Dreaming of summer berries? It’s not too late to be planting berries in the hopes of harvests by New Year’s.
Many plants will be on sale at nurseries as we have passed the conventional planting time (winter). But planting berries is still a great idea in spring.
Stray runners from folks with well established patches can also be nabbed for free in spring, when they are noticed popping their heads up in places they are not wanted.
Conventional wisdom tells us to buy bare-rooted cane berries in winter, but if you’ve missed the boat there’s no reason to fret come spring.
Planting sprouting canes in spring is absolutely aye-ok! In fact, it’s perhaps more of a sure-fire way to ensure your plants will take off. There’s no guarantee that “dormant” canes planted in winter will sprout.
Cane berries are a broad church, and there are many cultivars to suit a variety of Australian climates. Raspberries grow best in cooler climates, while blackberries, boysenberries, loganberries, marionberries and young berries will take a bit more heat.
Plant berry canes in spring exactly the same way as you would in winter. Into a well-prepared bed of compost and/or well broken down manure. They like slightly acidic soil, so adjusting your PH may be necessary if you have very alkaline soil.
Many berry canes can (and will) produce fruit in their first year. Those that are not primocane fruiting varieties (ie. they produce fruit on new wood, rather than one year old wood) are your best bet for quick harvests.
But remember, a berry plant isn’t just for Christmas – it will feed you for many, many years! So make sure you prioritise planting berries you will love to eat, as well as those that will bear early harvests. Or choose a mix of varieties to fulfil these multiple benefits.
Strawberry runners are only produced in autumn and winter, once fruiting has finished. However, strawberries can be planted year-round as potted plants.
Strawberries can fruit year round. But fruit will only ripen in warm weather. Thus if you transplant established strawberries in spring you can expect a summer harvest. But strawberry plant fruit production will peak in their second and third years, so don’t be dispirited if you have an underwhelming first harvest.
The exception is alpine strawberries, which will fruit and ripen year-round and establish quickly (some varieties can even takeover!).
Like cane berries, strawberries like a bit of acidity, so checking and adjusting PH may be necessary before planting.
Blueberries are long-lived fruiting bushes. They come in both deciduous and semi-deciduous types and there are variety of cultivars suitable for different climates.
Blueberry fruit production (like that of long-lived fruit trees) will overall increase if hard pruning is practiced in the first few seasons. This is because the plant will not spend precious energy producing fruit early-on.
Thus, while you can plant blueberries in spring (and may pick up a bargain at the nursery) forgo the urge to allow fruiting in this first year at least.
And while cane berries and strawberries like acidity, it is absolutely critical for blueberries. So test your soil PH or plant into pots filled with azalea/camelia potting mix to ensure your bushes thrive.
Berries are a very rewarding plant to grow. Who doesn’t want a handful of homegrown berries? Successful fruiting requires some care however.
Set up an irrigation system or plant berries in an easy-to access place that you know you will remember to water. Because summer fruiting relies on consistent watering.
Annual applications of compost or well-rotted manure are also essential to keeping your plants happy and healthy. Pruning away dead and diseased foliage is also essential.