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Whichever the type, plant now and enjoy berries often

It’s hard to top the taste of fresh strawberries from the garden. (Susan Mulvihill)
It’s hard to top the taste of fresh strawberries from the garden. (Susan Mulvihill)

Fresh berries are a delightful summertime treat. Whether strawberries, blueberries, raspberries or blackberries are your favorites, you’ll be happy to hear they’re all quite easy to grow.

All types of berries should be planted in the spring. Once established, they will reward you with tasty harvests for years to come. They should be planted in an area that gets at least 6 hours of sun daily. Regular watering and good soil drainage are a must.

Strawberries

There are three types of strawberries: June-bearing, ever-bearing and day-neutrals.

June-bearers tend to be the most productive and ripen in late June. Recommended varieties, ranging from early to late season, are Hood, Shuksan, Benton and Rainier.

Ever-bearers will bear fruit twice in a season, usually in spring and late summer. Good varieties include Quinault and Ogalalla.

Day-neutrals produce berries during the whole season. Tillicum, Tribute, Tristar and Hector are recommended varieties for this area.

Strawberry plants should be spaced about 12 inches apart when you first plant them. Work some ammonium sulfate (21-0-0) into the soil, spread out the plant roots and keep the crown (the base of the plant above the roots) right at the soil surface.

Blueberries

I’ve been growing blueberries for years and am amazed at how easy they are to grow. In the spring, I enjoy their lovely bell-shaped flowers. In the summer, the deep blue fruit are absolutely delicious. And in the fall, the foliage turns bright red which looks stunning in the landscape.

They prefer an acidic soil pH of 4.5 to 5.5 which can be accomplished by adding peat moss to the bed at planting time. Each year after that, I sprinkle pelletized sulfur on the soil surface. The plants have shallow, hairlike roots so it is important to avoid disturbing them.

Some of the best cultivars are Patriot, Bluejay, Bluecrop, Darrow, Earliblue and Spartan. While blueberries don’t technically require a pollinator, there will be higher productivity if you plant more than one variety. There are early, mid and late season varieties so look for that information on the nursery tags.

The plants should be spaced about 4 feet apart and they will reach 3 to 4 feet in height. It is best to water at the base of each plant rather than watering them overhead.

Raspberries and blackberries

Both raspberry and blackberry canes are sold as bareroot stock at the nurseries. Plant them 2 feet apart.

Most varieties will bear during midsummer although there are some that will also bear in the fall. The life cycle of a raspberry is a little confusing but it is important to understand. The first year, the cane is called a primocane. It will only bear leaves and should not be cut down at the end of the first year. The second year, it becomes a floricane which blooms and produces fruit. Once floricanes have finished fruiting, they should be cut down to the ground. Don’t worry, new canes will develop from the roots to begin the cycle all over again.

Some of the best raspberry varieties for this area are Willamette, Skeena, Canby and Chilcotin. Fall-bearing cultivars include Heritage and Fall Gold.

Homegrown blackberries are delicious but the fact is many cultivars just aren’t hardy enough to put up with our chilly winters. The hardiest varieties include Black Satin, Darrow and a new one called Prime Ark.

Raspberries and most blackberries will require a trellis or other support. To protect roots from potential winter injury, mulch the bases with a thick layer of weed-free straw or pine needles.

Susan Mulvihill can be reached via email at inthegarden@live.com.Visit her blog at susansinthegarden. blogspot.com for more gardening information, tips and events.


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