It’s harvest time. So don’t start putting your garden to bed because there’s plenty of perks on the horizon. Don’t even think about slowing down, because the garden is pumping out goodies a mile a minute. I’m talking about berries. And it’s not only about what goes into our tummies (and there’s lots of that going on), but late summer and autumn are also dedicated to the dividends that birds are foraging from our fields-of-dreams. If you play your cards right, you can stage a bounty for everyone and everything. In fact, you still have time to put in some shrubs for future crowd pleasers.
Planning & Planting Ahead
Everything about gardening is about thinking into the future. And there’s still time to get some berries in the bank for harvesting next year and many years after. With ample rain in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states, the time is still ripe for planting shrubs. It’s always wise to start with a soil test to check out your target site. Most berries are sun-lovers and enjoy ample moisture to nurture flowers followed by those juicy fruits. However, good drainage is also an important factor. And of course, they love well-nourished soil. When planting, give your soil some extra oomph with an amendment such as Coast of Maine Penobscot Blend Organic & Natural Planting Mix.
Edible Autumn Berries
Now is the moment when blackberries and raspberries are ripe and ready for picking. A personal favorite is ‘Chester’ thornless blackberries with all of the juicy goodness and none of the scratch that comes with harvesting most brambles. Not only are they plentiful and scrumptious, but the berries are huge. In fact, they’re so large that birds tend to leave them alone—they’re just too big for their beaks to tackle. Leaving plenty for us. Plus, the canes are so strong that they don’t require staking. What more can you ask? If thornless is the way you prefer to go, there are thornless raspberries with scrumptious fruit but not the ouch. However, raspberries naturally tend to make plentiful underground runners, so give them plenty of room to roam.
Although blueberries are a summer crop, they still perform stunts now. After their berries are harvested and starting in late summer, blueberry foliage begins to blush beautiful colors of orange, red, and maroon to enhance your autumn garden before the foliage drops late in fall. Truly, blueberries are all-season all-stars with spring flowers, summer harvest, and autumn color. Plus, you can find varieties that form tidy shrubs to look snazzy around your home. Blueberries like an acid pH, so amend your soil with a product such as Coast of Maine Organic & Natural Planting Soil for Acid-Loving Plants to keep them productive and growing luxuriantly.
We’re not the only customers to consider when planting berries. Although some berries are not on our menu, they are critical to the diets of birds. Now is the time when many birds are bulking up in prep for their autumn migration south. Others are adding fat for their winter survival stint in colder regions. You’ll want to offer them sustenance. Although viburnums aren’t readily edible for us, many ripen their berries in late summer and autumn much to the delight of winged clientele. Because birds tend to be bingers, they often strip the crop in a single swoop of their flock. So, it’s a good thing that other berries that birds love such as callicarpa and winterberries are more palatable after they’ve frozen and thawed many times. Although they’re not edible for us, they’re great for midwinter bird feasts when nothing else is available.
Prepping Shrubs for Colder Times
Once the ground freezes, it’s often helpful to mulch shrubs, especially newly planted bushes. What you’re doing is insulating the soil, so it isn’t subject to the thawing/freezing yo-yo that often happens. Try Coast of Maine’s Dark Harbor Blend Enriching Mulch to do the trick while also supplying additional food for your berry bushes. They will gratefully respond with a flush of more juicy goodness in the next growing season.
Written by award winning author, Tovah Martin. Photos also taken by Tovah Martin. Find her books and more information on her website: tovahmartin.com.