Berries are delicious seasonal fruit that are easy and rewarding to grow. There is nothing like the taste of your own homegrown strawberry straight off the plant.
Bramble or cane berries as a group that includes thornless blackberries, boysenberries, marionberries and raspberries are part of the rose family (Rosaceae). Also popular in gardens are blueberries and strawberries both of which have slightly different growing needs to other berries. Best in cold climates are black, red and white currants and their relatives.
Plant potted berries at any time (but avoid extremely hot or cold conditions). In winter, cane berry plants and the different types of currants are widely available as bare-rooted plants. Strawberries are also available in winter to plant for spring fruit. At planting time and to reduce transplant stress, water with Seasol. Mix 30mL of concentrate per 9 litres of water (standard watering can).
For small gardens or for containers, blueberries and strawberries are an ideal berry choice. Thornless blackberries are also a friendly choice for small spaces as they are thornless and can be trained against a vertical surface such as a wall or fence. Plants are highly productive.
As there are many berries types and varieties choose your favourite berry and grow several varieties that ripen at different times to extend the harvest season.
Aspect All berries need a bright, sunny location with shelter from strong winds. Ideally, they should have sun from the morning onwards but can tolerate a little afternoon shade especially in summer.
Soil Berries grow in a wide range of soils but grow best with good drainage in deep, fertile soils. Blueberries prefer a slightly acid soil. Keep soil around berries and particularly around strawberries well mulched.
Climate Although most bramble berries, particularly raspberries, and currants are cold climate plants that require a period of winter chill to flower and fruit, varieties of blueberries, strawberries and some of the brambles grow in warmer conditions.
Watering Adequate and regular water is critical for fruit formation and development. Lack of water can lead to loss of flowers or fruit. Deep water at least weekly especially when plants are in new growth, flowering or fruiting. Water more frequently if plants are in hot, dry or exposed conditions or if they are growing in containers.
Feeding and mulching Feed every season through the growing season (spring through to autumn) with a complete fertiliser for fruiting plants such as Seasol plus Nutrients Fruit & Citrus. Additional apply a liquid fertilizer such as PowerFeed PRO SERIES Flowers, Fruit & Citrus every 2 to 4 weeks during the growing season for a bumper crop of tasty berries. Plants in containers can be liquid fed every 2 to 4 weeks as above, while they are growing (spring to autumn). Protect the area around the base of the plants with a 5-7cm layer of coarse organic mulch, which helps keep the soil evenly moist and weed free.
Pruning Techniques for pruning vary. Remove old canes of summer-fruiting raspberries and thornless blackberries after harvest and train up new growth. For autumn fruiting raspberries, cut back all growth. Remove runners from strawberries. In winter, remove the oldest wood on currants to make way for new growth. For blueberries remove old unproductive, dead, spindly or crossing overgrowth to keep the bush open and productive.
Watch out The main pests that attack berries are bugs such as harlequin bugs and green vegetable bugs, which may attack new growth, flowers or developing fruit. Fruit fly will also attack soft fruits such as raspberries. Birds also attack berry fruit so canes and bushes may need to be netted in summer and autumn using bird and animal safe netting or covered with a fruit cage.