The last few weeks our impending move has been all-consuming. Between closing on the new house and getting everything in order for the inspection and appraisal of our current house (not to mention all the packing and cleaning and painting), there hasn’t been much time for anything else—but then again, even if I did have a little more time, there really isn’t a lot of gardening that I can do under my current circumstances.
So what is a gardener (temporarily) without a garden to do? Try her hand at container gardening, of course!
Earlier this spring, I received some BrazelBerries samples from Fall Creek Nursery. BrazelBerries are a line of compact, ornamental varieties of blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries that are well-suited for growing in containers, small space gardens, and home landscaping. These plants could not have arrived at a more perfect time! I have been desperately wanting to get my hands dirty and plant something–AND I will be able to take them with me when we move. Win-win!
I received four different varieties:
Perpetua is a double-cropping blueberry that produces in both the summer and fall. It is hardy to zone 4.
Pink Icing is a mid-summer variety with incredibly beautiful pink, turquoise, and green-hued foliage. It is hardy to zone 5.
Raspberry Shortcake is a mid-summer thornless raspberry that is hardy to zone 5.
Baby Cakes is a dwarf, thornless blackberry. It produces two crops of large berries (mid-summer and mid-fall) and it is hardy to zone 4.
Now, normally I would never consider planting a perennial edible like this that was not hardy enough for a good old fashioned zone 4 Minnesota winter, but the fact that when theses berries are grown in containers, they can be moved to a more sheltered location over winter (an unheated garage is recommended) and that I was able to find other gardeners who had success in doing so here in Minnesota was enough to convince me that it is worth the investment of time and effort to grow the varieties that are only hardy to zone 5.
To be honest, up until now, I have only dabbled in container gardening. A few herbs here, an extra pepper plant or two there… so I really needed to do some homework on how to set myself up for container gardening success. Selecting the containers was pretty straight forward: I opted for large 18” pots to allow plenty of space for future growth and drilled a few extra holes to ensure good drainage, but I knew it was going to be the potting mixture that will make or break this adventure.
For the blackberry and raspberry plants, I used a mixture of 2/3 potting soil (to keep the pots from getting too heavy and compacted) and 1/3 compost (for added nutrients and improved soil texture). I also mixed in a small amount of balanced (5-5-5) organic fertilizer, per the growing guide that accompanied the plants.
I created a slightly different potting mix for the blueberries, as they need more acidic soil to thrive. I blended equal parts peat (to help lower the pH of the soil) and the same potting soil/compost mixture I used for the other berries, and instead of the balanced fertilizer, I used an organic fertilizer specifically for plants that like acidic soil (most commonly packaged as an azalea and/or hydrangea formula). Once we get settled at the new house (and I find and unpack the box that has my soil test kit in it), I plan to test the soil in the blueberry pots to see where we are at pH-wise. If necessary, I may need to add some sulfur to the soil as well to get the pH down to the ideal range of 4.5-5.5.
So far, the plants are really thriving in the pots. The blueberries have really filled out quite nicely, and the raspberry and blackberries have easily doubled in size. I keep the pots in full sun and I water just about every day (unless it rains) to keep the moisture level consistent (the one aspect of container gardening I always struggle with). I will also continue with the organic fertilizer about every two weeks or so, or as needed. I have no expectations for much of a harvest this first year (so far only the raspberry has set a few buds), but I trust that my efforts this season will leave me with healthy, vigorous plants at the end of the season and I should see the actual fruits of my labor next year.
This week these pots will make the move to our new deck, where I hope to enjoy them for many seasons to come. I am looking forward to watching the berries grow into the pots, and even more so, to the first taste of their fruit. Stay tuned for more on my adventures in container gardening!
Full disclosure: I received these plant samples at no cost for trial purposes. All opinions are my own.