Berry Care & Varieties

Berries are generally crops for the patient gardener as a long term investment. Most berry plants usually don’t set an abundant crop for a few years, but some are faster, such as raspberries. With careful selection of cultivars, fruit can be produced over several months and used for fresh eating, jams and can be frozen for many months to be used later in desserts.

Designing berry gardens

Berry Plants not only provide delicious fruit through the warmer months, but also provide many design options. There are trees, shrubs, vines and groundcovers to select from. They can create features such as cordons, or may be grown over arches or woven cane structures, or trellises to screen off areas or provide shade. Vines can also be trained up walls or over pergolas. Ground covers, such as strawberries can be used to line paving areas or as garden edging. Others may be trained as specimen trees, such as weepers or standards.

Berry plants are usually deciduous providing summer shade, winter sunshine, beautiful autumn foliage colour, pretty spring blossoms, attractive leaves and delicious fruit. Under-plant berries with winter-spring flowering bulbs or vegies or annuals such as Kale, to provide winter interest. Ornamental plants can be interspersed with berries if space allows.

Growing conditions

Most berry plants are suited to cold, temperate regions with cold, wet winters and hot summers. Most need mulching during summer. Pea or lucerne straw is best for this. The ideal position for the berry plants is in full sun, although some vines and shrubs may take partial shade (Blackberries, Blueberries, Red Currants and Gooseberries).

The soil needs to be well drained and fertile, with similar conditions to the vegetable garden. Berry plants can be mixed with vegetables, herbs and annuals. The best time to plant berry producing plants is in winter when the largest range of plants are available.

Planting your berry plants

  • Prepare the soil by mixing through compost and cow manure and raising the soil up.
  • The planting hole should be dug so that it is twice as wide as the root ball but only a bit deeper. The soil in the bottom or the hole should be mounded and the roots spread out over the mound. Backfill the soil over the roots and firm down. Do not too plant too deeply, (this can lead to collar rot), or too shallow, (this can lead to the roots drying out).
  • Water the plants in well with a seaweed emulsion.
  • Mulch around the plants and stake if necessary.
  • If training the plants over wires or other supports, start when the plants are young.
  • Keep the plants well watered over summer and top up with manure in late winter.

Harvesting

Most berries do not keep fresh for long. Therefore it is best to harvest regularly, as the berries ripen on the plant. Do not leave old berries to rot on the plants as these can harbour disease. Strawberries will put out runners through the harvesting season, and it is best to cut these back regularly, to encourage the plants to produce more flowers and fruit.

Berries available at BAAG

Remember – not all plants are available all year round. Call before you come if you need to be sure the exact plant you are after is in.
Blueberries
There are so many varieties of blueberries available that they need their very own factsheet… click here to read it.

Boysenberry
Matures in December for about 6 weeks
Self pollinating
A vigorous plant, developing long trailing canes. A hybrid related to the raspberry and dewberry. The canes must be tied onto strong trellis or horizontal wires 2.5m apart. Boysenberries fruit on canes produced in previous season. An excellent home garden choice.
Produces large, dull purplish-red to black berries in its second year. Some consider this the best flavoured of the black berries.
Good for eating fresh, jam, or baked in desserts.

Jostaberry
Matures December to January
Self pollinating
A thornless and vigorous grower with good disease resistance.
Round juicy, black berries like fat black currants. The berries have a tangy sweet black currant like flavour, from the cross between a black currant and a gooseberry. Eat fresh or in jams, jellies and pies. High in vitamin C. Freezes well.

Lawtonberry
Berries are plump, black and sweet. Bears heavy crops of blackberry like fruit from late December to early February. Berries are best left on the plant for a while after full colour to allow maximum sweetness to develop.
Excellent for making jam.
Sturdy, stiff and thorny canes. Suckers heavily and needs thinning.

Loganberry
Matures Early December
Self pollinating
Hybrid related to the raspberry and dewberry. Trailing, thornless, biennial canes. Grows vigorously. Grows well in heavy soils. The canes must be tied onto strong trellis or horizontal wires. Loganberries fruit on canes produced in previous season.
Considered by many to be the best flavoured of all the brambles. Bears heavily. Excellent aromatic flavour. Ripen to fully red colour to eat fresh.
Eat fresh, cooked in desserts (especially good in summer pudding), and makes wonderful jam.

