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If you?ve noticed spots on your caneberry stems or foliage, they?ve likely been affected by septoria. While this doesn?t necessarily spell disaster for your plants, it?s certainly not something you want to have. Click this article for tips on managing the disease in your garden.
First thing each morning in berry season while the air is still cool, my young son and I open the backdoor, cross the porch and walk barefoot into our berry patch. I take a bowl and pick. As my son enjoys his berry breakfast, birds chirp the soundtrack.
The reward of growing berries so close to my kitchen goes beyond those perfect summer moments. Berries give more than they need. Unlike vegetables, you plant berries once and year after year they return like old friends. Berry plants are also very happy to spread the joy. A couple of raspberry plants can grow into a significant patch in a couple of seasons. Strawberries generously send runners and produce plantlets for more berries.
You know how much berries cost at the store. But have you considered how just a few berry plants can inexpensively feed your family well beyond the growing season with nearly as much vitamin C as oranges? Got the math yet?
Berries are also easy to preserve. Just place on a tray and freeze. Bag them up, and take them out as you need. When, during the winter, I enjoy my homegrown black raspberries, I find it’s like slipping back into summer for an instant.
As with anything, there are things to consider. First, decide which berry you want to grow. In general, all berries need full sun and, with the exception of blueberries, need neutral soil. Choosing types and varieties that ripen at different times prolongs your berry-harvesting season.
Raspberries – aka brambles – should be planted late fall or early spring with room to grow and in a place where ‘pretty’ isn’t super important. They spread through shallow runners but can be controlled by planting in a raised bed or by routinely digging them out.
“Raspberry roots really don’t like the heat of the summer,” said Steve Bogash, a Regional Horticulture Educator with Penn State Cooperative Extension. Bogash stressed mulching raspberries and also recommended treating them with a preventative fungicide to prolong the life of your patch.
Other maintenance is cutting them back after fruiting for attractiveness and pruning out some of the older brown canes – or stalks - in the winter or very early spring.
Strawberries are a pleasure to grow as well. There are three types to choose from. June bearing strawberries tend to produce larger berries and only one large crop of fruit over a few really happy weeks in spring. Everbearing and day neutral varieties both produce all season but in smaller quantities. Because they produce fewer runners they work well as a ground cover intermixed with flowers or shrubs.
You plant strawberries early in spring. Plant the roots shallowly in soil that is high in organic matter. Take care not to bury the crown. Bogash said the biggest problem folks run into with strawberries is weeds. Strawberries don’t like competition and robust weeds can choke them out.
Another well loved if slightly more finicky berry to try is the blueberry. Blueberries are planted in late winter or early spring.
Soil preparation is crucial. The soil pH needs to be very acidic - about 4.8. I will admit that I have killed blueberry bushes by improperly preparing my soil. Begin by finding your soil’s pH with a soil test. The pH can be lowered - or made more acidic - several ways, including by adding sulphur.
Bogash suggests preparing the soil for a couple of years before planting blueberries.
“If you get the pH right before you plant, you’ll look like a genius and your blueberries will be very happy, “ he said.
Whatever berry you grow, each offers the same joy of lifting a leaf and seeing the first ripe berry of the season, picking it and tasting it while still warm by the sun.
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Among the recent horticultural arrivals from Russia and central Asia is the seaberry, also known as sea buckthorn. There, it is prized for both its ornamental value and its edible berries. This hardy, carefree deciduous shrub makes excellent hedges and wildlife habitats, and its bright yellow-orange to red berries are particularly high in vitamin C. Although the fruit, with its tart astringency, may not be ideal for snacking, it is delicious in juices and jams. Like our native cranberry, the exotic seaberry requires a bit of work to render it sweet, but its refreshing taste and health benefits are worth the effort.
We first grew seaberry (Hippophae rhamnoides) a few years ago, when we planted 'Hergo', a female variety, and an unnamed male seedling, then pretty much forgot about them. One fall day a few years later, we noticed that the female, about 3 feet tall, was loaded with bright orange berries. After sampling the fruits, we decided that although the plants were attractive, the fruits seemed far too acidic to have much culinary potential.
The shrubs, which reach 6 to 18 feet when mature, would be worth planting solely for their shiny, narrow, green-gray leaves. Seaberries are also excellent conservation plants, providing shelter for small animals and birds, fixing nitrogen in the soil, and preventing erosion with their strong root systems which spread by suckers. The shrubs have few pests and are suited to USDA Hardiness Zones 2 through 9.
There are other species of Hippophae, but H. rhamnoides is the only one commercially available at this time. Wild seedlings of Hippophae are very thorny, but German and Russian varieties of H. rhamnoides such as 'Byantes', 'Frugana', 'Hergo', 'Leikora', and 'Russian Orange' are less thorny and yield larger, better quality fruits.
Not Just a Pretty Shrub
The berries ripen in late summer forming large, tight clusters along the branches they last into the winter and are lovely in floral arrangements.
Although we had dismissed any culinary possibilities for the fruits, our German neighbor became very excited when she spotted the plants. She explained that the berries are healthful and their flavor is easily enhanced by juicing and sweetening them. Then she immediately ordered some plants for her garden.
