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Growing Strawberries, Blueberries, Raspberries, Blackberries, Currants and Other Berries That Thrive Where You Live

By Barbara PleasantBerries in carton

Easy to grow, quick to bear and naturally resistant to disease, supernutritious berries are the best fruits to grow organically. Plus, they rarely lose their newly fertilized flowers to late spring freezes — a common heartbreak with tree fruits. Whether you want ready-to-pick fruit “candy” or juicy smoothie berries, you can match up multi-talented varieties with the right sites and enjoy a full season of great-tasting berries, from spring strawberries to fall raspberries.

Begin by choosing one or two berries you’re willing to pay dearly for at the farmers market, like melt-in-your-mouth blueberries or tart black currants. Any berries grown by local farmers will grow at your place, too. Plenty of sun brings out the best flavor in most berries, but they also like a few hours of afternoon shade where summers are hot. For those with cool climates, some berries are happy with morning sun and afternoon shade.

Ready to choose the best berries for your yard? In addition to the overview below, be sure to check out the in-depth articles on the berries linked below, as well as our customized search tool, the Seed and Plant Finder to help you locate specific berry varieties.

Growing Strawberries
Growing Blueberries
Growing Raspberries and Blackberries
Growing Currants
Growing Less Common Native Berries 

When Can You Pick?

Most tree fruits must grow for five years or more before bearing a modest crop, but you can start picking strawberries and fall-bearing raspberries and blackberries after only one year. Even slow-growing blueberries start bearing in two to three years, and reach full production in about six years, continuing to produce for decades. Berries are more dependable than tree fruits because they usually dodge late spring freezes.

What’s Your pH?

Most berries grow beautifully along a woodland edge, so it should be no surprise that they prefer acidic soil. The soil’s acid/alkaline balance (pH) is rated on a scale with 7 as the neutral point. Most vegetables grow best in soil with a near-neutral pH (6 to 7), but berries need more acidic conditions in order to take up nutrients efficiently. Soil pH can vary from one part of your yard to another, so use an inexpensive soil pH test kit to make sure you choose the best sites for your berries. If your soil is nowhere near acidic, grow your berries in containers filled with a mixture of potting soil and an acidic soil amendment such as pine bark, composted leaves or pine needles.

Blueberries, northern: 4.5 to 5.5
Blueberries, rabbiteye: 5.5 to 6.0
Currants and gooseberries: 5.5 to 7.0
Raspberries and blackberries: 5.6 to 6.2
Strawberries: 5.8 to 6.5
Saskatoons: 6.0 to 7.0

Landscaping With Berries

To learn more about using edible fruit in your home landscape, check out the new book Landscaping with Fruit by Lee Reich (Tower, 2009).

Post a comment below.


2/6/2015 12:05:10 PM
what flowers grow good with blueberries?

Barbara Pleasant_3
6/23/2009 9:54:16 AM
Ilazria, If I were you I would get a bag of good compost that includes manure or another nitrogen souce (like McEnroe, Black Kow, or something made locally), and dump about 3 inches of it over the root zones of the plants. All clay isn't bad, and rich organic matter usually works better than sand as a soil amendment in clay. Raspberries are pretty forgiving plants. They will probably perk up with a deep blanket of rich compost, perhaps topped by a grass clipping mulch. Good luck!

6/21/2009 8:30:40 AM
PlicketyCat - I'm not sure what zone you're in, but check out Arctic Kiwis (actinidia kolomikta) they grow in zone 2. Don't take one of those generalised zone maps as gospel either, I lived in on the 55th parallel which was supposedly zone 0, and gardeners there could grow pretty much everything (save some tender perennials) that you see at the 45th.

6/19/2009 10:21:26 AM
I planted some yellow and red raspberries last year, but they don't seem to be growing well. We have heavy clay soil, so I mixed in some compost and sand to help thin it up. Last year they stayed pretty much the same size as they were when I bought them. THis year, I was excited to see them coming up and growing, but then they just seemed to... stop. I had thought root rot, but the leaves aren't dying. They still seem to be healthy, just stunted. The red raspberry isn't even more than a couple of little 2-3 inch shoots. What can I do to make them grow?

6/19/2009 10:20:25 AM
Fruiting trees can't survive my arctic winters, but I have countless varieties of edible berries growing wild all over my property. I may eventually plant some formal beds for strawberries; but for now I'm just enjoying nature's free fruit bounty. So glad that berries are much hardier than fruiting trees... I'd be lucky to keep a crab-apple alive up here in Interior AK.

6/15/2009 10:31:43 AM
I recently put current bushes in my new flower beds in front of my house. I have ripe berries now and the bushes look beautiful. They filled out fast and can be trimmed to be the size you desire. They were also much cheaper than teeny tiny, plain old shrubs.

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