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raspberry

It’s Cool to Grow Fruit

I’m fresh back from a trip to Oregon where I had the pleasure of meeting the folks at Fall Creek Nursery. The nursery is a large wholesale nursery that provides a ton of blueberries to both garden centers and commercial blueberry fields and they’re located just outside Eugene, Oregon.

Fall Creek Nursery hit my radar earlier this year when they announced a new variety would be coming out for spring of 2013: ‘Raspberry Shortcake’ raspberry. It immediately captured my full attention: ‘Raspberry Shortcake’ is a dwarf thornless raspberry bred for growing in containers. You can have fresh raspberries right on your deck or balcony and not have to worry about scratchy thorns or a crazy raspberry patch.

Happily, this cool advance in plant breeding didn’t come with a sacrifice in flavor: The fruits are juicy and delicious! (Our hosts at Fall Creek Nursery served a big bowl of them at lunch. Yum!)

I took the photo here on the patio where we had lunch — though the fruits on this one weren’t ripe yet (the plant had been cut back in the spring to delay fruiting) others at the nursery were bursting with fruit.

( By the way: If you’d like to be one of the first gardeners to try ‘Raspberry Shortcake’, a limited number is being offered in the BHG Garden Store that will ship in the mail this autumn. If that’s of interest, you can order it here.)

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strawberry season

June used to be strawberry season. It still is in much of the northern part of the country. After all, most strawberry varieties are called June-bearers. But consumers have grown accustomed to having strawberries available year round from warm-climate commercial fruit farms.

I have nothing against commercial fruit farms. I used to own and operate one, which included five acres of strawberries. But we didn’t ship the berries thousands of miles across the country. They all were harvested for local consumption. And the season ran only from early June through early July. Then, we had no more strawberries for the rest of the year, except ones from the freezer. As the strawberry season wound down, we shifted to raspberry harvest, then to apples.

It’s tough to beat the flavor of a locally-grown strawberry. My grandpa Schrock used to say, “God could have made a better berry than a strawberry, but He didn’t!” You can experience that delectable home-grown flavor by planting a few strawberries in your yard, or even in a strawberry jar on your patio or balcony.

Variety selection for strawberries is highly regionally dependent, so it’s worthwhile checking with local garden centers or your cooperative extension service to discover which types are recommended for your locale. One of my favorites for flavor (in the Upper Midwest) is Earliglow. In my own yard, I extend the strawberry season by also growing Tristar, a day neutral strawberry variety that produces a smaller harvest in June, but continues to bear throughout the summer. I also grow three types of raspberries, but because I no longer have acres to harvest, I can manage to pick strawberries AND raspberries in July!


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