How to Grow Four Berry Fruits
Four superb berry fruits for small home gardens
These four "bramble fruits" (meaning they are more or less prickly), are particularly appropriate to today's home food gardens because they are widely adapted and reliable. They are relatively free of insect-disease problems and require little space. All begin to bear fruit the year or so after you plant them and remain productive at least ten years.
Under good conditions, expect to pick about two quarts of fruit per plant from any of these, by the third season.
Harvest begins with the gooseberries, at rose time, followed a week or two later by the currants and raspberries-first the black and soon the red. Gooseberries may be harvested in one picking, or two a week apart. Many gardeners pick gooseberries green, but if you wait until they turn pink they will be larger and naturally sweeter. Be sure to wear gloves when picking.
Site and soil are alike for all: a fairly sunny place, but they will tolerate a little shade without harm; good drainage; reasonable good garden soil with added organic matter-peat or compost. Trellises are often-used for black-purple raspberries; but they are not essential. For the other three of these bushy fruits, trellises are not needed. Spring is the preferred planting time, but fall you can also plant stock.
- Hardiness-Zones 3-7. Not recommended for the lower South or mild winter areas.
- Spacing-Plant 4 feet apart.
- Set crown two inches deeper than it grew before. Cut back tops to 6 inches.
- Pruning-none the first two years. The winter following, and all thereafter, cut out at the base some of both oldest and newer canes to leave nine or ten strong canes of varying ages. Do not top back any canes. Gooseberries bear on two year or older wood.
To obtain new plants, bend or break down low outer branches to the ground. Anchor with a rock or pegs and place soil mound over a middle portion. The spring following, roots will have formed at the buried section, which can then be cut from the main plant and replanted elsewhere.
Gooseberries are famous for pies and along with currants are great for jams, jellies, preserves, and wine. Both are too sour to eat out of hand. They freeze and well and will store fresh in the refrigerator up to two weeks.
Good varieties: "Pixwell" and "Welcome."
- Hardiness-Zones 5-8.
- Spacing-Plant three feet apart in rows six feet apart.
- Set crowns (point where roots meet tops) at ground level. If there is a woody cane sticking up, cut it off two inches above ground.
- Pruning-None the first summer. Thereafter, early each spring before buds swell, top back each long leader about one-third its length. Cut out the weakest canes, leaving a clump of four to six strong ones. Tie canes remaining after pruning to the trellis. Watch in early summer as fresh new shoots rise from the crown, and pinch out tips of these as they reach a height of 3 or 4 feet. This encourages more side branches. After harvest, in midsummer, cut out at ground level and remove all canes that fruited (they will soon die, anyway).
Black raspberries form a many-caned, prickly plant rising from a single crown. In late summer, canes lengthen and arch to the ground several feet from the main plant-where, if permitted, tips take root and form new plantlets in nature's way of propagating. The can be lifted and transplanted in fall or early spring if you wish to start new plants. Otherwise, remove them to prevent the patch from becoming a thicket.
Raspberries of both red-gold and black-purple types are prized for eating fresh, canning or freezing. They bring premium prices at markets if you can find them. If you grow enough and you beat the birds and the small critters before they eat them all, you can make delicious jelly, jam, preserves or juice to use various ways.
Raspberries need daily picking at the height of the season. They are ripe when they pull easily from the white base or core. Handle gently to avoid bruising, and place them in half pint or pint boxes.
There's great news. Now you can get blackberry canes that are thornless.
Red and Gold Raspberries
- Hardiness-Zones 4-8.
- Spacing-Plant three feet apart in rows seven feet apart.
- Set in a hole deep enough to accommodate all the sound roots (more woody and longer than in black raspberries) so the stem is at the same level at which it grew before. After planting, cut off stem two inches above ground.
- Pruning-None the first year. The second spring, as buds swell but before they open, cut off at ground level all weak or excess canes, leaving a well-spaced group of two or three strong canes per square foot of area.
Red raspberries do not grow from crowns like black raspberries, but spread underground, by shallow runners that send up single canes a intervals. After thinning, top remaining canes at four feet. In succeeding years, thin out oldest, woodies canes to leav the most bigorous for fruiting. Suckers that come up and be dug and used to start a new patch.
Good varieties are "Newburgh," "Ltham," Fall-bearing varieties: "Fallgold," "Fallred," "Heritage," "Indian Summer," "September."
- Hardiness-Zone 3-6. Not recommended for the South or mild winter areas.
- Spacing-Plant 4 feet apart.
- Set at depth they apparently grew at the nursery. Cut back tops to 8 inches.
- Pruning-None the first three years. The winter following, and each thereafter, prune out at ground level the oldest, woodiest canes, leaving eight or nine strong younger ones. Do no top any canes. Currants fruit on two-year or older wood.
To propagate new plants, in autumn insert 10-inch long cuttings of current-year canes base down in the ground. Leave the uppermost inch above soil.
Good varieties: "Red Lake," "Wilder," "Improved Perfection."
Currants are small, only 1/4 inch across, and are produced in grape-like clusters. Plants are permanent and will bear well for many years. For earliest production, start with two-year old plants.