Growing Blueberries, Raspberries and Strawberries for a Healthy Homestead
Growing blueberries, strawberries, raspberries and blackberries is a great way to add nutritional food to your back yard. These berries will produce year after year adding value to your yard or homestead. They do tend to spread, creating even more return on your investment. If that doesn’t seem like a good idea for your yard, these versatile plants will be happy growing in containers on your deck or patio. Growing blueberries and any other berry plant gives you the opportunity to grab a healthy snack while working in the yard, tending your chickens or relaxing after a long day.
We have blueberry, wineberry, and strawberry plants growing on our farm and backyard. The fruit is a welcome sight each summer. Recently, I picked up another blueberry to plant in a container on my deck. You really can’t have too many berry plants growing! Here’s how I grow the berries, and later preserve them for jams, jellies, syrups, and baking.
Growing Blueberries in a Container
Containers for growing blueberries should be large enough for the roots to spread out and to accommodate future growth. I planted a small blueberry bush in a 12 inch wide planter which should last a few years. Since blueberry plants require an acidic soil I prepared the soil ahead of planting. Some of our naturally composted chicken manure mixed into a bag of potting soil will lower the pH of the soil. It’s easier to create the acidic soil for growing blueberries, when using a container.
The blueberry plant I purchased came in a tightly closed plastic bag, with the new growth sticking out of the top. Opening the bag revealed the folded up root mass in the peat moss soil. Peat moss has a high acidic content so I mixed that extra soil into the pot. I unfolded the root ball and saw that the roots were actually quite wide spread. Blueberries have a shallow root system. I dug out a space in the planter for the plant to sit in, with the roots remaining outstretched.
Back fill the dirt, filling in the hole. Water gently and thoroughly. Blueberry plants love sun so choose a place that has a good bit of sunshine. Blueberry plants can even handle full sun exposure.
Direct Sow Method for Growing Blueberries
Prepare the area for planting and add the appropriate soil amendments to create a low pH, high acid environment. When planting blueberry bushes directly into the ground, leave about five feet between each plant. Water the plants a few times each week. Mulching with a couple inches of wood chips, sawdust or pine needles will keep the soil moist for the blueberry bushes.
Strawberries also love lots of sun. This plant spreads quickly and is a lovely perennial fruit for the backyard or farmyard. They height is low, so you can plant other plants behind them in the border gardens. When planting directly in the ground, leave at least 18 inches between plants. If you want to control the expansion somewhat, plant in large containers. The strawberry will put out runners even from a container and those can take root in surrounding yard space. You can propagate more strawberry plants by clipping the runner strand, from the container plant, after the baby plant has roots. Then, replant the new plant where you want it to grow.
Strawberries don’t require as much water as blueberries. The fruit will be sweeter if the plants are not over watered. Like other berry plants, strawberry plants prefer acidic soil and mulching between the rows.
Planting Raspberries and Blackberries
While you might think the planting of these two berries would be similar, the care of raspberry plants suggests soaking the roots for a few hours before planting. Blackberries have the deeper root system of the two and the roots need to be planted in an L formation. Raspberries, on the other hand have a wider root system and should have the roots spread out.
Plant the seedlings 2 to 3 feet apart in holes big enough for the roots. The crown of the plants should not be buried.
Future Care of Berry Plants
Pruning the Blueberry Bushes
You don’t need to prune blueberry bushes until the start of year three for the plant. In addition, not allowing the plant to produce berries for the first three years will help the plant to thrive and produce later. Pruning stimulates future growth and production. Do the pruning in late winter before the new growth begins to form.
Strawberry plants do well with little maintenance and produce for a few years. Allowing the plants to produce more runners will continue the patch without a major break in production. Clean up the strawberry patch for winter, mulch thickly, and allow the plants a winter rest.
Blackberries and Raspberries should have their canes pruned back after the fruiting or in the fall.
