{ GARDENING }

Berry-Licious Summer Bounty

Tips for growing berries in your own backyard

BY VANESSA WADE
berries

The most quintessential summertime fruit are berries. Living in Southern California, our local farmers are fortunate to experience an extended berry-growing season. As convenient as farm-fresh berries may be, growing your own is easier than you might think.

Berries can be grown in the ground, or for those that have limited outdoor space, container-gardening is the way to go (plus, it’s water-wise!). You can visit your local plant nursery in order to browse a wide variety of seeds, or to get a head start on your berry harvest, choose from a selection of plant starters, perhaps ones that are even already in bloom. Here’s a basic guide on the various types of berries and how to care for them in your garden. So, let’s get started!

straw

STRAWBERRIES are considered to be the easiest of the berries to grow. They thrive when spaced apart in containers, hanging baskets, or in the ground. In any case, make sure that the soil that they are grown in has sufficient drainage. Plant the crowns above soil level, otherwise the plants will rot if planted too deeply. Strawberries love ample sunlight as they are susceptible to mildew. The caveat is that the soil must stay moist (dried-out soil is a no-no!). When you choose your strawberry type, consider the following:

Day-neutral strawberries fruit during summer and throughout fall.
Varieties include Albion, Diamante and Jewel.

Ever-bearing or alpine strawberries are akin to heirloom strawberries. The actual berries are small but flavorful and, like the namesake, they bear fruit year-round.

June-bearing strawberries produce fruit in the early spring. Sequoia strawberries yield large and juicy fruit. Plant these during late August or autumn.

BLUEBERRIES require very little maintenance … after their first year. Grown in the ground or in a spacious container, blueberry seedlings require plenty of water and proper drainage. Incorporate peat moss into the planting medium. As the blueberry shrub matures, it must be “established” prior to bearing fruit. To establish the plant in its first year, remove all of its blooms and prune heavily. This will allow the plant to put down strong roots and grow sturdy branches. Blueberry trees are not self-pollinating, therefore, it is beneficial to grow a variety of blueberry plants within the same space so that the pollinators can cross-pollinate, thus yielding more fruit.

blue
goji

GOJI BERRIES are related to tomatoes. Goji berry shrubs love growing in full sun and are tolerant of any type of soil; however, if you are planting them in containers, use a less acidic potting soil mix. These shrubs are prolific, so take into account how much space will be needed once the plant is fully mature (allow for ample root growth as well as those wild branches). During the first year, goji plants are drought-tolerant, but do consider that the more they are watered, the more plentiful they will fruit.

BLACKBERRIES & RASPBERRIES grow well in most types of soils and are the most tolerant of heat. Winter or early spring are ideal times to plant. These berries require regular watering, as well as space and support, in order to grow to full maturity (note: left unchecked, they are considered noxious weeds).

berries

Inspired yet? We hope so!

Imagine the endless possibilities for your homegrown berry harvest! Berries can add color, flavor and nutrition to your favorite yogurt or ice cream. They can be a fresh complement to granola or muesli cereal. And on the off chance that you have an excess of berries, they can be used in pies or in berry-infused beverages.

[ Visit your local nursery to see what berry plant starters or seeds are available,
or consult with an on-hand garden specialist for growing tips. ]