Our mild climate is perfect for growing sweet, juicy berries, and homegrown berries are a great way to save money while eating fresh and local throughout the year! Between blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries, there are so many delightful options for your edible garden, no matter your skill level. Not only are these berries plentiful and tasty, they are even handsome enough to be used as ornamental shrubs or groundcover in the landscape.
Types of Blueberries
Early, mid, and late-season blueberry ripening times are June or early July to September. Long-standing, traditional highbush cultivars include Bluecrop, Berkley, and Chandler. New varieties for landscapes and container growing are available with great flavor and enhanced beauty. For example, Sunshine Blue and Bountiful Blue are self-fertile, semi-evergreen, and suitable for containers as well as the ground.
- Early season cultivars: Earliblue, Duke
- Mid-season cultivars: Blueray, Bluecrop, Berkley (mid to late), Chandler (mid to late)
- Late-season cultivars: Legacy
Blueberry Planting & Care
Plant at least two varieties for best production and cross pollination. Ideal planting times are fall and early spring—be sure to irrigate plants during dry weather for at least two years after planting; plants are very vulnerable to drought stress and have shallow, fibrous root systems. Partially remove flower buds at planting time for better root development (if planting in spring).
Blueberries require moist, acidic soil (pH 4.5–5.5) and it’s best if well-mulched in summer; use G&B Acid Planting Mix as planting amendment or mulch. Elemental sulfur or cottonseed meal may be used to lower soil pH, but a soil pH test is always a good idea.
After year three, prune annually in late winter (February) to keep good production; long-lived plants can remain productive for 30–40 years.
Strawberry Planting & Care
Strawberries require full sun for most of the day, although some late afternoon shade is tolerable in midsummer. They require a soil pH of 5.5–6.5, and good drainage is essential! If the soil is heavy and tends to stay wet, plant on raised beds or add organic matter to improve drainage. The smaller fruited Alpine strawberry has been known to grow well in partial sun or light shade and has a wonderful, delicate flavor and no inner core; less common and can be hard to find.
Different types will ripen throughout the season depending on variety. Spring Crop (June-bearing), Everbearing, and Day-Neutral are terms used to indicate ripening seasons.
Planting Instructions: Plant your strawberries early in the spring; frost will not hurt the plants.
- In the ground: Position the roots so they are straight down into the ground; do not allow them to curl up. Pack the soil around each plant taking care that they are at the proper depth. Water in well and continue to irrigate as needed. Plant spacing should be 18–24 inches apart with the rows being 42–48 inches apart.
- In containers: Can be grown in window boxes, deck pots, hanging baskets, or traditional “strawberry pots” with basic potting soil and regular fertilizing for best success. Small, bare-root starts are the best option for planting into the tiny pockets of a classic strawberry pot—often the openings are too small to fit a fully developed plant. Plants will slowly spread over time and some will trail over the edges of the container.
Fertilizing: Wait for growth to start on bare-root plantings to avoid burning the roots. Without a soil test, we recommend a balanced blend of Nitrogen, Phosphorus, Potassium, and Sulfur. The same fertilizer that works in your vegetable garden will give excellent results on strawberries. This should be applied and incorporated before you plant (or in early spring as a side dressing around established plantings) and again in early August. Weed control is essential for strawberries. Cultivate your crop on a regular basis to eliminate weed pressure.
Mulching: In areas with cold winters, mulching is necessary to protect plants. Cover your plants with straw in late fall. Approximately 3–5 inches will be sufficient. Remove the straw in early spring when you notice new growth on the plant. A light layer of mulch between rows and around developing plants can also keep berries from rotting as they ripen; you can use straw or G&B Soil Building Conditioner.
Pests/Diseases: Strawberries are susceptible to red stele root rot and a few other diseases. To avoid this problem, plant in a well-drained area of the garden or in raised beds or pots. Aphids help spread disease, so rigid insect control is necessary—control aphids with the insecticide of your choice or with beneficial insects. Organic gardeners may plant Rainier or Totem; these two varieties are virus-tolerant. Slugs love to hide under the leaves and munch on developing fruit, so be sure to stay on top of slug control! Other pests include birds and squirrels.
Tips for everbearing varieties: After planting, keep all flowers picked off until early June—this establishes a strong plant. Plants will flower and fruit the rest of the summer and fall until a frost occurs. The original mother plants should be rouged out after the second or third year as they become less productive.
Tips for spring crop varieties: Fertilize and water well during the first year to promote flower bud formation for the fall. The first crop is picked the following spring. In fall, thin runners so they are 3–5 inches apart. If possible, mow tops off in January or February prior to the spring flush of growth to help prevent fruit rot. After the last berry is picked, mow the plants off with a lawn mower set just above the crowns at the soil surface. The old leaves left after harvest will die anyway, plus mowing is good sanitation and helps keep fruit rot at a minimum as plants age.
Types of Strawberries
Tri-Star: Produces a heavy, very early spring crop of small to medium, short conic fruit. Cool fall weather will bring larger, more elongated fruit; fall crop is the heaviest. Berries have firm, glossy, deep red skin with solid, medium red flesh. Excellent for fresh eating or freezing and good for hanging baskets. Resistant to red stele and verticillium wilt; tolerant of leaf scorch and leaf blight. Hardy in zones 5 to 8.
