When Your Plants Arrive: Fruits & Berries

You'll soon be picking ripe, sweetly juicy fruits and berries by the bucketful, right from your garden!

Potted Plants When your plant arrives, remove it from the shipping box immediately, discard any packing material clinging to the leaves or soil and water thoroughly, until water runs out of the bottom of the pot. Next, place the pot in a shaded, protected (not windy) location for a few days. This allows the plant to acclimate to your garden without the added stress of being transplanted.

Bareroot Plants: Many plants are shipped bareroot (without soil around the roots). Inspect the plants upon receipt and if either the roots or the packing material are dry, add just enough water to keep them moist but not soggy. Leave plants and any packing material as received in their shipping bags or wraps until ready to plant. Open the top of the bag so the plant can get light and air. Do not expose plant to full sun. Keep in a cool protected area, and always keep the roots from drying out.

When it's time to transplant, do the job as early in the day as possible. Overcast, slightly cool weather is best, but if you’re in the middle of a heat wave, compensate by planting very early in the day and draping some shade over the plant (even if it’s a sun lover or already in partial shade) for a few days for added protection.

Blackberries & Raspberries: Plant in a sunny location in a soil well enriched with organic matter. Add 10-10-10 fertilizer at the rate of 1 pound per 100 square feet. Plant 4 feet apart (for vining blackberries, 6 feet apart), and provide support, such as a post and wire fence, to which the canes should be tied. After the first fruiting season, prune out canes which have borne fruit, leaving the new canes to produce next year. In the case of everbearing raspberries, these canes should not be cut out, but only cut back slightly the following spring. An annual application of 10-10-10 fertilizer is desirable. This should be applied in the spring, rather than late in the summer, which might produce soft growth subject to winter injury. Zones 5-9 for blackberries, Zones 4-8 for raspberries.

Blueberries: Blueberries should be planted 2½ to 4 ft. apart and require full sun and an acidic, moisture-retentive soil, with pH ranging between 4.0 and 5.5. This acidic reaction can be obtained by adding ammonium sulfate or powdered sulphur to the soil, along with liberal amounts of leaf mold. A thick mulch of organic matter around the plants year-round is desirable both to keep down weeds, and to maintain even moisture.

Citrus (Lemon, Lime and Orange): Indoors, provide at least 4 hours of direct sunlight, a night temperature of 50-55F and a day temperature above 68°F. During the fall and winter, allow the soil to dry slightly between each watering. Flowering occurs indoors from mid-winter to early spring. Pollinate the flowers by allowing a fan to blow across the plant or by gently shaking the plant each day. Thin the fruit clusters to leave only 2 to 3 per cluster. The plant can be moved outdoors for the summer, where it should be gradually exposed to stronger sun over a period of 4 to 5 days to prevent sunburn. Water every few days, depending on the weather, to keep the soil evenly moist. From early spring through late summer, use a water-soluble fertilizer, according to label directions. Prune through the summer to keep the plant at the desired size. Repot as needed, using a good brand of packaged potting soil and a pot that is a few inches larger each time. Zones 9-10.

Cranberry: Set plants 2 feet apart with rows 3 feet apart in full sun. Cover the upper roots with only one inch of soil. Provide an acid, moisture-retentive, humus-enriched soil. Maintain a soil pH of 4 to 5.5 using powdered sulfur. Zones 2-7.

Fig: Set plants out in spring in an area protected from wind with a well-drained soil of moderate to low fertility. Full sun is best. Provide supplemental water during periods of drought during the growing season. Mulch will help keep down weeds and preserve moisture. Prune during dormant season to remove dead wood and remove narrow forks or crossed branches. In colder areas, hill up soil and mulch material about 2 feet over base over winter. Figs may also be grown in containers on the patio, and brought in over winter in very severe climates. After a few fall frosts cause the leaves to drop, water the container well and move indoors to a cool, dark basement or garage where the temperature won’t go below freezing. Check every 5 to 6 weeks to make sure the soil stays barely moist. Move outdoors in spring after all danger of frost has passed. Zones 7-10

Guava: This semi tropical tree should be planted in full sun and rich, well drained soil. Light pruning is recommended to develop a strong framework and suckers should be removed around the base. Handle mature fruit with care. Zones 8b-10.

Gooseberry: Space plants 3 to 4 feet apart in a sunny area with a rich, well-drained soil. Plants are self-fertile. Zones 3 to 8.

