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Small Fruits for the Home Landscape

  By John Pohly, Colorado State University Cooperative Extension agent, horticulture

If dreams of fresh strawberries and plump raspberries are dancing in your head, why not make those dreams come true in your own backyard?

With just a little know-how, these small fruits are easy to produce at home. Here's a guide to take you from garden to the breakfast table.

STRAWBERRIES

Select an area that will get at least eight hours of full sunlight each day of the growing season. The best location is one that doesn't need annual spading. If you are making a new strawberry bed in an area that is now in sod, remove the sod this year and wait until next year to plant the strawberries. This will decrease the chance of damage to strawberry roots by grubs that might be feeding on the sod and that would be just as happy to turn their attention to your new strawberry plants.

If your soil is heavy clay, mix in four bushels of organic matter per 1,000 square feet. Add a pound of nitrogen, a pound of phosphate and a pound of iron chelate per 1,000 square feet before planting.

Strawberry varieties are classified as June bearing, everbearing or day neutral. Recommended varieties of June bearers (one crop a year) for this area are Guardian, Rechief, Marlate, Robinson, Fairfax, Catskill, Redstar and Empire. Everbearing strawberries typically have two crops each year with small amounts of fruit produced between the main crop in June and a lighter crop in late summer or early fall. For Colorado, and especially the Front Range, everbearing are recommended for the home gardener. They tend to be hardier and, if a late spring frost kills the first flowers, you'll still get a crop in late summer or early fall. Some of the more common everbearing varieties are Ogallala, Fort Laramie, Ozark Beauty, Superfection, Quinault, Geneva, Gen and Red Rich. Tribute is a variety of day-neutral strawberry designed to produce over a longer period of time than June bearers or everbearing.

When planting, don't place the plant in the ground so shallow that roots are exposed or so deep that the base of leaves is buried. Either situation can kill new plants. A mulch of straw or similar material on the soil surface will keep the fruit from touching the soil and developing rot or getting muddy. In the winter, cover the plants with a thin layer of light mulch such as straw to protect them from desiccation by winter winds.

RASPBERRIES

Red and yellow raspberries are another easy-to-grow small fruit. Summer-bearing varieties work well on the Western Slope, but along the Front Range, fall-bearing raspberries work best. Fall-bearing varieties will produce fruit off the current season's growth. Therefore, you can cut all of the canes back to the ground in late fall after they've produced their crop. Summer-bearing varieties are handled differently because you must leave one-year-old canes to produce a crop the following year.

Good fall-bearing varieties to plant are August Red, Heritage, Fall Red, Fall Gold, September, Pathfinder and Trailblazer. Red raspberries will grow in most garden soils provided they are amply supplied with organic matter and are adequately drained. A 25-foot hedge row of red raspberries will yield 15 to 20 pounds of fruit per year under optimum conditions. For best results, relocate a raspberry planting every eight to 10 years with new, clean stock.

OTHER SMALL FRUITS

Red currants and gooseberries have ornamental as well as fruit value. With proper care, currants and gooseberries can be grown at elevations up to 10,000 feet. Wilder and Red Lake are good varieties of currants for Colorado, while Pixwell and Welcome are recommended varieties of gooseberries. The same additions of organic matter and nutrients mentioned for strawberries will work for raspberries, currants and gooseberries.

Photograph courtesy of Judy Sedbrook.

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Date last revised: 01/05/2010