*Seascape: Noteworthy for great flavor, high yield, large fruit size, firmness, and attractive appearance; some basic disease and virus resistance.
Aromas: Large, firm berries characterized by exceptional fruit quality and flavor; good red color and a bright sheen. Fruit is produced slightly later than other day-neutral varieties and production continues into late fall.
Quinault: Large, firm, deep red berry and with good flavor. Good for fresh eating, desserts, and preserves; not recommended for freezing. High-yielding, vigorous plants produce many runners. Susceptible to mildew.
Hawaiian Berry/ Pineberry (white strawberry): Have you tried a Pineberry yet? This “white strawberry” gets its name from the strong pineapple aroma and flavor overtones. There has been a lot of hype about Pineberry since it was introduced a few years ago… This is not the heirloom wild strawberry of South America, nor is it a genetically modified plant. It is a new variety developed by Dutch horticulturists in the early 21st century in response to the threat of extinction of the South American wild strawberry. This fine group of folks wanted to preserve the look and flavor of the fruit, so they found a strain of white strawberry in Europe and bred it back—the result is the deliciously different Pineberry! The fruits are small (about an inch in diameter) and very plump. They are ivory to creamy primrose with red seeds. You will smell them before you see them nestled under the dark green leaves; the aroma combines traditional strawberry tones with a pineapply scent, plus the flavor is more succulent and sweet than red strawberries—such a treat! This spreading plant reaches 8–12 inches high and spreads by runners up to 18 inches wide. Grow it just as you would any ever-bearing strawberry, and if you can, plant a red strawberry variety near it. The cross-pollination won’t hurt Pineberry’s flavor one bit, and it will improve the yields of both plants! However, if you can’t do this, don’t worry—Pineberry is self-pollinating. You will love this new take on a beloved heirloom! Watch for its arrival later this spring. Zones 5 to 8.
Rainier: A very tough, virus-tolerant plant. Extremely vigorous grower with large floppy leaves that are ornamentally attractive. The berry is medium to large in size and conic in shape, but too soft and delicate for storage or commercial sales. Rainier is excellent for fresh eating as well as processing.
*Hood: The large round (Globose) berry is considered to have the best table quality. Hood is known as a fine preserve and jam berry and is good for all other uses. Resistant to root rot, mildew, and red stele, but quite susceptible to virus and should not be planted near strawberries known to be infected. Bears entire crop over a short period in June. Not particularly winter hardy.
*available in bare root for early season planting
Raspberry Planting & Care
- Plant in full sun with well-draining, slightly acidic soil (pH 5.5–6.5).
- Raspberries do not require heavy fertilization; we suggest an application of G&B Organic All-Purpose Fertilizer or G&B Citrus & Fruit Tree Fertilizer in spring once growth has begun, and again about 6–8 weeks later.
- Gypsum lime applied at a rate of six tons per acre helps prevent root rot in raspberry plantings (4.5 ounces of gypsum lime per square foot of garden)—the calcium ion interferes with root rot development and gypsum lime does not change the pH of the soil. We suggest working the gypsum into the soil that forms your raised bed. Once this is done, plant your raspberries and do not fertilize until the plants actually begin growing.
- An application of kelp meal in the fall can assist with winter hardiness and disease resistance.
- Ripening times vary by cultivar; spring crop or everbearing varieties are both available.
Pruning & Training
Cane berries have a rambling habit and will spread wildly if left unchecked. Often, only the shoots of suckers that start close to the original plant are allowed to grow, thus the canes are kept grouped together in the so-called hill. Unwanted suckers arising too far from the mother plant may be grubbed out as they appear. After the first year when the raspberries are dormant, thin out the weaker or damaged canes, leaving yourself 4 to 6 strong canes per hill.
One crop/spring crop raspberries (e.g. Willamette, Canby) fruit on two-year-old wood. After harvest, the two-year-old fruiting wood begins to die and can be removed. The remaining one-year-old canes for the following summer’s crop can be cut back to head height or tied up and bent over.
Two-crop/everbearing raspberries (e.g. Heritage, Raspberry Shortcake) are handled much the same way, except that they also produce fruit in the fall on one-year-old canes. The fruit will appear on the top foot or so of the cane, and it is a common practice to remove the portion of the cane that fruited after harvest, leaving the rest of the cane to produce next summer’s crop. The everbearing raspberry thus produces a summer crop on two-year-old wood and a fall crop on one-year-old wood. As with the one crop raspberries, the two-year-old canes die and are removed after the harvest or during the following winter.
Red raspberries can be supported either with tall stakes or ideally with a two-wire trellis. The wires of the trellis are usually placed about one foot below the height at which the canes have been pruned. The wires are placed on each side of the post with large staples or nails. Sometimes, cross pieces are nailed to the posts so that the two wires are 12–15 inches apart. A second set of wires may be placed a few feet below the top wires; the canes can be tied to the top set of wires. Certain varieties may need no support at all!
A recent introduction called Bushel and Berry Raspberry Shortcake is dwarf, thorn-less, and ever-bearing—great for growing in a large container!