By Carrie Terry
Planning a home garden for fruit, vegetables and flowers brings both challenge and reward to careful gardeners. To reap an even larger harvest, and give your table some additional variety, consider planting several different types of fruits and vegetables in the same season. Be careful to plant fruits and veggies that grow under the same conditions and are compatible, though. If you’re planting large plants like blackberries with low-lying plants like strawberries, you must consider issues like space, light and air.
Choose a site for your planting. Both blackberries and strawberries require full sun for at least eight hours a day, so choose a site that gets little to no shade, and drains quickly. Blackberries and strawberries expand and take up a lot of space, and should grow relatively far apart, so use a site that is at least 10-by-10 feet.
Amend the soil before planting with a combination of half quick-draining soil and half organic compost, to ensure good drainage around the roots of the plants and give them adequate nutrition for growth. Amend the soil to a depth of 6 inches, and throw out any rocks, weeds or litter you find when you’re working with the soil. Strawberries cannot grow with competition from weeds and litter.
Plant blackberries and strawberries in early spring, when the frost is off the ground. Although both of these plants are hardy to winter temperatures, they are sensitive as seedlings. Plant blackberries deeply enough to submerge their root balls, at a spacing of 2 to 3 feet per plant. If you’re planting rows, space them at 7 to 8 feet to give each bush plenty of room to grow.
Plant strawberries at least 8 feet from the blackberries. Strawberries grow low to the ground, and will suffer if they sit in the shade of the blackberry bushes. Plant strawberry seedlings at a spacing of 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 feet, as these plants will also expand, and need plenty of space. Plant strawberry seedlings only deep enough to cover their roots; these plants prefer relatively shallow planting depths.
Mulch the entire plot with 1 inch of organic mulch to maintain soil moisture and warmth for the plants, and to restrict weed growth around the strawberries. Water the garden with 2 inches of water to help the plants establish, and put both strawberries and blackberries on a weekly schedule of 2 inches of water. Although both plants are drought-tolerant, they will suffer and fail to bear fruit if water is too restricted.
Strawberries expand quickly by putting out runners, or “daughters,” which put down roots and propagate new plants.
Both blackberries and strawberries require a full year of growth before they begin to produce fruit.