After some research, we found that the seaberry is indeed a healthful fruit, containing seven times the vitamin C of lemons. Its use as a general health restorative dates back to the time of Alexander the Great, when his soldiers added seaberry leaves and fruit to horse fodder to maintain the animals' health and add luster to their coats. Hence, the botanical name originates from the Greek words for horse (hippo) and to shine (phaos).
Russians have realized that seaberries are also tasty and versatile. Sauce, jam, juice, wine, tea, candy, and even ice cream are made from the berries--which they call "Siberian pineapple"--although the flavor is more citruslike.
The Chinese add the leaves, bark, and berries to more than 200 food and medicinal products used to treat ailments such as ulcers and eye and heart problems.
We've found the best use for the berries is to make a refreshing juice (see recipe at end of article).
Grow Them by Land or by Sea
Seaberries are easy to grow and require little space. Because male and female flowers grow on separate plants, you need at least one of each sex to produce fruit. Flowers are pollinated mostly by wind, so space plants closely: 6 to 8 feet apart in rows, or 3 feet apart as a hedge. One male (distinguished by its larger flower buds) can pollinate five or six females.
Plant seaberries in spring in full sun. They grow in most soils, even sand or gravel, tolerate both seashore and road salt, and withstand drought well. They seem to do best in a well-drained soil (pH between 5.5 and 7.5). A thick organic mulch, renewed each spring with compost or manure, should supply all the other nutrients they need and protect the shallow roots. Seaberries grow quickly and usually bear their first fruits two to three years after planting. Some varieties produce 30 to 50 pounds of fruit per shrub annually, but it may take several years to reach maximum production.
Seaberries need little pruning, unless you want to train them into bushy shrubs or shapely small trees. From time to time, cut out damaged or unproductive branches. Prune in fall after harvesting the berries in late summer. The plants resist most diseases and insects, so spraying is seldom necessary.
Harvest berries when they are fully colored but still firm. Although birds like to nest in the shrubs, they aren't keen on ripe berries, so netting isn't usually necessary. Pick the berries by hand, or if the bushes are large, cut some of the branches and shake off the berries. This technique keeps the plant small and berries within reach for easy harvesting.
Wash the fruits, then puree them (or crush them with a potato masher). Strain the juice, discarding the seeds and pulp. Measure the juice (2-1/2 pounds of berries yield about 1 quart of juice) into a large pot, and heat to 120° F. Mix 1 part sugar or honey to 6 parts liquid, and continue heating until the sugar dissolves. Pour into sterilized bottles, and store in the refrigerator for up to two weeks, or freeze for up to six months. For a light, refreshing drink, mix the seaberry juice with other fruit juices, such as apple, orange, or raspberry, and soda water to taste.
Popular authors Lewis and Nancy Hill are the proprietors of Berry Hill Farm in Northern Vermont.
When you think about blueberry season, maybe you’re remembering long, hot summer days as a kid, picking blueberries from your favorite bush. You try to fill your pail in the hopes of Mom baking a fresh blueberry pie or a dozen muffins. That’s what blueberry season used to mean, but now you can have blueberries all year long.
When blueberry picking season in North America is over, usually from April to September, it doesn’t mean no more fresh berries. Imports from the South American countries of Peru, Argentina, Uruguay and Chile take over, supplying you with fresh, plump blueberries from October to March. It’s always blueberry picking time somewhere in the world, so keep baking those blueberry pies throughout the year.
The U.S. has so many climates, that blueberry picking season differs, depending on whether you live in the Northern, Middle or Southern states. Blueberries thrive in any of the USDA hardiness zones 3 to 7. The following list explains the blueberry picking seasons for several different states:
No matter where you live, you can tell when your blueberries are ready to pick by their appearance. Each one of your blueberry bushes should give you from seven to 10 pints of juicy blueberries. The best time to pick your blueberries is about four days after they turn blue.
If you’re wondering why you should leave them on the bush for a few days after they turn blue, it’s because the berries get sweeter as they ripen on the bush. Once you pick them, they won’t get any sweeter. Your berries can stay on the bush for up to 10 days once they’re ripe.
Make sure your blueberries don’t have any green or red coloring because that indicates that they’re under ripe.
The best time of day to pick your berries is in the morning after the dew has dried. If you wait until the afternoon, the sun warms the berries. The warmth increases postharvest breakdown of the blueberries, which can result in splitting, damage and decreased storage time.
All you need for picking blueberries is a pail and your fingers. Since blueberry clusters ripen at different times, pick the berries once every week as the berries continue to ripen. It’s also a good idea to line your pail with a plastic bag so that you can remove the berries without damaging them. Follow these tips for picking blueberries with the least amount of fruit damage:
Even if you didn’t plant any blueberry bushes in your yard, you can still enjoy blueberry picking season. Many local blueberry farms allow you to pick their fresh blueberries yourself. Your whole family can grab a bucket and spend the morning picking delicious, juicy blueberries. Bring them home and use them for pies, breads, muffins or just eat them plain. You can also freeze them for using all year long. The flavor of freshly picked blueberries is hard to beat.