I love berries! They are easy to grow, convenient to pick and there is no more delicious dessert in the world than a dish of mixed berries with a swirl of real whipped cream on top. Besides all that, they are good for you, full of vitamins and antioxidants
The only berries I grow are red raspberries. They have been in place in my garden for about 10 years and need little care but cutting back of the canes in late fall, and a little weeding in the spring before they grow so thickly the weeds are crowded out.
If you are serious about raspberries, pick a sunny site with good drainage, and decide whether you want single-crop berries, which can be harvested in June, or ever-bearing that have fruit in early June and then again in August.
The only difference in care is in the pruning, and specifics should be on the label.
I am very basic with my ever-bearing Heritage plants, cutting them all back to about 6 inches in late fall. Their first crop is small because of this chopping back of the first-year canes, but they have a large crop in late summer that lasts for weeks. This is not the recommended method, and you can find the proper way to do things on the Internet or in gardening books.
Strawberries need good soil preparation before planting and are shallow-rooted, so care is needed when weeding or cultivating. They like loose soil with plenty of organic matter and should not be planted where potatoes or tomatoes have grown previously.
In their first season, pinch off any runners that appear. In successive years, let those runners take root and you soon will have as large a patch as you wish.
There is no comparison between homegrown fresh berries and those white-topped, hard and tasteless monsters from the store. Produce sellers look for varieties that will travel well to bring the best appearance to the consumer, and these are not often the best in taste or texture.
Blackberries are delicious grown wild, but the cultivated ones are much larger and still very good. They are not choosy about their location; any scrubby corner will support a few branches, which will soon spread and scramble over a fence or a shed.
Blackberries have a long season, starting in late summer, and freeze very well. Do not wash them first, but freeze in a single layer on cookie sheets and then keep in plastic bags.
Blackberry and apple pie for Thanksgiving beats
pumpkin in my book any time. (Editor's note: She's right, you know.)
Blueberries are not native to this area, needing acidic soil, but with due care the highbush varieties can be grown. They will do well in containers where the pH of the soil can be easily monitored and only need a small space in full sun. They will produce a small harvest by the third year of growth, and come into full production by the sixth year.
Wild blueberries are much smaller than the cultivated ones but also are sweeter and more flavorful. The foliage turns bright red in the fall.
And no column on berries would be complete without a mention of this year's fad, the acia berry (pronounced ah-SIGH-ee). Acia cannot be grown around here; it needs tropical swampy conditions and acidic soil that might be found on the floor of the rain forest. Unless you have a good greenhouse, you will not be able to grow them, but be familiar with the pronunciation and you can hold your own in erudite conversations about weight loss and good health.
There are other berries to enjoy, including mulberries, loganberries, raspberries in yellow, black and purple, whortleberries , elderberries and more. So be adventurous in the produce aisle and take advantage of free berries in the wild.
Janet Del Turco is a local gardener and a graduate of the Ohio State University Master Gardener program.
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