babying the berries–tips for springtime care

Two years ago, my out-of-control wineberry bushes began bullying my blueberry plants.  In an effort to call them off, I trimmed and tugged until the unruly characters ended up on their side of the garden patch.  A couple of months later, the birds and I enjoyed more berries than any of us could eat in one sitting.  I couldn’t believe the sheer number of them given the small area I had relegated them to.  For weeks on end, the juice stained our fingers as we grabbed handfuls coming and going to the car.

So, what are other ways you can baby your berry bushes?20130606-203950.jpg

  • In the Spring, pinch off the tops of the plants.  I can do this with gloves on–you’ll know where the tops are by looking for two things:  brighter green leaves that are smaller than others on the bush and the stems will be so tender you can literally pinch them off with your fingers
  • Berries like “deep” watering–make sure they get plenty of fluids in hot, dry weather.  Be careful, however, of oversoaking or having a lot of rain–they are prone to mold/rot.  I learned about it the hard way last year with all the rain we had.
  • As far as water retention, I also learned the hard way about too much mulch/compost around the base of the plants.  In a damp season, the roots cannot dry out properly and again, will mold/rot.
  • If space is limited, keep your berries trimmed to create bushier plants or build a vertical trellis for them to climb.
  • Cut out any dried, old canes (stems).
  • Berries love compost.  I usually sprinkle a shovelful around each base before winter.  We have a lot of trees as well so leaves offer a nice source of protection while allowing air around the base of the plant.
  • Prune only in Spring or Autumn.  My rule of thumb is cutting back plants (if needed) in Autumn then in Spring, clear away any dead branches/canes and pinching off the new growth tips at the top.
  • For new plants, especially blueberries, the first year may need to be spent establishing the plant–making all the bush’s energy to go into the plant itself and not berries.  Clip off any buds that form or flowers that blossom.

Most importantly, don’t forget the other reason berry growth is important–to provide nutrients for your fine feathered friends.  On our farm, we have intentionally planted wineberry canes in the woods near our bird feeders.  We don’t eat off these for they provide summer treats for the birds.  We know that it works because as we eat dinner on summer evenings, most of the birds in the neighborhood come to feast at our house.  It is just delightful!

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