Growing Cranberries at Home in Beds or Containers
Most home gardeners don't think about growing cranberries in their home gardens but it can be done. If you live in a region where they flourish, cranberries can be grown in beds or in containers without too much trouble.
The cranberry grows only on the continent of North America. It can be found from eastern Canada down to North Carolina and as far west as Minnesota. This evergreen plant is a great addition to your home garden.
In the wild cranberry plants grow in damp bogs and swampy areas. It is a self pollinating ground cover that grows two different ways. Runners can cause the plant to spread out as much as two feet per growing season. Upright canes grow up from the runners and produce the flowers and fruit.
Large, commercial fields of cranberries are harvested by flooding the field with water. The cranberries float on the surface and are scooped up for market. Once the cranberries are harvested the water is let out of the field.
Growing Cranberries in the Home Garden
Cranberries like a moderate climate that is not too hot or cold. They do best in zones two through five but can be grown as container plants in other areas.
Start with an Acidic Soil
Growing cranberries works best in an acidic, very fertile soil because the shallow root system only grows in the top six inches or so. The soil pH should be between 4.5 and 5.0. You can get the soil tested at the local agricultural extension service or at a local nursery.
Be sure that the soil had good drainage. Soggy roots do not grow healthy plants.
Plant Cranberries in the Fall
Cranberry plants should be planted in the fall. They can be planted any time through the early part of November. In the spring try to get the cranberry plants in the ground between April 15th and May 31st.
Bed Preparation and Planting
To prepare the bed fro growing cranberries you must dig a hole about eight inches deep. Line it with plastic that has holes poked into it to allow drainage. Add peat moss to fill the hole. Wet thoroughly. Continue adding peat moss and wetting it down until the hole is filled. If you have a clay soil you can leave off the plastic.
Now add the following mixture:
- ½ part bone meal
- 1 part rock phosphate
- 1 part blood meal
Space year old plants one foot apart. Place the root ball so that it sits two inches below the surface of the ground level. Fill with the damp peat moss mixture. For best results keep the plants watered frequently. The soil should stay moist to the touch without being soaked. These year old plants should begin producing cranberries in about two to three years.
Growing Cranberries in Containers
You can also grow cranberries in containers but you will have to replace the plants every third year once they start producing fruit. Apply a fish emulsion at the rate of one-half gallon every month.
Tips for Homegrown Cranberries
- Always prune the three year old uprights.
- Add a layer of sand every two years or so.
- Harvest before frost.
- You can take softwood cuttings in the summer and root them for more plants.
- For every square foot of cranberry bed you can expect to harvest about one pound of fruit.
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