We grow over 80 varieties of fruits in our backyard foodforest, and berries are one of our favourite fruits to grow. They are the ultimate spring / summer indulgence. Here you’ll find our top 5 berries to grow and tips for growing an epic harvest!
Why grow berries?
There are so many wonderful reasons to grow berries:
- Most berries produce in their first year so unlike fruit trees you won’t be waiting 7 years for your first decent crop, you’ll be swimming in berries in your first and second year – all organic, no sprays and no food miles!
- It’s surprisingly easy to grow berries. They can be grown in shade, even full shade as you’ll see with ours.
- Berries taste incredible and are packed with antioxidants. Nothing beats the taste of gorging on your own sun-ripened berries straight off the vine. Here are 10 surprising fact about berries that shocked me!
- Growing berries is so rewarding. They produce prolifically – we have a freezer full of raspberries already now in our second year!
What’s not to love about them?! I’ll be introducing you to five of our favourite berries to grow – some you may never have heard of but you will most definitely want to include in your own backyard foodforest. I will also share a few tips & tricks along the way about netting, growing in shade and pruning. A video tour of these berries in our garden is below or keep reading for a written guide.
Now let’s get into the berries!
1. Heritage Raspberries
We love our heritage raspberry – it’s what they call an ever-bearing variety, which is a little misleading as it doesn’t actually produce year round. What this means is that it produces a big flush of fruit in spring as you can see in the video, and a smaller flush in autumn. Because the fruit ripens gradually, this means you’re really enjoying raspberries from late spring all the way into autumn, hence it’s somewhat ever-bearing for more than half the year.
It’s called a primocane variety which means it produces fruit on first year stems. Great for the impatient gardener like us. The berries have a really rich intense flavour. Fruits turn a deep purple and drop to the ground when ripe, so you might need to look under your bush for the ripe ones.
Some varieties of raspberries have really sharp thorns so you’ll want to be careful to pick the right variety. The Heritage I’m pleased to report has smaller soft thorns, so while looks a little prickly, it is safe around kids and big kids.
You’ll need to net raspberries heavily as the birds love them as much as we do. For netting an arch like ours (which you can see in the video) or a larger berry plant along a trellis trellis, we’d recommend large durable fine-weave bird netting. For smaller plants you can net with individual fruit protection bags which we find so handy and convenient.
We planted our raspberry as a tiny 20cm plant last season and look what we have now – an overgrown monster of an arch laden with fruit. So with loads of compost and some soil improvement you too can be swimming in berries. We’ve been eating fresh everyday and have enough now to freeze!
We have some large established Heritage Raspberry seedlings available for sale from time to time, so if you’re in Melbourne and would like to try them out, please check out our Plant Sale page.
2. Golden raspberry
I’ll let you into a little secret, these are the best tasting raspberries in existence! They’re always sweet and never give you that unpleasant tart zing unlike red raspberries which can be a little sour when not fully ripe. As with all white fruits they are much sweeter than their red counterparts, and almost have a honey sweet tone to them, and are a little floral in taste. If you like a sweeter better then these are for you.
They go from white to golden yellow and then orange peach blushed as they ripen. Being lightly coloured the birds generally also leave them alone, because they don’t recognise them as ripe fruit, which means more berries for you and a win win. However if a bird does catch onto their delicious flavour, they’ll be back and again we recommend netting with large durable fine-weave bird netting or individual fruit protection bags.
Youngberries are a fascinating cross between three different types of berries: a Dewberry (I have never come across one before!), a Blackberry and Raspberry.
They have inherited the best traits from all their parents and are what I consider to be a deluxe berry. They’re huge, and turn deep purple when ripe, and the flavour, omygosh they are a flavour bomb – so rich, deep and filled with juice. They are by far the juciest berry I have tasted. I was totally blown away when I first tasted them and they are also a family favourite. We have have been growing them ever since in our yard.
Younberries are fairly thorny. For that reason, I’d recommend growing along a fenceline or somewhere out of the way where unwitting family members or children can’t accidentally prick themselves on it.
You can see in the video that we grow our Youngberry in deep shade along our fence. So another tip we have for growing berries is don’t be afraid of shade, berries can thrive and be very productive in shade as long as you provide them with rich and generous soil.
They look amazing in your fruit bowl amongst the other berries because of their intense colour and large size.
4. White currants
Another awesome white fruit for your foodforest, white currants! White currants are a compact shrub that don’t get out of control unlike your raspberries and youngberries. They can be trained to a standard shape or into a mini tree, or fan trained against a trellis.
White currants are ripe when they go transparent – I love a see-through fruit! There’s also a red version (red currant) currant which is also pretty – both the white and red version are so festive on Christmas cakes. In terms of taste, the white version is much sweeter and the red more tart. If you haven’t tasted currants before they’re a little sweet and tart, a pop of flavour in your mouth, and taste a little grape-like in flavour. The white transparent colour just glows, and looks incredible on a berry platter.
Birds again tend to ignore these white fruits which is a bonus. But while they deter birds they don’t deter kids. Ours stand at the bush and just pick off all the fruit!
5. White shahtoot mulberry
Last but most definitely not least is the white shahtoot mulberry. Shahtoot means King in Hindi, and this really is the King or Queen of mulberries. It produces gigantic mulberries, sometimes as long as the palm of your hand!
They are also one of the sweetest fruits I’ve ever tasted. When ripe they taste like honey, or as my husband would say they are all the best bits of apricot. It also has hints of pineapple and a general fruitiness – the best of all fruits rolled into one. It’s unlike anything you’ve ever tasted, and words just don’t do it justice. You have to grow it yourself to try it. Even when green they are mildly sweet, but the flavour really comes out when they turn a glowy white.
Like other mulberries, they do drop a bit of fruit in their first few years, but our tree seems to have finally stabilised and we’re getting a great harvest now in its third year.
I’m sure you notice a theme here but I love our white fruit. Again being a white fruit, the birds typically ignore them. But you only need one enterprising bird to make this discovery and others are on the way. So you can use some of the same netting options discussed above.
We’re also shape training our tree with string as you can see in the video, to create a more weeping shape to fit into our small space. This is a great way to keep trees compact yet not having to over-prune them. A secret tip to more berries is to give your mulberry a quick tip prune after its spring fruiting and it might reward you with another crop in late autumn. This technique works for all mulberries, as the trees bear fruit on their new growing tips.
There you have it!
I hope you enjoyed a little look around some of the berries in our foodforest. There’s so much to love about berries!