Polk extension center now taking orders for berry plants

Published 6:18 pm Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Small fruits are a welcome addition to any home garden. They are relatively easy to grow and offer top-quality fresh fruit over a long period. The most popular of all small fruits grown at home are strawberries, blueberries and raspberries.

In general for home use, 100 strawberry plants and 10 blueberry plants should furnish enough fruit for most families of four. However, those amounts can be adjusted according to your familys tastes.

Strawberries: Always start with disease-free plants. It is not a good practice to use your own or your neighbors plants to set a new planting. It is also a good idea to replace your strawberry plants every three to four years. Normally a strawberry bed is most productive in the first three years of harvest.

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Plants can be set any time from November to March, with March being the best for the Polk County area. Set plants two feet apart in the row. Space the rows four feet apart. Recommended varieties for Polk County include Earliglow and Northeaster.

Blueberries: Rabbiteye blueberries are more widely adapted to different soil types and therefore are recommended for this area. They are also more drought and heat tolerant and are consistent producers.

Blueberry plants have a lot of good traits. Unlike strawberry plants, established blueberry plants may last 20 years or more. They are dual-purpose plants. They bear delicious fruit and they make great informal ornamental shrubs.

Rabbiteye blueberries are not self-pollinating so to ensure maximum yields, plant two or more varieties. Recommended varieties for Polk County include Climax, Premier, Brightwell, Tifblue, Columbus and Powder Blue.

Raspberries: The Polk County Extension Center will offer two specially selected red raspberry varieties. Caroline and Josephine red raspberries are two everbearing cultivars that will bear two crops most growing seasons. Caroline has medium to large fruit with intense flavor on vigorous canes. Josephine has large good flavored fruit on vigorous raspberry canes.

Polk County Extension Center is now taking orders for the annual strawberry, blueberry and raspberry plant sale. Plants will be delivered in March for planting, but they must be ordered and paid for in advance. Anyone interested in growing these small fruits may order them from the Extension Center in Columbus.

Call the Extension Center at 828-894-8218 if you have any questions.