Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Northern & Central Midwest
April, 2011
Regional Report

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Strawberries make a beautiful addition to the perennial garden.

Small Fruits for the Landscape

It's planting time!-- especially if you want to add small fruits to your landscape. There are so many choices, and most of them do quite well in the home garden. Not only do you get luscious berries, but they also often double as attractive landscape plants. Best of all, they are easy to grow and care for.

So think about adding currants and gooseberries, raspberries and blackberries, grapes and strawberries to your landscape. You will need to select appropriate sites in full sun for most of the fruits (at least six to seven hours a day). However, currants and gooseberries will tolerate some shade.

Once you've decided to add fruits to your garden, begin searching for the best varieties for your climate and soil. Your county Extension Sevice is a good place to start. Don't be tempted to simply purchase whatever you see at the end of the aisle in the garden store, especially if the plant doesn't have a cultivar name. In other words, don't buy plants labeled just "grapes." You need to put the odds in your favor and choose disease-resistant cultivars, or named varieties, that are certified disease-free.

It is important that you have well drained soil. If your soil is not very fertile, you can always amend it with organic matter but if the drainage is poor, you may have problems with rotting roots. If you do have heavy, compacted soil, be sure to add plenty of organic matter before planting, and consider raising the bed to allow for better drainage. A site with a slight slope will help with drainage as well as air circulation (cold air tends to slide downhill).

Prepare your beds before planting by lightly digging in several inches of compost or composted manure. Also keep in mind that if you loosen the soil, it will settle somewhat, so make sure you compensate for the settling.

Check planting resources for the correct depth for planting. Strawberries, in particular, must be planted with their crowns at the right level or they will not thrive. You can plant anytime after the ground thaws and the soil has dried out enough to be worked without compacting it.

There is no need to add fertilizer when planting. The new roots simply need water. Once your plants start producing fruits, they may need up to two inches of water a week, but early in the season, one inch a week is plenty.

Keep the weeds down to avoid the competition for nutrients and water. Weeds can also harbor damaging insects, so make your life a bit easier and knock the weeds down early. Cover the bed with three to four inches of organic mulch to help supress weeds, as well as improving moisture retention and soil temperature regulation.


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