Honeyberry: Set plants 3 to 4 feet apart in full sun in the far North, shade in all other areas. Provide a moisture-retentive but moderately well-drained soil. Water regularly during dry periods and mulch to retain soil moisture. Zones 3-8, 9 West Coast.

Muscadine: Muscadines can be grown on arbors or trellises. Arbors are designed to be walked under, so that fruit will be at arms reach. Set four 10-foot posts 2 feet deep and stretch strong wire from them to create a square or rectangular arbor. Plant a single vine at each of the four posts and tie using string/twine. Once the vines reach the top of the arbor, pinch the tips to induce branching. For a trellis, set two 7-foot posts 2 feet deep and 20 feet apart. Plant vines half way between posts, pruning out all but the strongest stem. Secure a strong wire to the tops of the posts (about 5 feet above the ground). A second, lower line of wire is not advisable, since the vigorous foliage of the top vine will shade the lower vine. Drive a 3- to 4-foot stake into the ground 6 inches from the vine (to support it as it grows) and tie with a string. When the vine reaches the trellis, pinch the tip and let two arms develop in opposite directions along the wire. Zones 7-10.

Paw Paw (Asimina triloba): Plant in a rich, moist, but well-drained soil with a pH of 5 to 7. Young plants need shade, but older trees are sun-tolerant. Fruit turns brown when ripe. Zones 5-9.

Peach: Choose a location in full sun in average soil with good drainage. Set the plant with the top roots one to two inches below the soil, firm down the soil and water thoroughly. Cut back newly planted trees to 30 inches in height, just above a lateral branch or bud and prune while dormant to open the center to sunlight. Zones 5-8.

Pomegranate: Given good drainage, Pomegranate will grow in a wide range of soils and growing conditions, but will do best in full sun and a loose, humus soil. If you wish a tree rather than the natural bush form, prune off suckers, leaving a single trunk. Zones 7-10.

Persimmon (Diospyros): These trees will grow in a wide variety of soil, but do best in a deep fertile, well-drained soil. Plant in full sun and in an area protected from late frost. Zones 4-9.

Rhubarb: Rhubarb succeeds where winters are severe enough to cause prolonged freezes each year. In such a location, in a soil well-enriched with rotted manure or compost, they will grow rapidly and produce for years. Set plants with tops of roots (where buds are located) 3 to 4 inches below soil surface. You can harvest for a period of about 6 weeks in spring, by twisting and breaking off the stems at soil level. Do not eat the leaves as they contain a somewhat toxic and very astringent material. A mulch of manure or compost, applied 2 to 3 inches deep each fall, is beneficial. Divide every three years to rejuvenate. Zones 3-7.

Strawberry: Select a location where your plants will receive a minimum of 8 hours of sunlight per day. Plant in rows 3½ feet apart, allowing 2 feet between plants in the row. Set plants so that the crown is just at the surface. Water in thoroughly at time of planting. Removal of the earliest flowers is often recommended to encourage more vigorous vegetative growth -- frankly, we would rather not sacrifice the first year’s crop in this way, and have found that plants will prosper even without removing the early flowers. A mulch of straw or pine straw 6 inches deep, applied over the plants after the ground has frozen, will protect them over winter. All but 1 inch should be removed in the spring as growth starts -- the remaining 1 inch will keep berries off the ground and maintain high quality fruit. Your strawberry plants will quickly fill in the spaces between them by means of runners, forming a matted bed. Extra runners can be used to extend your plantings, or to replace plants as needed. Zones 3-9.

Asparagus: A bed of asparagus is a long-time investment in great eating. For this reason, the effort involved in proper soil preparation is well worthwhile. In a sunny location, work the soil deeply, to a depth of two spade blades at least, and incorporate liberal quantities of manure. Add about 5 pounds of 5-10-5 fertilizer per 100 square feet. Dig a trench about 6 inches deep and 8 inches wide. Set plants about 15 inches apart in the trench, covering the crowns with 2 inches of prepared soil. Distance between trenches should be 4 feet. As growth starts, keep filling in the trench with soil until the top of the soil in the trench is level with that on either side. The first year, allow all stalks to grow and produce their ferny top growth without harvesting. Allow this to stand over winter for protection, then remove dead tops in late winter or early spring, before new growth starts. At the same time, apply 5 pounds of 5-10-5 or other nitrogenous fertilizer per 100 square feet. The second year, young shoots may be harvested sparingly by cutting them off at ground level (carefully, so as to avoid injuring neighboring shoots that have not broken the soil surface) or by breaking them off. In succeeding years, you can harvest freely. In fall, cut to ground level when stems and leaves turn yellow. Zones 3-9.