by Chris Smith, Master Gardener volunteer
Container gardening is popular for a lot of good reasons. You can grow plants in spaces that have limited sun. If your containers are movable, the plants can be moved to follow the sunlight. You can locate your container garden in handy spots, such as just outside your kitchen door where the fruit is easy to harvest, or on a patio or balcony. If you rent your dwelling, you can take your plants along when you move.
For many, the idea of using containers to grow blueberries and cane berries hasn’t seemed like a good bet as these plants are typically found in backyard gardens. And, cane berries have been considered problem plants because of their rambling roots. But, given a bit of careful planning, you can extend your container garden to include berries.
Here are some things to consider when planning a berry container garden
- Pick plants that are dwarf or limited to about three feet tall
- Pick plants that are self-pollinating, that don’t require pollen from two or more bushes of different varieties to produce berries.
- Pick the right size for a container and consider placing it on a tray with wheels. That way you will be able to move the container to follow the available sunlight, and to overwinter in a protected area if your location is subject to hard freezes.
- “Raspberries should be grown in 3 to 5-gallon plastic containers. Tie or fasten the growing canes to thin stakes or a trellis to support the growing canes as they grow through the summer. Only fall-bearing raspberries should be used. Heritage is the most popular fall-bearing variety, but others are available. In August flowers will form at the ends of the canes and harvestable fruit will be ready by the end of August. These raspberries will continue to produce fruit until frost.” (see Reference #1)
- For blueberries, “[s]elect a well-draining, large weather-proof container like a wooden barrel planter. Containers for mature blueberries will need to be at least 24 inches deep and about 24-30 inches wide.” (see Reference #2)
- For blueberries, “[u]se a 50-50 mix of potting soil and peat moss as your planting media. Wet it thoroughly before placing it in the container. If the shrub is pot bound gently tease the roots to encourage root expansion into the potting media. Place the blueberry into the potting media and plant it at the same depth as it was in its container. Then water well.” (see Reference #2)
- For other berries, use a 50-50 mix of potting soil and compost.
- Container soil can dry out quickly, so plan to keep the soil in your containers moist.
- While not making commercial recommendations, there are a number of suppliers that specialize in dwarf, self-pollinating plants such as Direct Gardening, and Bushel and Berry.