Berries are some of the easiest fruits to grow and will reward you with heavy yields. They require little attention and have very few pests.
Growing Blackberries and Raspberries
Blackberries will grow almost anywhere and are very tolerant of poor soils. Grow them in a sunny site and prepare the soil well as they will grow in a permanent position; dig in plenty of rich, organic matter and remove perennial weed roots that will compete with your crop if left to grow.
If you buy the plants, ensure they come from a respectable nursery and are certified disease free. Plant them in early spring in moist soil, roughly 1.5m apart. Cut them down to 15cm and water well. Apply organic mulch such as straw or compost, and top-dress each spring with compost or well-rotted animal manure.
Raspberries have similar growing requirements to blackberries. However they prefer to grow in well-drained, sandy soils. Raspberries either fruit in summer or autumn, so if you have the room, consider growing both varieties to extend your harvest. Prepare the soil in the same way as you would blackberries, incorporating plenty of organic mater such as garden compost. Most raspberry plants are sold as one-year-old canes. Again, buy them from a reputable supplier where they will be guaranteed disease free.
Plant the canes in the ground and space them 50cm-1m apart. Cut them down to ground level and water well. When they start to show signs of new growth, support them with sturdy posts and tie them in. Prune them yearly to encourage higher yields.
Blueberries require a well-drained acid soil, incorporated with plenty of rich, organic matter. To test the pH. of your soil you can use a soil testing kit. If the ph ranges from 4.0 to 5.2, you have an ideal soil for blueberries. For a less precise test, check to see if there are rhododendrons, azaleas or camellias growing nearby, as they thrive in acid soil.
If you don’t have an acid soil, consider growing your blueberries in pots filled with ericaceous compost and feed them with a sequestered iron liquid feed. It’s also important to water them with rainwater, as tap water contains lime.
You can plant the bushes in pots at any time of the year, and in autumn or spring if you’re growing them in the ground. Prepare the soil by digging in organic matter, and include chipped bark or sawdust as they contain high levels of acid. If the plants have any flower buds or signs of new growth, remove them so the plants focus their energy on generating a healthy root system. Place each plant in a hole 50cm deep and wide, and then gently firm the soil around the stem. Keep them well watered and never let them dry out (if you’re short on rain water, mix a little vinegar in some tap water and use that as a substitute).
Organic feeds are best as they don’t impair the flavour of the berries or lower their nutritional value. They also help the plants grow at the rate they are supposed to, which leads to les risk of attack from pests such as aphids. Use a pelleted organic chicken manure or seaweed feed during the growing season, and mulch with compost, leafmould or well-rotted manure in autumn. Pick the fruit as it ripens, and cover with netting to protect from birds if necessary.
Growing our own berries is fun and rewarding. They grow on perennial bushes so will last for years, with minimum care.