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For the Health of It!
Grow Your Own Berries and Grapes
Blueberries, Raspberries, Blackberries, Strawberries and Grapes!
By Carolyn Pinkard 'The Briggs Garden Girls'
Nothing beats the fabulous, fresh taste of homegrown fruits and vegetables. Besides the extraordinary flavor, growing your own berries is a great way to introduce fresh fruit into your family’s diet, and an easy way to dip your toes into growing your own food. Additionally, many small fruit crops decorate the ornamental landscape.
A sunny patch in a backyard is the perfect place to set up a block of berry plants. Thinking outside the box and incorporating berries into mixed borders or patio pots also allows those living in condominiums or homes with small yards to enjoy the benefits of their own fruit.
Berries are low in calories, rich in vitamins and minerals, and loaded with flavonoids and fiber. Flavonoids, the phytochemicals found in fruit with colorful skin, draw the most attention for their role in reducing the risk of certain cancers, allergens and viruses. Each type of berry delivers a unique set of benefits but all can be enjoyed eaten fresh and preserved or frozen for later enjoyment in sauces, jams, and any number of delectable pastries and desserts.
Blueberries rank in the top ten of all super foods and newer varieties allow for success in many different areas of the country. All blueberries like acidic soils and their shallow root systems prefer ample water. If your soil is alkaline, try growing blueberries in patio pots with soil amended with cottonseed or blood meal to reduce the acidity. Half-
Vaccinium ‘Pink Lemonade’ is a complicated cross between northern and southern high-
'The Briggs Garden Girls' -
Raspberries also grow in a wide range of hardiness zones. Choose a summer bearing variety if your desire is to preserve most of your crop. The home gardener often prefers everbearing types as the berries are produced over a longer period. All raspberries prefer a more neutral soil (add lime if your soils are acidic), damp soils in summer and dry soils in winter. Proper support and pruning will aide in a bountiful harvest.
Fruit laden raspberry canes can be top heavy – a T-
Blackberries are native from Washington to the southeast. Varieties found at your local garden center result from breeding programs, such as one by the University of Arkansas, to introduce disease resistance and capture the best fruit qualities. Closely related to raspberries, they also benefit from proper support and pruning. If trellising is not your thing, allow trailing types to cover the ground. They are great slope covers when grown this way, but can also become unmanageable tangles without pruning.
As with raspberries, the older (floricanes) canes will produce during the first part of summer and the newer canes, called primocanes, of everbearing blackberries, will bear fruit in late summer/fall. Primocanes become next year’s fruit bearing floricanes. It is also important to tip back the primocanes once they reach 4feet to keep them from being to gangly. Smoothies and cobblers here we come!
Strawberries are lean in calories and rich in Vitamin C and minerals. Considered one of the easiest to grow fruits, strawberries are a great crop to turn children onto gardening. Grow June bearing types in bed rows, as a groundcover, or edging plant. Day-
Trained over arbors, grapes offer old world elegance with both rugged canes, attractive foliage and showy clusters of fruit all adding to their overall appeal. But, let us not forget, grape fruit and leaves are tasty too. The first season allow grape plants to establish a sturdy root system. The new plant will grow as two canes. Train the stronger of the two canes and trim back the weakest. Also, eliminate all suckers.
Grapes produce fruit on the new growth of last season’s wood. Each winter prune the strongest canes to stimulate the best new branching and thus opportunity for the most berries. Grape leaves harvested in late spring/early summer are a delicious staple of Greek cuisine. Later in the summer, enjoy the ripe clusters of grapes fresh from the vine.