Ripe berries bursting with flavor are one of the perks of an oregon summer
Thinking back on past Julys, one of the first things that comes to my mind is the heat. It’s not uncommon to have no rain and a three-day — or more — stretch of 90-degree weather this month. (But I’m praying that we won’t.)
This means that unless you are a “super gardener” and love the baking sun, the chores will need to be done in the early morning or evening hours.
I am a weather wimp and wilt just like the plants when forced to endure anything over 85 degrees. From about 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., I’m either indoors or in the shade, hopefully sipping iced tea.
Despite the possibility of a heat wave, July is a fabulous month in the garden. Flowers are blooming everywhere providing nectar for hungry critters and the first veggies are ready to pick providing food for hungry people. What’s not to love about that?
Then there are the berries. Just when we’re getting tired of fresh strawberries (not really), nature serves up another round of fresh goodies. Raspberries and blueberries, marionberries and more. Eaten fresh off the bush, the sun-warmed sweetness is one of the most enjoyable pleasures of high summer.
I grow two types of ever-bearing raspberries — ever-bearing, meaning they produce two crops each season. ‘Heritage’ is a fat, juicy red berry and ‘Fall Gold’ is a yellow/orange, slightly smaller but sweeter variety. Both varieties grow in their own raised bed. While the plants don’t require special fertilizer to grow and produce bountiful crops, an annual top dressing of three or four inches of shredded leaf compost is a good way to keep the soil moist between waterings.
Once the first crop of berries has finished, usually in mid-July, I cut those canes down which makes more room for the emerging canes that will produce another crop in September.
My blueberries also grow in a raised bed. A few years ago, after neglecting them longer than I care to admit, I researched how I could get my plants to look similar to those healthy, berry-loaded plants I see at blueberry farms.
I discovered that like raspberries, blueberry plants prefer consistently moist, freely draining soil to produce the best crop. So, top-dressing with shredded leaf compost to insulate the soil’s moisture has become a routine chore. I also take the advice from “Growing Blueberries in Your Home Garden,” an informative handout published by Oregon State University Extension Service.
This handout spells out blueberry growing guidelines, from site preparation to selecting the right variety, pruning techniques and even growing plants in containers. Since my plants were already sited and growing, I didn’t need to focus on that aspect. However, the pruning and fertilizing guidelines have been very helpful.
I’m seeing the results. The plants are loaded with berries this year. So much so, that I decided it was time to invest in a roll of inexpensive horticultural netting to keep the hungry birds at bay.
Even if you only have a small patio, you can grow berries. A little effort pays off big in July, when you’re eating your own homegrown, nutritious and delicious fresh fruit. ☸