Raspberries
There are so many varieties of raspberries available that they need their very own factsheet… click here to read it.

Tayberry
Self pollinating
If you only have space for one Hybrid berry, the Tayberry is the one to go for as it has such a divine sweet and aromatic taste when picked fully ripe, is large in size, fruits prolifically, and is reliable. Bred in Scotland, this is basically a cross between a Raspberry and a Bramble or Blackberry, and is very thorny. The fruit is sweet and highly aromatic making arguably the best of all rubus jams.
They should be picked when they are fully ripe and not while they are still raspberry coloured. The central plug stays within the fruit when picked, just as happens with a Blackberry fruit, rather than a raspberry.

Silvanberry
Self pollinating
Silvanberries are a Victorian brambleberry cultivated in Silvan and are similar in taste to a blackberry. Silvanberries are excellent for making jam
A cross between a marionberry and a seedling cross between a boysenberry and pacificberry. Bears heavy crops of sweet, large cylindrical black berries. Great appearance and quality. Has a long fruiting season often starting in early December.

Strawberries
There are so many varieties of strawberries available that they need their very own factsheet… click here to read it.

Youngberry
Ripens after Loganberries and before Boysenberries.
Self pollinating
Sturdy, stiff and thorny canes. Suckers heavily and needs thinning.
A hybrid berry. The thorny varieties have better quality fruit. Vigorous trailing canes. Young berries fruit on canes produced in previous season. Long canes must be tied onto strong trellis work or horizontal wires.
Medium to large dark purple fruit. Unique, sweet, juicy flavour. Eat fresh or cooked. Fruit is black-purple when ripe.
Eat fresh, cooked in desserts and in cakes.

Brewing Hops

Brewing Hops

Photo © Bulleen Art & Garden

Hops are the female flowers (looking like very small green pinecones) of the hop vine Humulus lupulus. It is a vigorous herbaceous perennial vine – and will scoot up quickly to several metres high in one year. It dies back each year over winter, but will quickly re-establish itself in spring and summer. Hops flower over summer and are ready to harvest in early to late autumn. One hop plant should produce enough from a home brewer, but two different types will give you a bit of variety to play with when brewing. Victoria is good hops growing country.

Planting hops
Choose a sunny position with lots of vertical space as the twining vine will rapidly climb over 5m up strings/wires/ropes. Improve the soil with manure and compost. If the soil is not very well drained then mound it up 30cm or more to make sure drainage is sufficient. Hop vines can be very heavy, so construct a trellis or wire system that is sturdy and can take 10kg or more of weight. Plant in spring, after the last frost.

Growing hops
Once the hops plant is shooting well, take the best few shoots and twine them up the trellis/wires, they will naturally want to go in an anticlockwise direction in the southern hemisphere, so encourage them in that direction. Trim the rest of the shoots off and let the plant put its energy into the shoots you have selected. These shoots are referred to as ‘bines’.

With such a large leaf mass, the water requirement is correspondingly large, regular deep watering is needed. Drip irrigation is ideal. They will need around 5L a day over the warmer months.

Harvesting hops
You will get some hops to harvest in year one, but the main harvests will come in the second and subsequent years. Hops tend to ripen sporadically, and are best harvested as they ripen rather than waiting for them all to be ripened and harvesting in one go.

To determine if the hop cones are ready to pick, press them and see if they are papery dry, springy and release a good strong ‘hoppy’ aroma. Plus they may leave a bit of yellow powder on your fingers. To confirm, split one open – it should be filled with a rich yellow powder.

Dry the cones in a shady spot (must be out of the sunlight) and when dry store out of sunlight sealed in a vacuum sealed bag. Can then be thrown in the freezer if you are not ready to use them.

Maintaining hops
After all cones have been harvested the bines can be cut back to a metre or so above ground level, or you can leave them in place, but once the first frost has killed them off, cut back to just above ground level and mulch around them. They will now rest over winter in preparation for doing it all again next spring.

Keep an eye on the rhizomes, they can spread and you don’t want hops taking over your garden!

Using hops
The hop flower is used as a flavouring agent in beer, as well as a preserving agent and assisting the foaming.
Can make tea out of the dried flower cones. Leave on vine as long as possible to dry. Brew one cone to around 1L of water. Makes a bitter digestive tea – VERY relaxing (from same family as marijuana).
Also steeped in alcohol such as Chartreuse or Vermouth, to make a digestif.

