FUN FACT: Did you know that, from a botanical perspective, boysenberries, blackberries, strawberries, and raspberries aren’t actually berries at all? True berries are simple fruits from one flower with one ovary (the fleshy fruity part) containing seed(s), but these “berries” make multiple seed bearing ovaries from one flower. Botanically, this makes them accessory fruits (strawberry) or aggregate fruits (clumping “berries” like the raspberry). This also means that fruits like oranges, kumquats, tomatoes, watermelon, pumpkins, bananas, grapes, and avocados are technically berries. Call them what you want – they’re all still delicious!
What Berries Do You LOVE to eat?
Grow Your Favourites
In selecting berries (or other edibles) for your garden, one of the best places to start a wish list is with what you like to eat. What types of berries do you and your family enjoy the most? How much is enough (or too much) for your household?
Experiment with Different Varieties
If you’re feeling adventurous and conditions allow, it’s also fun to pick types and varieties that aren’t readily available commercially. This is especially nice if (like us) you live in an area where lots of different edibles are grown. When local produce is in season, common varieties are readily available and inexpensive. Mix things up by growing other varieties in your berry patch.
Reduce You Exposure to Chemical Reside
If you’re concerned about sprays, some berries are more prone to commercial chemicals and pesticides than others. Strawberries and blueberries often make the annual residue “dirty lists”. Bonus, strawberries are easy to grow, compact, and happy in pots for small spaces. You can easily propagate strawberries from runners to expand your berry patch, too!
Of course, there is often a reason why commercial growers turn to sprays. Bugs, birds, and other garden wildlife love berries, too (as do my foraging dogs). Keep your home garden healthy without using harmful pest controls, if possible (the bees will thank you). You may need to net for birds if you’re not keen to share. I haven’t found a net quite big enough for these black and white spotted berry birds! Haha!
Growing Conditions and Available Space
From your dream wish list, the practicalities of space, climate, cost, etc. will help you select which of your wish list you can try growing in your garden.
Room to grow a limiting factor for most home gardeners when planning fruit trees Considerations include mature height, width, and root behaviour. Many berries are fairly low maintenance; however, rambling raspberry, blackberry, loganberry, and boysenberry brambles benefit from support frames and training/pruning to keep them in check, and beware of invasive suckering roots.
Many berries prefer to be planted in full sun for best yield and flavour, but some varieties are more tolerant than others. The great news is that, unlike many fruit trees, lower growing berries are often subjected to shade in their natural environments and can do well in semi-shaded berry patches.
Some berries have specific soil preferences, like acid lowing blueberries and cranberries, and are best grown with like-minded plants. It can also be helpful to group plants (even if they are in separate pots) that require a similar watering and feeding program to streamline garden chores, companion planting in it’s simplest form.
Be aware of local pests and diseases that may impact the health of your trees or quality of your crop. This is especially important if you want to grow organically or prefer to avoid spraying. Consider the whole of your growing and care plan. If needed, investigate alternatives or resistant varieties before making a final decision.
Small Space Berry Patches
Many berries grow well in container gardens or pots, so they’re a great addition to the home garden not matter how small your available growing space. In terms of yield for space occupied, strawberries are on the best growing options.
Many berries are self-fertile, but cropping is often improved by having plants for cross-pollination. If you’re short on space and trying to squeeze in as many different berries as possible, look for fully self-fertile options. Many blueberries do better with other plants for improved pollination.
Berries for Landscaping Double Duty
Do you need to plant for both form and (delicious) function? Berries can be productive but pretty landscape plants. Some are rambling, prickly, deciduous, or all of the above – tasty yes, but not always pretty. Others, like Chilean guava (aka New Zealand cranberry or bush cranberry) and some blueberries are evergreen and can even be pruned as informal hedging and general garden specimens.
Strawberries are low growing and can make a pretty addition to mixed beds. Some varieties will even spread (if you allow them) into a flowering and fruiting groundcover. There are varieties that crop at different times (some even crop multiple times in a growing season), and in our temperate climate, the leaves are evergreen. I have an under planting of strawberries and thyme with our feijoa hedge, and as an added bonus, the birds seem to prefer the pretty red feijoa flowers (feijoas are bird pollinated) to pillaging the early strawberries below, at least while the flowers last. A companion planting surprise!
Berry Patch Planning and Planting Idea Sheet
The follow-on infographic/idea-sheet was created many years ago, before Green in Real Life transitioned from Blogger’s blogspot to our home here at greeninreallife.com. The branding and design is dated, but good ideas are always in fashion, so we’ve keep it with our updated post: