Grit Blogs > Gardens Bliss

Create an Edible Landscape by Growing Small Fruits

Valerie BoeseCreate an edible landscape, plant small fruits. Adding small fruits to your landscape is pretty easy to do. You simply need sufficient space, with full sun. Small fruits do not need a lot of space to grow, so they are pretty easy to incorporate into your landscape. Most berries are pretty hardy and can tolerate cold in the winter and heat in summer. The best part, you get to pick your own fresh fruit, which tastes out of this world.

Our Nebraska climate conditions can be as cold as 15 below in the winter, like it was yesterday, with highs in the 90s in the summer, yet we successfully grow many small fruits. My family grows honeyberries, service berries, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, aronia berry and grapes on our small acreage. By growing several different types of berries, you can enjoy fresh fruit, from beginning of summer to end of fall.

Growing grapes in your backyard is easy to do! 

Growing grapes in your backyard is easy.

We grow honeyberries and service berries, which are similar to blueberries. Our honeyberries ripen first of May. Honeyberries are a small conical shaped berry that do not need acidic soil to grow in, where blueberries do need acidic soil to grow. I have tried to grow blueberries, many times, and after about third year they die out, due to my soil not being acidic enough. I have tried to make the soil acidic, with amendments to the soil, but have not had good luck. The service berry, also called June berry or Saskatoon, is a great tasting small black round berry that and tastes and looks like a blueberry, but does not need the soil to be acidic. An attractive looking ornamental bush, it grows similar in size to a lilac bush, with nice fall color. Both honeyberries and service berries are good alternatives to blueberries.

Strawberries ripen around the first of June. There are two types of strawberries: June bearer and ever bearer. There are many of both varieties to choose from. We grow June bearers because the berries are larger and your crop will be much larger than the ever bearer type strawberry. The ever bearer strawberry does not bear fruit all summer as the name might imply; its bearing season is about 10 days longer than the June bearer.

Strawberries are easy to grow, and they are a perennial, meaning they will come back year after year. Strawberries grow out runners to start new plants. The new plants will bear fruit the following year; you want to make sure they do not get too crowded and there is room to send out new runners that start the new plants. Patches three to four years old sometimes need to be thinned out. Crop production will drop drastically if the patch becomes too crowded. A good way make room for new plants is to use a garden tiller and till a couple strips through your established patch; this will make room for runners to grow new plants for next year’s crop.

Black and red rasberries are wonderful to pick fresh.

Black and red raspberries are wonderful to pick fresh off the vine.

Black and red raspberries ripen in June and July, with some varieties having a second crop in the fall. We grow both red and black raspberries, and they thrive here Nebraska. We grow Heritage red raspberry that produces large sweet red berries; they bear fruit first in the summer and then again in the fall. Heritage does extremely well here; last fall we picked more than 20 pounds from a small patch that started with three plants five years ago. Red raspberries spread by shooting up shoots from the base of the plant, and ourthree plants spread into a patch 10 by 15 feet.

Black raspberries spread similar to a strawberry, sending out shoots that root themselves into the ground to start new plants. It is recommended that black raspberries be planted at least 75 feet away from other berry plants, as they sometimes carry a disease that can kill other types of berries, including red raspberries. With both red and black raspberries, we fertilize them in the spring and cut out any dead canes.

Blackberries are pickde from July to fall.

Blackberries are picked from July to fall.

Blackberries ripen first of July; interestingly, blackberries are rated to grow in Zone 6, which is a climate zone several degrees warmer than Zone 5, where I live. Several years ago, I experimented by planting blackberries close to the south side of my house, thinking it would be a little warmer there and they might be able to survive growing in Zone 5. Amazingly they did really well, and I decided to plant additional blackberry plants at the edge of my garden in the open away from the house, and found they grew wonderfully there too. We have planted thornless Prim-Jim, Chester and Arapaho. All grow well here, producing an abundance of fruit from mid-July to late fall. The Chester has particularly large sweet berries measuring 1 to 1 1/2 inches long that are very yummy. Like raspberries, we remove the dead canes and fertilize them in the spring.

Aronia berries are so healthy for you and easy to grow.

Aronia berries are so healthy for you and easy to grow. 

Aronia berries are one of my favorite. Small round, sweet, tart tasting, they have tremendous health benefits, with 30 percent more antioxidants than blueberries. They are good for cardiovascular health and have many other benefits. They are a small shrub that you can plant and forget. They are disease resistant, bug resistant and very cold hardy. They also have a beautiful fall color, with green leaves turning to bright orange. We have two bushes about 5 feet tall and 3 feet wide, and they produce 14 to 15 pounds of fruit per year. We pick them at the end of August, wash them, bag them and freeze them. We enjoy them in smoothies with our raspberries and blackberries all winter long.

Grapes are so wonderfully sweet and flavorful when picked fresh.

Grapes are so wonderfully sweet and flavorful when picked fresh. 

Our grapes start ripening first of August and will bear fruit well into October. Grapes are easy to grow, and there are many varieties to choose from. Grapes do need to be pruned back in the spring and fertilized. We also spray our grapes with an organic herbicide for disease. We have planted table grapes for fresh eating, juice and jams. We have blue, red and green, seedless and seeded grapes, growing in our backyard. I chose varieties rated to growing in Zones 4 and 5.

Seeded Concords are probably the most reliable fruit bearers of all the varieties we have planted. Most of the clusters on the Concords will ripen near the end of August, and with a few clusters ripening much later well into October. These I like best; when I take my fall walks, I like to grab fresh grapes to munch on as I walk, and they taste so good.

Start planning now to plant your own small fruits this coming spring. Small fruits are easy to grow and the reward of fresh fruit will be yours, for many years to come. Not only will you have fresh fruit, you will be adding beauty to your landscape, like a grape vine over an arbor or the brilliant fall colors of the Aronia. There is nothing like walking out into your yard and picking your own fresh fruit.

Aronia berries make great nutritious bars.

Aronia berries make tasty nutritious bars. 

White grapes are juicy and sweet.

White grapes are juicy and sweet. 

How about enjoying a whole plate full of grapes.

Enjoy blue and red grapes, sweet and wonderful.