Backyard Berries

Raspberry and Blackberry. These are hardy and productive, and they can create large wild brambles. They can be susceptible to viral diseases, especially if they receive too much moisture. I have seen conflicting advice regarding applying mulch.

The biggest thing I have found helpful: Know your varieties. Many plants grow by producing a primicane, or first year cane, that just grows the first year, then becomes the productive cane the second year.

The deer ate the top off of the primicane last year, which led it to send out a bunch of lateral branches. The lateral branches are the ones that bear fruit, so this year, it is now covered with bunches of green berries. I may throw some bird netting over it. Last year our total harvest after the birds and squirrels were done, was about two handfuls of berries. They taste amazing.

Cranberry (highbush). Several of these have been growing since last summer. They produce white lacy flowers in the spring, and now have green berries. These will eventually turn red. Over the winter, the birds really like the dried berries. I have noticed the stems are reddish, and the leaves are also reddish when young. Deer eat what they can reach, so there are usually some red-edged leaves.

Elderberry. These have also been growing since last year. The cranberry and elderberry bushes are about 4 feet tall, although I think this may have more to do with the deer eating anything that gets taller than the cages. Elderberry is famously used in syrups and wines, and supposedly is good for boosting immune function. The berries are extremely tart. Ours are harvested by the birds, and will continue to be until the shrubs get much bigger and more established. We enjoy trying to identify the various wild birds that like these for both berries and habitat.

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