Those new to gardening are surprised at the bountiful crops berry plants produce. Local berry bushes are more consistent fruit bearers than even fruit trees and are easier to grow. Simply plant them into the ground where at least six hours of bright hot sun are guaranteed, add them to the drip system with your other trees and shrubs, and wait for the berry harvest! Even more impressive is berry plants don’t need to be in the ground at all.
Containers are a great way to enjoy berry bushes for gardeners with limited space or those trying to keep 4-footed mammals away. Great success is found when berries are grown in large pots.
If you plan on leaving your plants outdoors for the winter, choose a container material that can handle our spring and fall freeze and thaw cycles. My best berries have been grown in glazed pots. Plastic pots seem to only last a few years and then become brittle and break. I tend to overwater plants in plastic pots as well. Containers made of wood grow exceptional plants but can be a dated style. Fiberglass containers are beautiful, plants grow well in them, but being more expensive than glazed clay pots, I go for the glazed pots. (It’s no coincidence that Watters has the largest glazed pottery selection in Northern Arizona.) I love pretty pots.
#1 Strawberries are well suited to containers, but you don’t need a strawberry jar for success; any container, even a hanging basket, is suitable. You will find several strawberries at the garden center right now. June bearing, everbearing, and day-neutral are popular varieties, each with slightly different care requirements.
If you plan on growing strawberries as annuals, replacing them each year, everbearing or day-neutral are the better choices. Even though strawberries are perennial plants, they only produce well for about three years, so you don’t lose much by growing them as annuals. Plant them directly in Watters Potting Soil, setting the plants, so the crowns are right at soil level. As with all fruits, they need sunshine and regular water to grow plump and sweet.
#2 Blueberries – Lowbush blueberries generally need more space to creep than a container can provide, and rabbiteye varieties grow too large for containers. The better choice is a highbush variety, and better still, the dwarfs or half-highs have been bred specifically for small spaces. All are available now at Watters Garden Center.
A sunny spot is ideal for most potted blueberries. However, where summers are unrelentingly hot, afternoon shade keeps the berries plumper before harvest. All blueberries like regular watering, but do not like to sit in wet soil for prolonged periods. Make sure their containers have proper drain holes at the bottoms.
We have several varieties that are self-fruitful, but all blueberries produce heavier when planted in pairs. Planting two different types is useful for extending the harvest season. Blueberries start fruiting from year one, and each additional year becomes more abundant.
#3 Grapes grow large and fast. Zestful Golden Chalice is my ‘To-To’ table grape for containers. This fast-growing grapevine is well-suited for the warmer regions of Arizona. Sets enormous clusters of crisp, wonderfully flavored champagne-colored fruits in summer. Nearly completely seedless.
#4 Raspberries & Blackberries – Brambles are not ideal candidates for containers. Raspberries can be big unruly plants, but we’ve introduced new varieties easily controlled in containers. Everbearing varieties like ‘Heritage’ and ‘Fall Gold’ produce two harvests per year when pruned after their initial fruiting. If you don’t want to be bothered with pruning in summer, cut them to the ground in late fall or early spring, and you will get a lovely fall crop.
If you want to try blackberries, choose the thornless ‘Black Satin’ varieties. They’ll be easier on your skin and grow without trellising.
Feeding with Watters’Flower Power 54′ water-soluble fertilizer every 2 weeks produces HUGE berries! Regular water will help keep the berries fully plumped.
Latest Garden News – It’s been six months in the making, and the first edition is now online. I launched a digital garden center this month that makes researching local plants easier. Plant organization is precisely how a designer investigates them in the landscape. Trees are broken down into Evergreens, Shade and Fruit Trees to narrow down your search, shrubs the same way. This is an active list of plants that often changes as crops are harvested and shipped to Watters Garden Center.
Top10Plants.com is for locals of central Arizona only. Amazon will not be delivering a 300-pound tree to your doorstep. We have local delivery and planting teams hired to install plants for you, or pick plants up yourself here at Watters Garden Center. Take a look and let me know how to make this new digital garden center even better.
Until next issue, I’ll be helping gardeners plants the best berries here at Watters Garden Center.
Ken Lain can be found throughout the week at Watters Garden Center, 1815 W. Iron Springs Rd in Prescott, or contacted through his web site at WattersGardenCenter.com or FB.com/WattersGardenCenter .