Mulch the plant at the base for winter. Cover the bush with a light covering if the cold weather is extreme. Mulching in late fall will help your berries survive even the coldest winter weather.
Reasons for Growing Blueberries, Raspberries, Blackberries and Strawberries for Your Health
The blueberry is a versatile fruit choice that you can add to baked goods, salads, fruit spreads, and eaten plain. In addition to being tasty and easy to find, blueberries are an excellent source of vitamins and antioxidants. Blueberries are often referred to as a “super food ” along with sweet potatoes, kefir, salmon and kale, and many herbs, to name a few. Super foods are packed with higher levels of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants than other foods. This is a good reason to have them growing right in your back yard or on your farm.
Strawberries, Raspberries and Blackberries offer plenty of nutritional benefits, too. Did you know that strawberries have a strong benefit for your heart? The high phenol content means that strawberries are providing plenty of good soluble fiber, and protection against diseases. Strawberries also contain a high amount of vitamin C which helps the body absorb iron.
Eat More Berries To Lower Cancer Risks
Eating raspberries gives you more antioxidants than any other fruit! Another reason that I am grateful a close cousin of the raspberry grows on our farm. We are surrounded by wineberries, a smaller version that has a softer seed and a slightly less powerful flavor. We use them just as we would raspberries, in baking, cooking, infused vinegar, and syrups. Raspberries can aid reproductive health, and eye conditions. In addition, the low glycemic index and high fiber makes them a good sweet tasting dessert for diabetics.
Planting Trees Adds to the Homestead too!
In addition to berry bushes, trees can provide fruit, shade, and medicinal properties to your homestead. For information on planting trees in the fall, read this guide.
Blackberries are often a bane to gardeners since they multiply rapidly and have sturdy thorns. But blackberries are worth the effort from a nutritional standpoint. The polyphenol content in blackberries is very high which means this berry packs a serious cancer fighting punch. Anthocyanins, in particular are the compounds thought to bring the cancer fighting benefit. In addition, the blackberry has a high content of vitamin K and Manganese which is important to brain health.
The blueberry is a versatile favorite. In addition to being tasty and easy to find, blueberries are an excellent source of vitamins and antioxidants. Blueberries are often referred to as a “super food ” along with sweet potatoes, kefir, salmon and kale, and many herbs, to name a few. Super foods are packed with higher levels of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants than other foods. This is a good reason to have them growing right in your back yard or on your farm.
In short, blueberries, strawberries, raspberries and blackberries are important to good health. Growing any of these berries on the homestead ensures a ready supply of antioxidant rich food. This is important nutritionally for disease prevention, and keeping the body functioning well.
Storing and Preserving Small Berries
All berries can be canned, frozen, dehydrated and freeze dried. Freezing whole berries is easy using this method. The berries stay whole and look great when thawed.
- Rinse the berries in cold water and drain completely
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper
- Lay the berries in a single layer on the parchment paper
- Slide the baking tray into the freezer
- When completely frozen, transfer the berries into zip lock freezer bags or freezer containers
- Immediately return to the freezer before thawing begins.
When you want some whole berries for a recipe or to thaw and eat, remove the desired quantity.
For more information on the freeze drying method you can use at home, check this article in Countryside.
Growing blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries in your yard is a good way to add fresh food to your diet and have a healthy snack ready only a short distance from your back door. Which berry plants are you growing at your home?
Use your fresh berries to bake some Low Sugar Muffins !
Make Raspberry Infused Vinegar to give as gifts. (save some for yourself too!)
- buy a bottle of red wine vinegar
- rinse the raspberries or wine berries
- drain completely
- place the berries in a canning jar
- add the vinegar to completely cover the berries
- allow the berries to infuse for 2 weeks in a dark cupboard
- strain the berries – use cheese cloth for a clean clear vinegar
- store the vinegar in the refrigerator – it has a long shelf life
You can use the raspberry red wine infused vinegar in cooking and salad dressings.