and purple varieties.

Highbush blueberry bushes are worth growing just for their looks. At four to six feet tall, these shrubs are ideal for landscaping. They sport dainty white spring flowers with a hint of pink, and they paint the autumn landscape fiery red with their brilliant fall foliage.

Blueberries are partially self-sterile, so plant at least two varieties to assure cross-pollination. For a long picking season, choose some early varieties like ‘Duke’ and ‘Patriot’, midseason varieties like ‘Northland’ and ‘Blue Crop’, and late-season varieties like ‘Jersey’ and ‘Elliott’.

Quarts of flavorful berries from attractive plants that are fun to grow and easy to harvest are why gardeners are going for these small fruits in a big way.

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