Berry fruit includes blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, boysenberries, loganberries, currants, gooseberries, and strawberries. Berries contain high levels of antioxidants and vitamins as well as a pleasant taste, making them popular eating for both kids and adults.
Most are reasonably easy to grow in most parts of New Zealand. Currants and gooseberries require winter chilling, performing poorly in warm northern areas. Northern highbush types of blueberries are more suited to the very coldest climates.
Blueberries, raspberries, currants, and gooseberries grow as a bush, requiring little or no support, while blackberries, boysenberries and loganberries require a fence type support. This latter group are also more difficult to prune, especially varieties with prickles.
All berry fruits can be grown in pots. They will all grow in volcanic and light soils providing they are adequately watered in summer. Heavier clay soils will need to be improved – see details in Section 1 of 'The Home Orchard' or check out our blog on improving clay soils here.
As a guide, you will need two plants per person for each fruit you select. For strawberries, plant 5 per person in your household.
Berry fruits require sun but prefer an aspect that avoids the hot afternoon sun.
Birds are a major pest of berry fruit, especially blueberries, currants, and gooseberries which will certainly require protection netting. The severity of bird problems with raspberries, blackberries and boysenberries varies according to location and season.Blueberries
Most blueberry varieties are self-fertile, but the crop will be enhanced considerably if there is another variety of the same type. When selecting varieties, ensure at least two Rabbit Eye, two Northern Highbush, or two Southern Highbush. Northern Highbush are better for colder regions, requiring more winter chilling and flowering later. Southern Highbush are more suited to warmer regions, while Rabbit Eye are generally suited to all but the very coldest areas.
Blueberries require acidic soils.
Blackberries are best suited to areas with mild winters and warm summers but will tolerate colder climates. They are self-fertile and fruit in February to March, although one variety, Navaho, fruits in December. Black Satin, the most frequently offered variety and Navaho are both thornless.
Karaka Black is an American hybrid which has large berries and fruits earlier than others in Dec–Jan.
Blackberries do not tolerate wet feet but require adequate moisture while fruiting.Boysenberries
Boysenberries are best suited to areas with mild winters and warm summers but will tolerate colder climates. They are self-fertile and fruit in Dec–Jan. Most varieties offered for home gardens today (Brulee, Mapua, Starlight, Tasman, Thornless Jewel) are thornless or mostly thornless. Loganberries are similar to boysenberries but reddish in colour and fruit a month later. Waimate is a thornless variety.Cape Gooseberries
Cape gooseberries are so named because the berry is carried in a lantern-like cape, which begins as a green, slightly conical soft cape. As the berry ripens, the cape loses flesh, dries and becomes transparent. The berry turns from green to yellow-orange when ripe from January to April. The bush with soft grey-green foliage grows rapidly to 1 metre. The plants often only last 2–3 years, but they are easily grown from seed saved from ripe berries.Currants
Currants require winter chilling and therefore are likely to perform better in the South Island and colder parts of the North Island. Currants are self-fertile with red and white varieties fruiting in December and black varieties in Dec–Jan. All varieties are suitable for growing in pots.
Mulberry trees are deciduous and suited to New Zealand’s temperate climate. They prefer a deep, well-drained soil, and although they tolerate drought, they will drop fruit, or it will fail to size if not watered.See Section 1 of 'The Home Orchard' for specific soil, fertiliser and watering advice for mulberries.
Male and female flowers are carried on each tree which is self-fertile, but pollination is better if there are two trees or more. Fruit forms on one-year-old wood and ripens from November to March. Prune as you would a stone fruit tree.
Hicks Early is an old variety which grows to 6 metres or higher and can spread to 12 metres, making them impossible to net. Red Shahtoot is a new dwarf variety. Do not plant close to concreted paths as the fallen berries stain.
Gooseberries are related to currants and require winter chilling and therefore are likely to perform better in the South Island and colder parts of the North Island. They are self-fertile, the variety Invicta ripening in late Nov–Dec and Pax, which has a large berry that turns red when fully ripe, in Dec–Jan. Farmers Glory is a hardy variety performing well in cold climates. All varieties are suitable for growing in pots.
Raspberries are best suited to temperate areas. They are not so happy north of the Waikato. This could also have something to do with the fact that they prefer good drainage and a slightly more acid soil than the clays of Auckland north. Raspberries are self-fertile, with most varieties fruiting in December to January. Some varieties -such as Heritage-fruit once a year, in March–May, while others -such as Aspiring - fruit twice a year, once in Dec–Jan on last-year’s canes and again in April–May on the current-season’s canes. All varieties are suitable for growing in pots.
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