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WHAT ARE BRAZELBERRIES?

written by
Marianne C. Ophardt
WSU Extension Faculty
for the Tri-City Herald, Kennewick, WA
Published 3/15/2013

I was glancing at an e-mail advertisement when the name ‘BrazelBerriesÔ ‘ caught my eye. What are BrazelBerriesÔ ? After doing a bit of research, I discovered that BrazelBerriesÔ are a unique line of small fruit developed by Fall Creek Farms in Oregon. Fall Creek Farms has been propagating and growing berry plants for growers since the 1970s. In recent years they have been seeking new berry varieties that are easy for home gardeners to grow in containers, are attractive, and have delicious fruit.

This year Fall Creek Farms is introducing Raspberry ShortcakeÔ as the first raspberry in their BrazelBerriesÔ line. This particular raspberry is thornless and grows into a 2-3

tall and wide dense mounded plant. It is well suited to large patio containers, does not need cross pollination to produce fruit, has sturdy upright canes, and does not require training to a trellis. Plus, it is fully hardy for our region. The very sweet berries are produced in mid-summer. Oregon growers find that the leaves take on a decorative red tint during the summer.

Raspberry ShortcakeÔ is supposedly attractive enough to incorporate into your landscape planting as part of an edible landscape. It’s also great for growing in large patio containers, so even apartment dwellers can enjoy growing them.

Raspberry ShortcakeÔ is not fussy. Fall Creek Farms provides some simple notes on growing it. Plant Raspberry ShortcakeÔ in full sun in well-drained, neutral soil. Fertilize in early spring with a balanced fertilizer and provide moderate watering. If the leaves start to yellow during the summer, apply a balanced liquid fertilizer according to product instructions.

Pruning is easy too. Once the plant finishes fruiting in mid-summer, prune out down to the base all the canes that fruited during the summer. They will not fruit again. Fruit will be produced next year on the new canes produced this year. To develop fruit buds these new canes must go through a winter dormancy period.

Because these are raspberries, be prepared for them spreading a bit if planted in a landscape bed. Keep this in mind when selecting a location for planting or plant them in a large container where spreading is not a worry.

Raspberry ShortcakeÔ is not the first berry in the BrazelBerry line. Forest Creek Farm’s twenty year quest to ‘find berry plants that were simple to grow, exceptionally beautiful and delicious – just for the home gardener’ first yielded two blueberry plants, Peach SorbetÔ and Jelly BeanÔ .

Jelly BeanÔ is a dwarf blueberry that forms a 1-2

spherical mound and produces ‘a bumper crop of large, flavorful blueberries’ in mid‑summer. The leaves are bright green in the summer, turning a reddish hue in the fall.

Not quite as diminutive is Peach SorbetÔ , a 2

compact blueberry with evergreen leaves that are peachy colored in the spring and deep purple over the winter. It also produces a good crop of sweet blueberries in mid-summer. Both grow best in acid soil which is difficult to find in many area gardens. However, these dwarf plants can be grown in containers where you can use an acidic potting soil.

One of the newest gardening trends is growing berries, making the BrazelBerriesÔ line a perfect fit for today’s gardeners. They are easy to grow and are the right size for smaller yards and patio gardens. Ask about them at your favorite nursery. Raspberry ShortcakeÔ is just being introduced this year, so you may have to wait a year or two for it to become available locally.

Published: 3/15/2013 10:58 AM

HOME GROWN BLUEBERRIES TAKE A LITTLE EXTRA WORK

written by

Marianne C. Ophardt

WSU Extension Faculty

for the Tri-City Herald, Kennewick, WA

I can’t believe it – commercial blueberries growing in the Columbia Basin! A member of the heath (Ericaceae) family, blueberries are related to rhododendrons and azaleas. Members of this family grow best where temperatures don’t get extremely hot. Their fibrous roots are shallow and prefer well-drained acidic soils that are high in organic matter. The roots are sensitive to injury from extremely hot and cold temperatures. They also don’t thrive when irrigation water is alkaline or is high in salt.

These special growing conditions haven’t stopped local commercial growers from taking extraordinary means to produce blueberries in our region. Should local gardeners try? While the obstacles are not insurmountable, growing blueberries here takes special effort.

The first obstacle is soil pH. Many of our garden soils have a pH of 7.5 to 8. Blueberries do best with a pH of 4.5 to 5.5. To lower the pH and make the soil more acidic, add three pounds of sulfur per 100 square feet of soil and mix in by tilling to 8 inches. For best results, the addition of sulfur should be done about a year before planting.

The next impediment is the soil’s organic matter content. Most area soils usually contain less than 1 percent organic matter. Blueberries prefer soils that have at least a 3 percent organic matter content. This requirement can be met by applying a 6-inch layer of well-rotted compost to the bed and tilling to 8 inches.

Amending the soil is best done by planting blueberries in beds. This makes it easier to modify soil in a contained area. The original addition of sulfur to the soil won’t “fix” soil with a high pH problem. Young plants will need to be fertilized with an acidifying fertilizer three times during the growing season – spring, early summer and late fall. Ammonium sulfate (21-0-0) is one of the best choices. Apply three to four tablespoons per plant per fertilization for the first three years, starting the year after planting. Later in the plant’s life, the amount of fertilizer applied in spring and early summer will be increased. The sulfur needs to be gently scratched into the soil.

Note: Do not use aluminum sulfate to acidify the soil. It can cause problems with aluminum toxicity.

Yet another hindrance is our climate, especially the hot summer temperatures and low humidity. Place plants where they will get full sun, but are sheltered from wind or excessive heat. Avoid planting them on the south or southwest sides of buildings. A 2-inch organic mulch will protect roots from cold and heat extremes.

Blueberries also are sensitive to drought. Irrigation should be applied often enough to keep the entire root zone moderately moist. Wet soils can lead to root rot. The layer of mulch will help. The plants are subject to winter drought and should be watered in fall and during the winter if the weather is mild and dry.

Growing blueberries in this region is a challenge for gardeners, but it can be done if you’re willing to provide for their special needs. Here are some other tips:

•Plant in early spring and prune hard to stimulate new growth. Don’t let plants set fruit the first year, and allow light crops for the next two years. Don’t fertilize during the first growing season.

•While blueberries will produce fruit without cross-pollination, planting two varieties can enhance fruit production.

•Renew mulch every year. It helps conserve moisture.

Published: 4/21/2007 4:10 PM

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