Thursday, June 14, 2012 9:15 AM EDT
Berries are the epitome of summer: warm and sweet, highly nutritional, little packages of brightly coloured goodness. Though best eaten when picked from your own crop, if not consumed fresh, summer berries can grace your table in numerous delightful ways.
I’m talking cobbler, grunt, fool, betty, crisp, ice cream, cordial, wine and jam. That’s just for starters!
Blueberries and strawberries are easiest to grow in containers. Blackberries, raspberries and the new haskap berry grow best in a plot, where they have room to spread. The bonus with pots, of course, is that you can grow in a small space and maintain complete control of soil type. Here are some very specific, not to mention berry-specific, growing tips! Blueberries
These berries prefer an acidic soil mix; as most potting soil provides this, you're on the right track even before you start. As with all container gardening, make sure there is sufficient drainage in the bottom of the pot (pound a few holes with hammer and nail) — there should be enough room for the roots to grow at least 8 inches, from the stem down. The pot should also be a large one. Pour in soil halfway, gently place bush on top, and cover and pat down with remaining soil. Give it a good watering. Full sun and watering every day during the hot summer should yield a small crop during the first year, a good crop the second year, and an abundant amount the third year. Note: Plant a couple of different varieties, which ensures cross-pollination and the bonus of extended harvest. (Some varieties do not require a pollinator: dwarf Northblue and dwarf Tophat, for example, offer the additional bonus of being smaller, and thus perfect for pots.) Strawberries
These berries are the easiest of all to grow. (Let the kids have their own pot or plot.
). Water, pick and devour strawberries regularly — really, that's it! — and the reward will be significant. All garden centres sell strawberries, often potted-up and ready to go in hanging pots or beautiful tiered Gaudi-inspired vessels (which I find to be quite the funky tradition). If planting in garden beds, watch out: they tend to run wild, so it's best to let them have their very own space. Blackberries
These berries like to go deep with their roots, thus are best suited to the garden. People tend to purchase the thornless versions (go figure), though it's entirely a matter of preference. Blackberries take a couple of years to produce fruit, which makes patience a must. Raspberries
These berries should also be planted in the back forty, as they too need lots of room to grow. They will keep you, friends
, neighbours and the second cousin of the postmistress “berry happy” for many years. Haskap
This berry is a relative newcomer, and is also referred to as the edible blue honeysuckle. Better still, it’s a Canadian
original: a hybrid that was developed at the University of Saskatchewan breeding program. Haskap should be embraced by the gardener who has room to grow, as it tastes delicious (blueberry and raspberry ambrosia), has few pests or diseases, can be grown in harsh climes and makes beautiful jam.
A quick note about winterizing berries in pots: Keep the pot outside and place it in a larger pot, with some mulch stuffed in the space between. Or, put it in an unheated garage or shed, and water it once a month. One final task, here: Enjoy your summer berries!