By Marjory Blare, Master Gardener
Excitement at the Garden Track!
Learn how to beat the odds and win the small fruits (strawberries, raspberries, blueberries) race in your garden.
1st race: Maiden Race – Track Prep
- All tracks need full sun, good drainage and air circulation.
- Test soils before planting.
- Soil pH needs:
- Strawberry needs a soil pH of 6-7.0
- Raspberry needs 5.5-6.5 pH
- Blueberry needs 4.0-5.0 pH
2nd race: Planting Stakes Race
3rd race: Maintenance Claiming Race
4th race: The Harvest Home Derby
Strawberry out of Hija X Deckard (0.5” to 6”)
Jockeys: Ever Bearing (spring and fall harvest), June Bearing (spring harvest), and Day Neutral (all season).
- Remove flowers during year one to grow a better root system.
- Plant new crowns above soil level 12-18” apart. Runners should be pruned; leave enough daughter plants to replace diseased, non-productive crowns or plants older than four.
- Change track location every 4 years to stop build-up of diseases and insects. Renovate the bed after harvest. New leaves will re-grow quickly. Remove last year’s mulch, add fresh mulch.
- Strawberry wins The Harvest Home Derby around 2-4 years-old. Refrigerate if not using immediately. Discard berries that are bird/insect damaged or diseased.
Raspberry out of Hedgehog X Shillelagh (2′-5′)
Jockeys: Primocane Fall-Bearing (fall harvest), and Floricane Ever-Bearing (spring and fall harvest).
- Raspberries need to be cross-tied in order to win the Harvest Home Derby. Posts and wires work well.
- In early spring, plant red and yellow raspberries about 2-3′ apart, spreading the roots. Rows wider than 12” impede harvesting. Black and purple raspberries form ‘hills’ with primocanes sprouting from the crown. Plant in rows four feet apart.
- Feed Raspberry frequently. Annual pruning increases productivity and reduces disease. 2-3” of mulch controls weeds and conserves moisture. Mosquito netting can exclude pests, but can also exclude pollinators. Use support and pruning to control the spread of black and purple varieties; when arching canes touch the ground, they root.
- At two years, Raspberry will win The Home Harvest Derby as the berries develop full color. Raspberry keeps 2-3 days in the refrigerator. Pick berries daily, with clean hands; afterward, pick all uneatable berries and dispose of them.
Blueberry out of Boreal X Peewee (4”-12′)
Jockeys: Northern Highbush (up to 12′), Half-bush (3-4′), Low bush (2-3′), Dwarf (1-2′)
- Add amendments before planting. Use a raised bed or ‘hill’ your Blueberry.
- Blueberry needs a pollinator of a different variety to win the Harvest Home Derby. Dig a hole twice the size of the pots your blueberries came in. Loosen the roots and spread as much as possible.
- Remove flowers during year one to grow a better root system. Roots are shallow; keep the water bucket handy! Acidify your water with 1 tablespoon vinegar to 1 gallon of water. Mulch to retain moisture; keeping it 6” away from the trunks. Replace mulch annually to control diseases. Animals can be excluded with appropriate height fencing. Insects and birds can be mostly excluded with mosquito netting, (except during flowering). Blueberries can be early, mid or late season producers.
- Blueberry will start winning races in 2-4 years. He wins The Harvest Home Derby by year 4. He may take 8 years to reach full maturity.
For more information on growing these and other fruits go to the University of Minnesota Extension Yard and Garden website and search “Growing [insert fruit] in the Home Garden.”