Not so Sweet Strawberries

by Lee
(Montreal, Quebec, Canada)

I planted my strawberries between my blueberry plants and they are not so sweet even though they are blood red and ripe.

How to get them sweeter? Are they in the right location? They get about 4 hours of sun every day.


ANSWER:


Strawberries need lots of sunshine to produce sweet fruit. They are probably not getting enough sunshine growing between the blueberry bushes.

We plant strawberries completely out in the open, where they will receive full sun all day long. Warm weather helps sweeten the berries also. When we have stretches of cool and rainy weather in the summer, I notice that the berries aren't as sweet.

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Surecrop Strawberries

by Carol Bligh
(Indiana)

In the past--I had a nice strawberry patch in the ground.
We have gotten a few years older and I have tried starting the Surecrop strawberries in a raised garden three times.

This year, they have green leaves in the middle of the old dead plants we planted last year. Should I leave them alone or remove the old dead leaves?


ANSWER:

It isn't necessary to remove the old dead leaves. At some point they will fall off by themselves. But if you want or need something to do, then you can pinch or clip them off to make your plants look nicer!

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Growing Strawberries Next to a Pumpkin Plant

by Elaine Kennedy
(Scotland)

Can I grow strawberry plants next to a pumpkin plant in a raised bed garden?

ANSWER:

Hi Elaine,

There is no "gardening rule" that I know of against planting these two plants next to each other.

My only hesitation is that because pumpkins tend to sprawl so much in every direction, the pumpkin plant may cover, shade, or steal nutrients and water from your strawberry plants.

I apologize to pumpkins everywhere for making them sound almost criminal. My experience with pumpkin plants is that they need a huge area all to themselves, such as a field or big corner of the back yard.

You might want to use a cage or trellis for your pumpkin so that you can train it to grow upward as much as possible. That might help.

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How to Grow Sweeter Blackberries

by Joyce Toledo
(Hawthorne, NJ)

What do I need to do to the soil to make my blackberries sweeter?


ANSWER:

I don't know that there is anything you can do to the soil to make your blackberries sweeter.

However, you can leave the berries on the vine until they are very ripe. This can make a big difference. Also, the hotter and sunnier the weather, the sweeter the berries will become naturally.

If nothing else, tart blackberries make great pies and jam!

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Confused About Blackberry Plant

by John Ruesing
(Ishpeming, Mi.)

I have a Darrow blackberry plant. It's in an 18 inch pot ready to plant. There are no leaves on it; is that ok, or should I return it to the nursery?


ANSWER:

It may be too early for it to put out this year's new leaves. Can you tell if there are any leaf buds appearing on the stalk?

If you think that it should have formed leaves by now, you can take it to the place where it was purchased, and ask them to take a look.

Blackberry plants have put out their new leaves already where I live (Oregon), but if you are in a northern climate zone, it may still be too early.

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Darrow Blackberry Question

by Monica
(Christoval, TX, USA)

What is "everbearing"? On your blackberry page it said that you should cut them to the ground after harvest. But if it is a Darrow everbearing that produces through fall should I cut it to the ground?


ANSWER:

"Everbearing" in this case means fall-bearing.

Darrow everbearing blackberries produce both a mid-summer and late-summer or fall crop of blackberries, depending on your climate.

You can cut or prune the canes to the ground after all the canes have finished producing berries. This may be in winter where you live.

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How Many Red Raspberry Plants?

by Carla Lewis
(Dayton, Ohio)

How many red raspberry plants do you need to plant together to get them to grow?

I always buy 2 plants together because I thought that you needed 2 to help the other to grow; is this true?

ANSWER:

It is not absolutely necessary to have two plants. But I have heard that they will produce more berries if you have two or more plants of the same variety so that the plants can cross-pollinate when they bloom.

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Red Raspberries With White Spots

by Chia Roemhildt
(Elysian, MN USA)

I planted raspberries about 3 yrs ago. They are starting to lose their leaves now, for this year, but the berries have large white spots on them. Do you know what the problem is or how I could fix this?


ANSWER:

This is a condition called sun-scald or "white drupelet disorder". It occurs during hot weather on just the berries that are exposed to full sun. The berries fail to make pigment for some of the cells during hot weather.

It is not a serious problem, and the berries are fine for eating. They just don't look as perfect. I have noticed this sometimes occurring on some of our raspberries over the years.

I have heard that some varieties of red raspberries are more susceptible to sun-scald than others. If it bothers you, you can try a plant or two of a different variety of raspberry that will be less susceptible, and see if you prefer them.

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Home Grown - Homemade Raspberry Jam

by Barbara
(Kingston, MA, USA)

This is great year for my red raspberries. I made jam earlier and the fall harvest has given me two batches thus far with many more coming. I built a hoop house over my 50' row so I won't miss any!

My friends and family are telling me it is the best raspberry jam they ever had. (It darn well better be!) It's so funny, one friend, Judy likes it so much she only allows herself a spoonful at a time so it will last longer.

Another, also a Judy, sampled it, got a spoon and polished off the entire jar. End of story! So what's my problem?

I asked one of these Judys what she'd expect to pay for a jar. (I do the farmers market and am considering selling some next year if any remains.)

So Judy begins by saying "Well, I know all you put into it", then ends up saying something like "$4 for an 8 oz jar"! You might as well get it at Ocean State then, would have been my reply.

If my jam is not worth more then Ocean State, the Dollar Store, or Walmart, why bother selling it? I'll keep it...and give it to people who really appreciate it enough that they'd pay $6 a jar.

