What’s Growing On: Backyard strawberries and raspberries

(Raissa Tetanish photo) A strawberry plant grows in a home garden.

Strawberry shortcake, raspberry tart – do they make your mouth water?

And they are even better with fruit from your own garden. Many people create a strawberry patch in their yard, and if you have a larger yard, raspberries too. Strawberry crowns are available at Mayfield Gardens, Canada Green, Corn Hill and Scott’s Nursery, and raspberry canes are available at the latter two. Varieties of strawberries that will give good results here are Cavendish, Wendy, Jewel and Honeoye, while the raspberries to buy are Prelude, Nova or Heritage.

Other bush fruit that can be grown include highbush blueberries, gooseberries, currants, haskaps or sea buckthorn. They all have their advantages, and most make fine jams, jellies and pies. There are many online sources to research these fruits and their requirements. This article will stick to strawberries and raspberries.

Strawberries and raspberries can be purchased and planted now. Ensure that you have prepared a good soil bed; the soil should be rich with nutrients for strawberries and be slightly acidic. Raspberries are a little more forgiving for soil quality but they do need a well-drained soil.

Weed the area thoroughly. When they are young, strawberries do not like competition. If the weather is dry, both fruits need regular watering until they are established. You may wish to mulch between rows of crowns or canes to retain water and suppress the weeds.

Don’t expect any fruit from either berry the first year; they will spend all their energy growing. Raspberries will grow more new canes to add to the ones already planted and strawberries will grow runners, or stems growing sideways that will establish roots and a new crown at various intervals. You can decide how many runners and how many new crowns you have space for. Strawberries will carpet an area if you let them. You can train the runners to go in a desired direction.

Raspberries do not need any special winter care. If they are in an area where heavy snow could break the canes, you can stake a bundle of canes upright. Strawberries appreciate a covering of mulch to protect them from very cold weather, although all the varieties mentioned above are winter hardy here. Autumn leaves make a good cover for them and if there is a thick layer, I will gently rake them off in the spring.

Next spring, resist the urge to remove last year’s raspberry canes, called primocanes, even if they look dead. Leave most of the previous year’s primocanes, as they will become the fruiting floricanes in the second year. Only remove some primocanes if the rows are overcrowded. The goal is to have one fruiting cane about every six inches. The biggest issue with strawberries is to prevent overcrowding. The fruit will be smaller if the plants are too crowded. If you can’t walk through the strawberry patch without stepping on a plant, you will need to remove some, or move them elsewhere.

You will be able to get fruit in the second year from both these berry crops, and the production will increase yearly. The life of strawberry plants is five years or so, but raspberries can live for 10-15 years. They have a perennial root system, even though individual canes last two years. You may have to fight the birds for the berries so netting is advised, at least when the fruit get close to ripening, to protect the crop.

One more idea: if you only have a deck, you can get a hanging basket of strawberries. These will fruit all summer into autumn because they are everbearing varieties and give you a handful of fruit every few days – perfect with a little ice cream.

Our next column will go in a different direction, to look at culinary herbs, which ones to grow and how to grow them. In the meantime, start hardening up your seedlings to get them ready to plant outside, and hope for some rain.

Eastern Charlotte Waterways presentation

On May 24, Eastern Charlotte Waterways is hosting a presentation on Project : Village Indoor Farm and Village Lab. It will begin at 7 p.m. at the Wesley United Church, 77 William St., Saint Andrews. Admission is a $2 donation at the door for non-members.

Plant sale returns

By-the-Sea Gardeners’ spring plant sale will run from 9 a.m. until noon on May 27, also at the Wesley United Church in Saint Andrews.

By-the-Sea Gardeners is a community group that provides a forum for gardeners in the Saint Andrews area to share their interest and enthusiasm in gardening. To learn more about us, follow By the Sea Gardeners Club – St. Andrews on Facebook. Contact: Richard Tarn at 506-529-3110 or Mike Hutton at 506-529-3629.