The grow-your-own movement is stronger than it’s been in about 60 years, judging by the way vegetable seeds, onion sets, and seed potatoes are flying off the racks. Germinating mix and seed-starting supplies are in demand, too, as novice gardeners prepare to grow some of their own food for the first time. Their interest goes beyond vegetables, however. At our store, and I suspect across the nation, the demand for fruit plants is up sharply, too. Some fruits are easy to grow and integrate into the landscape and can even be grown in containers. Strawberries and blueberries are especially suitable for home production and first-time gardeners.
Blueberry bushes are ornamental year round, starting with white bell-shaped flowers in spring, delicious fruit in midsummer, burgundy to flaming red fall foliage, and interesting winter stems. The plants demand very acidic soil, however, preferring a pH range of 4.5 to 5.5. They have shallow roots systems and need moist, well-aerated, well-drained soil. One of the easiest ways to achieve provide for their special requirements is to plant blueberries in raised beds filled with amended soil. Raised beds look tidy and are easier to keep weeded, too.
Strawberries are an especially satisfying home garden crop. Lifting an emerald green leaf to reveal a cluster of juicy, fragrant, red berries takes me back to my childhood every time. Ever-bearing strawberry varieties, such as Seascape, bloom and produce fruit all summer long, making them ideal for casual, extended harvests. Raised beds and containers make good homes for strawberries where in-ground planting isn’t practical.
My favorite raised bed for growing blueberries and strawberries is the Grow Bed because the net cages that fit snugly over the frame protect the berries from birds and other animals. The nets have their own internal support frame that folds flat for storage. I planted June-bearing strawberries in a Grow Bed last spring and eagerly await my first crop this summer. The plants have over-wintered beautifully and new leaves are already peaking out of the mulch.