Varieties of Hops
(we have these, but not all of them, all of the time)

Cascade
An aroma type. Good for aroma and flavouring as well as bittering. Used for pale ales, and IPAs
Aroma Profile: Intense Floral/Citrus/Grapefruit/Spicy
Average Alpha Acids: 5.5-9.0% (moderate to high)

Chinook
For Pale Ales and IPAs
Aroma Profile: Spice/Pine/Grapefruit
Average alpha acids: 12-14%

Fuggle
Used for imparting a European aroma
Aroma profile: European
Average alpha acids: 2.5-6%

Goldings
Aroma Profile: Floral/Fruity/Herbal
Average alpha acids: 4.5%

Mount Hood
For aroma.
Aroma profile: Warm and clean. Mild herbal notes (fennel, tarragon) along with floral or lemony elements
Average alpha acids: 4-7%

Pride of Ringwood
Used by CUB to bitter all its beers. Strong aroma and earthy citrus flavour.
Aroma Profile: Cedar/Oak/Herbal
Average alpha acids: 9%
Highly disease resistant.

Red Earth
For aroma and some (limited) bittering
Aroma profile:spicy, woody aroma and flavor with a citrusy under note

Super Alpha
Dual purpose. For aroma and bittering
Aroma Profile: Herbal piney and lemongrass
Average alpha acids 10% -12%

Target
Aroma Profile: Citrus/Spicy
Average alpha acids: 9.5-12.5%

Vienna Gold
All round brewers hop

Württemberg (Tettnanger)
All round aroma and bittering hop
Average alpha acids: 3.5-5.5%

Caper Bush

Caper Bush

Caper Bush (Capparis spinosa) are just taking off in Melbourne as we are now able to supply them (well, at least over the summer months). Even if you are not interested in the culinary aspect of capers, the bush itself is a low spreading perennial (winter deciduous) with tough rounded green leaves that provide a backdrop to startlingly lovely flowers with clean pink or white petals surrounding a spray of purple stamens. They really are very attractive.
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Elaeagnus x ebbingei

Elaeagnus x ebbingei

Photo from Wiki Commons © by Jean Jacques Milan

My main use for this shrub is using it where nothing else will survive, or when everything I try just limps along, not quite dying, but certainly not thriving. I plant an Elaeagnus and it just bolts away forming a strong healthy plant and making that frustrating ‘failure to thrive’ area just disappear. Particularly useful in planting under established trees, where everything tried just struggles.
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Grapes

Grapes

Grapes

Edible grapes (Vitis vinifera) are vigorous deciduous woody vines native to Europe, northern Africa, and western Asia. They climb by means of tendrils, which wrap around objects to support the weight of the vine. Grapes are well suited to hot, dry conditions and full sun. Cultivated grapes have hermaphrodite flowers (both male and female) and are therefore self-fertile, they do not need a second plant as a pollinator. The flowers are pollinated by wind, insects and are also self-pollinated, developing into dense bunches of berries which we refer to as grapes.
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Hardy Kiwi

Actinidia arguta
(Syn.: KiwiBerry (marketing name) or Baby Kiwi)

Known as the Hardy Kiwi because it is frost hardy, (however new growth is frost tender). Produces very sweet grape sized fruit with a smooth skin and flesh similar to the better known Kiwi fruit in appearance and taste. Needs male and female plants to produce fruit, and will not bear fruit until mature (5 years minimum). Very vigorous vines growing several metres in a year. Best in well drained soil to avoid root rot.

Bearing fruit in autumn, each individual vine can produce over 25kg of fruit. Fruits can be eaten whole, no need to peel. The fruits are aromatic with a cocktail of flavours (kiwi, strawberry, banana and pear) wrapped up in one delightful package.

A lot of work is currently being done to produce new cultivars, NZ have 3 commercial cultivars: Takaka Green, K2D4 and Marju Red, and no doubt more will be developed. Currently they do not have a long shelf life, so it is not easy to find them at a fruiterer or grocer (best chance is mid Feb to Mid April), much better to grow your own.

