STRAWBERRIES :: RASPBERRIES :: BLUEBERRIES :: GOJI BERRIES
After three years attempting to grow these berries in our garden, we’ve decided it isn’t worth trying to grow them at this elevation. As of May 2020 they have all been removed. With little good information to guide us, we tried our best…read about our experiences below.
The first year of this garden we planted strawberries, raspberries, blueberries and goji berries. The only successful berry was the goji, and it turns out we just didn’t like them well enough to keep the plant in our garden. In the three years, we harvested maybe a dozen strawberries, no blueberries, no raspberries and about 2 cups of the goji berries. All berries were planted and maintained as directed. Soil was amended to make it more acidic and fertilizers & compost added to the soil, but none of that mattered. More on each berry below. Our conclusion is that berries just don’t have enough warmth nor a long enough summer to sustain growth for a good start the following year. Tim’s observation is that we don’t see berries in the mountains out in the wild either, so why would we expect to grow them successfully?
Before planting the berries we had little to go on. That should have been a clue. If berries grew successfully in the mountains, someone may have written about it. Since they didn’t (or I didn’t find it), all I really had to go on was the fact that many of these berries are listed as hardy to Zone 3, and we are in Zone 4. Web sellers indicated that if I was in that zone, I should be able to grow that plant. That is my pet peeve. These “zones” are not helpful. They are based primarily on winter low temperatures. They do not provide information about plant requirements for summer growing season length, summer temperatures, growing latitude, hours of daylight, etc. Please see my post about this: “Growing Zone Frustration”.
Our first strawberry plants at this location, originally planted Spring 2017, grow leafy and beautiful. They blossom some, and a few berries grow. The summer of 2018 I did not protect them from birds, and I fear that the birds got to them. The summer of 2019 only about 5 of the 24 plants grew back after winter. These were bird-proofed, grew well and we ate about a dozen berries, one or two at a time.
The strawberries planted were “Fort Laramie”, an “ever-bearing” strawberry. I considered replacing these with some “June-bearing” strawberries, since they are supposed to bear in June or July. Perhaps those would produce some strawberries in August or September, but all things considered, we think it just isn’t warm enough for a long enough period of time, and don’t want to put forth the effort to construct better protection for them.
The raspberry plants grew large, they just didn’t produce berries. The first year of our garden we planted some FallRed and FallYellow rasberries. These were both, as their names suggest, “Fall-Bearing” raspberries. Perhaps that was a mistake. Since I questioned the viability of these, I purchased and planted two of the “Summer-Bearing” varieties the summer of 2018, Encore and Latham. They got a good start that summer, and in 2019 they grew well. By the end of that summer, there were about 6 green berries on one of the plants, which were small and not well developed when they froze in September.
These two summer-bearing raspberries are my last hope for berries, and I will keep them in the ground this year (2020) long enough to see if they may produce some berries. At this time (early April 2020) they have been pruned and covered to maintain warmth during the early spring. They appear to have some buds on last year’s canes (floricanes). Days are now reaching 50-60°F, but night times are in the 20’s, with a dip in temps coming soon.
During that first summer, 2017, we also planted 3 dwarf blueberry plants, one Northcountry and two Northblue. The first summer they reached about 1’ tall. The second summer, the first branches never budded out, but there was some growth up from the root, and the plants eventually reached about 1’ tall. Tall-ER, not really “tall”. The third summer, the Northcountry never came back at all. The Northblue plants grew similarly to the previous summer, or even a bit less growth.
I couldn’t find information about whether to expect blueberries to grow here. I had a neighbor tell me she’d had a blueberry plant do well until a bear got to it. I thought that berries in my garden, protected from wildlife, would do better, and it was worth giving them a try. I have since learned not to expect blueberries to grow well. I may try transplanting them to a pot to be kept in the greenhouse and see if they will live & produce in that warm environment.
Goji berries were our one success. Too bad they don’t taste very good. I know they’re supposed to be very good for you, high in antioxidants and all that good stuff. I had some with granola and yogurt a couple of times, which was okay, but not nearly as good as strawberries, blueberries or raspberries would have been. Finally I threw a bunch in with an apple pie, which was a good way to get rid of them and put them in our bodies.
The goji plant grows well in our climate and altitude. The photo was taken in 2018. in 2019 it began popping out high above our hoop framework, and was pruned frequently to limit its size. As the berries were beginning to ripen this past summer I just didn’t know when they were actually ripe. I’d try one occasionally and felt it was a bit tart, until finally they seemed less tart, almost flavorless, and I decided they must be ripe. Sorry I don’t have a photo, I can’t find the photos I took.
So, although they grow well here, since I don’t really care for them I’ve decided to use the spot for something else we should enjoy.