Growing Rasperries, Blueberries, Currants, Grapes, Strawberries and More

Planting a variety of berries will ensure sweet treats all summer and delicious preserves in winter.

| March/April 1973

Special Note: All material here reprinted from Grow It! Copyright © 1972 by Richard W. Langer. The title of this excerpted chapter is "Berries." 

If ever I dies an' yo ain't certain I's dead,
Just butter some biscuit an' new made bread
An' spread em all over with raspberry jam,
Then step mighty softly to whar I am
An' wave dem vittles above my head,
If my mouf don't open, I'm certainly dead.
-Monroe Sprowl  

One of the tastiest spots on your farm is the berry patch. Of course, it won't have just berries in it. Strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries, their names notwithstanding, aren't berries at all in the botanical sense. Grapes and currants, on the other hand, are. Just to balance things out, some with "berries" as part of their names really are berries — blueberries, cranberries, and gooseberries, for instance. Which somehow explains why they're all grouped together here, and certainly in no way detracts from their flavor.

Growing Blueberries

To add further to the confusion of nomenclature, if you've ever had huckleberry pie, or picked wild huckleberries in the woods on a camping trip, chances are you didn't. Blueberries have small, soft, almost invisible seeds. Huckleberries have approximately ten big, stone-hard seeds. Eating real huckleberry pie is rather like chewing on a clam full of sand.

Blueberries are fussy about their growing conditions, requiring not only loose, acid soil, but a shallow water table and, at the same time, room for their sensitive roots to stay dry. They're very winterhardy, however, making an excellent crop for the Alaskan homesteader. Not only do they like a cold winter — even the blossoms will withstand a 10 degree Fahrenheit frost — but the cold is essential for most of the varieties to bear fruit. Thus as a rule they cannot be cultivated in regions where the temperature never goes down to freezing. However, minor species such as the Florida Evergreen, Rabbiteye, and Dryland will grow without the cold, and sometimes in the more arid regions. They're worth an experiment if your land is down South.

Propagation: Wild blueberries were probably spread from area to area by seeds in the droppings of birds and foxes. But don't sit around waiting for your local red-winged blackbird's help. A full-sized natural blueberry patch from seed is estimated variously to take between fifty and a hundred and fifty years. For best results on your farm, buy established blueberry plants grown from cuttings. Later you can multiply these by layering. But for the first few years your already-started bushes will II give you better berries, and sooner.

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