Juicy, flavor-packed berries make for one of the best parts of summer, in our opinion. Many berries, such as blueberries and blackberries, are also rich in vitamins and antioxidants. With a little know-how, you can grow your own delicious berries at home! Here are some great varieties to grow in San Diego:
Berries to Grow in San Diego
The San Diego gardener has several options for berries that grow well in our climate. Here are some of our top picks to keep an eye out for:
- Goji berry
Growing Berries in San Diego
|Goji berry||Summer-early fall||Early spring||Full|
- Strawberries can also be grown indoors as a houseplant! Just make certain that they get full days of sunlight and a well-draining container. Strawberries also have to be replanted every few years.
- Goji berries are chock-full of vitamins, antioxidants, and other nutrients. They can be eaten fresh but are also commonly dried.
- Blueberry bushes can produce fruit for many years to come. While they are generally summer fruits, in San Diego they can be planted and harvested virtually year-round.
- Blackberries are one of your best options if you live inland, because they can thrive in the heat! Just make sure they get plenty of water.
How To Grow Berries 101
Tips for growing berries in San Diego
Now that you've chosen your favorite berries to grow, it's time to plant! Berries have a few unique needs that make maintaining them a little different from other fruits, veggies, or flowers. With the basic techniques below, you can look forward to a delicious summertime harvest!
1. Soil & Water
Here are the basic conditions that will allow your berry bushes to thrive.
- Strawberries grow best in loamy or sandy soils that have excellent drainage. Working in some compost or other organic matter will help your strawberries get a healthy start. Water them regularly as needed—yellow leaves can be a sign of overwatering. Strawberries in containers will typically need water more frequently.
- Goji berries prefer a light, well-draining soil that is less rich. Your goji berry plants will require soil with a slightly basic pH—so don’t plant them in the same spot as your blueberries! Water them deeply and consistently during the first year. Avoid overwatering your established plants, as goji bushes are very drought tolerant.
- Blueberries need acidic soil to thrive. An azalea amendment—available at your local Grangetto’s—can help you bring up the acidity of your soil (you can find soil test kits online to measure your soil’s acidity). You will want to incorporate organic matter into your soil as well. Southern Highbush varieties are the best for our region. When it comes to watering, both blueberries and blackberries should be kept moist but not soaking.
- Blackberries are less picky when it comes to soil. They do well in slightly acidic soil, so you can plant these near your blueberries.
Berries are excellent candidates for container gardening! This means that even without a large space, you can enjoy growing your own delicious summer berries. Here are some tips for growing berries in containers:
- We recommend a container that's at least 5 gallons in size.
- With their shallow roots, strawberries can thrive in a pot as small as 8 inches deep. You can even find pots specifically designed for strawberries.
- You'll have to water more frequently.
- Make sure your container has good drainage.
- Avoid dark plastic containers (these can overheat the roots).
Berries have some specific needs that gardeners should be aware of:
- Prune blueberries as soon as harvest is over. Remove the wood that has fruited, leaving the strongest canes. Cut crossing canes to keep an open shape.
- Blackberries bear fruit biennially—so in late winter, cut canes that fruited the previous summer. Cut down to the ground, leaving only about six of the strongest canes. For erect varieties, pinch off the growing cane's tip when it reaches 3-5 feet.
- For goji bushes, clear away any dead or broken wood and suckers that grow along the main branches.
Use a trellis or stakes to keep your blackberries and goji berries neat and upright. This is especially important for trailing blackberry varieties (for erect blackberry varieties, staking is optional). Supports typically make for a doable DIY project.
As your harvest ripens, you might want to purchase some netting to keep the birds and other critters from helping themselves to your berries. Drape the netting over your bushes and secure it in place. Even a few yards of tulle fabric can do the trick.
Now your work is paying off and your berries are ready to harvest! Here are some tips and things to know for when it's time to pick your berries.
- Strawberries will be ready to pick about 4-6 weeks after blossoming. Pick your strawberries when they are fully red. They won't last fresh for very long, but strawberries are great for freezing if you can't eat them fast enough!
- Ripe blueberries are completely dark blue and will give easily from the bush.
- Goji flowers take about 4-6 weeks to become ripe berries. Fruit production starts when the plant is 2 years old. Depending on the variety, they can be quite heavy producers. You can eat your goji berries fresh, but they are more often eaten dried, juiced, or in baked goods.
- Blackberries are ripe when they're plump but firm, fully black and easy to remove from the bush. The core of the berry will remain inside (unlike raspberries). Like strawberries, these won't keep fresh for long. If you have more than you can use at once, try exploring preserves, canning, or freezing techniques!
Remember: unlike some other fruits, berries won't ripen off the bush. You'll want to wait patiently for them to be fully ripe before you harvest!
With these tips and techniques in your back pocket, you'll be ready to grow your favorite berries yourself. Don't forget to stop by your local Grangetto's store to find great products and have your berry-growing questions answered!