What are your thoughts - set me straight or sympathize with me.


ANSWER:

Hi Barbara,

My husband LOVES jam, and goes through a jar very quickly. When I go to a farmer's market, if I see homemade jam, I gladly pay $6 for an 8 ounce jar.

Then I try to hide the jam so that he doesn't eat it all in 2 or 3 days!

It costs a lot just for the sugar, pectin (if your recipe calls for it), and jars, not to mention all the time that it takes to grow, care for, and pick the berries. Then you have to stand over a hot stove and cook the jam.

So, my advise is to put a high enough price on it that you either sell it for what you feel like it's worth, or take it home and use it yourself.

Or give it as a special gift. Homemade jam makes the best Christmas present ever. One of my cousins makes jam every year and gives a jar to everyone in our family as a much appreciated gift!

PS. Do you think you can send a sample jar so that I can be sure of the quality?

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Sour Red Raspberries

by David Wood
(Enon, Ohio)

I recently moved (two years ago) and started a new berry patch. My plants are from Indiana Berry (Heritage variety). My old location had scads of sweet berries twice a year. I followed all of the advice of Indiana Berry.

This is the second year for the new starts and I did not harvest the first year. The berries are producing but are not sweet as the previous bed.

Also they come from the vine very easily, even when not completely ripe. They are somewhat sour unlike my previous. Many simply fall from the plant even though they are not quite ripe.

I water, fertilize and keep insects to a minimum. I have had no signs of fungus of any type. The soil is good and PH is 6.5+-.

The berries are usable but sour without adding sugar to eat raw or on cereal etc. We make jam and prefer it to be a little tart so we are OK there.

I'm doing something wrong but have no idea what. Any ideas?


ANSWER:

You might try calling Indiana Berry and asking if the variety you purchased are recommended for your new zone/planting area.

Sometimes berries will be less sweet than usual due to weather conditions. Our berries (in Oregon) are not as sweet in the summers when we have lots of rain and cool weather. The sugars in berries seem to be formed during hot weather.

It could be either the variety of berry you planted, or the weather conditions is my best guess.

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Gooseberries

Do the gooseberries appear on each year's new growth?

Do the plants have to be pruned and if so when?


ANSWER:

Gooseberry bushes can be pruned at the end of winter, before the new growth starts to appear. The gooseberries appear on both old and new growth.

When pruning, simply remove any dead, broken or diseased branches. Also any branches that are growing on the ground or in the wrong direction can be removed.

In order to encourage maximum production, you can remove the oldest canes each year, leaving the healthiest 7 to 9 younger canes.

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Rhubarb Crowns

by Tom
(Co. Durham, England)

I have been given 3 rhubarb crowns and forgot to plant them. Work to my house made me neglect them. How long will they last not planted?

ANSWER:

Hi Tom,
It depends how they were being stored. If they were kept damp, with some soil or sawdust around the roots, they may be fine. You have nothing to lose by planting them. Get them in the ground, and see what happens! Good luck.

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Victoria Rhubarb

Can I harvest Victoria rhubarb in the first year?

ANSWER:

Wait until the second year to harvest Victoria Rhubarb. It can be hard to be patient, but the plant needs time to grow and develop the root structure. By the second year, it is fine to harvest some of the stalks.

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Rhubarb in a School Garden

by Susie
(Exeter, Devon, UK)

Should I allow my school gardening club to grow rhubarb on their plot which is accessible to all the other children in the school?


ANSWER:

If you think that there is any chance that any of the children will eat or chew on the leaves, then I would not recommend it.

When I was growing up, every home garden had rhubarb plants, and I don't know of any children eating the leaves, or getting sick from them.

But, our parents taught us at an early age that rhubarb leaves were poison, and not to eat them.

So I think in a public garden, it might not be a good idea to grow rhubarb, just because you can't be there all the time to make sure that all the children understand that the rhubarb leaves are harmful if eaten.

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Growing Watermelons

by Floyd Warner
(Davison, MI, USA)

Our watermelons vines are growing up our wire fence; is that a problem?


ANSWER:

It is better if they stay on the ground. The watermelon will try to grow from flowers on vines that have climbed the fence.

The fruits become very heavy as they mature. If the watermelon grow suspended from the fence, they will not be able to develop fully.

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Growing Melons

by Carolyn
(Las Vegas, NV)

Can you give any information about growing melons in a vegetable garden?

Answer:

Hi Carolyn,
Luckily I had a page on growing melons almost ready to add to my website! So I finished it, and now it is uploaded and ready to go.

Here is the link:
http://www.vegetable-gardening-online.com/growing-melons.html

You can also find the melon page listed on the navigation bar on the left hand side of this page.

If there is anything additional that you want to know about growing melons or watermelons that isn't covered on the page, please let me know.

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honeydew melons

I don't know if you think of honeydew melon as part of the vegetable garden, however my question is "what is a good companion to put with honeydew melons"?

I have heard that you cannot plant watermelons and cantaloupes too close to each other.

If you have any input on this please let me know also.

Thank you!


ANSWER:

Beans, corn, cucumbers, melons, peas, pumpkins, sunflowers, white potatoes, and squash are all good companions plants.

I think it is fine to plant cantaloupe and watermelons next to each other in the garden. They cannot cross-pollinate each other, as they are not the same species of plant.

If you are planting two or more varieties of the same vegetable species such as squash, then you need to plant them apart as they can and will cross-pollinate. This will result in unique fruit that will not be true to either variety that you planted.

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