Kiwi Fruit

Kiwi Fruit

Photo © Bulleen Art & Garden

You need a male and a female of these very vigorous vines, so allow for both a sturdy supporting structure and plenty of room.  They grow at a very fast pace over spring and early summer and will rapidly cover a large structure with lovely rounded leaves providing perfect summer shade, but also dropping their leaves in winter to allow winter light in.  Flowering in late spring, the male flowers will pollinate the female flowers and the fruit develops slowly, being generally ready to harvest over winter.

Intolerant of poor drainage, doing best in good quality deep loamy soil well enriched with manures.  Feed well over spring (high Nitrogen fertiliser) when the vines are growing rapidly and water well in summer.  Be patient because your kiwi will not fruit for the first few years, fruit will start to appear after 5 years or so and gradually the crop will become heavier until you have a very prolific fruiting vine at age 7 or 8 years.  Prune hard in winter.  Their vigorous growth habit means they will end up a tangled overcrowded mess unless you remove excess growth.  Fruit appears on the first 6 or 7 buds on new wood.

 

Kiwi Fruit – Haywood (Female)
Deciduous twining vine, covered with fine hairs, with large, rounded, lime green leaves. Female flowers have central thick white styles. Also known as Chinese Gooseberry. Late season maturity. Suited to strong trellis or pergola, this cultivar isn’t quite as rampant as other cultivars. Large, even-sized broad oval fruit. The greenish-brown skin is covered by short, fine silky hairs. Excellent keeping qualities and good flavour. Used for fresh fruit, jam, wine and food presentation. Very high in vitamin C.

Male Vine
The male vine is more vigorous than the female vine. Plant in a protected site on secure trellis. Winter prune to remove water shoots. Does not produce fruit but necessary for the production of fruit on the female vine.

Kiwi Fruit – Bruno (female)
A very vigorous climbing plant, which is highly productive of delicate tasty fruit that ripen in May (earlier than Haywood). Needs frequent pruning to keep in check but capable of bearing very heavy crops. Large and elongated, with a dark brown skin, with dense, short, bristly hairs. Light green flesh of good flavour. With a relatively low chilling requirement.

Kiwi Fruit – Dexter (female)
A low chill cultivar which bears early in life and keeps longer than Bruno. Needs fruit thinning and severe pruning.

Passionfruit

Passionfruit

photograph by Evelyn Hüllinghorst at Unsplash

Passionfruit vines don’t have to be pruned to get good fruit set, but pruning in early spring (after last frosts – important) will help promote new growth where the flowers and subsequent fruit will form. Pruning will also keep a rampant vine under control. Avoid pruning the main stems and main lateral stems, clean up the twining often rampant side stems. You can remove as much as one third of the previous year’s growth.

Keep the vines well fertilised (and watered) all the way from spring through to autumn. In this instance it is helpful if you use a fertiliser which has a N:P:K ratio weighted towards the Phosphorus and Potassium end, so a ‘Flower and Fruit’ or a Citrus fertiliser will work well.

A common complaint is lots of flowers and no fruit. Try hand pollinating if the bees are not doing the job, using a fine paint brush, transfer pollen from the stamens (5 of these per flower) to the stigma (three of these per flower). If that is too tedious simply pick a flower and swipe it across other flowers using a downward motion to transfer pollen onto the stigmas. Also try planting something like lavender nearby to encourage bees into the vicinity.

At the nursery we no longer stock grafted passionfruit. We decided to do this after finding that the very vigorous rootstock heavily suckered and eventually outgrew the grafted material on too many of our customer’s plants. All the good advice and intentions in the world to remove suckers didn’t seem to work, hence the decision to nip the trouble at the source as it were, and stop stocking grafted passionfruit.

Pepino (Melon Shrub)

Solanum muricatum

The Pepino is a small fruiting shrub and a member of the solanaceae family (Tomatoes, eggplants and potatoes). It is a tough perennial bush which will produce fruit for a period of months during the warmer time of the year. The fruit, which is shaped like a giant egg, has a flavour similar to a rockmelon or honeydew melon. As the fruit matures it will turn from a pale green to a bright yellow as well as developing distinctive purple striping.

The plant itself will grow best in a well drained soil with a PH of 6.5 – 7.5. It is an aggressive grower which will send out roots wherever it touches the ground, so be careful where you plant it in order to contain the spreading. Pepino plants can also be trained well to grow up a trellis. This can help to stop the spreading of the plant across the garden. It responds well to a prune during the warmer months and an application of slow release fertilizer in spring.