I can’t get over how much I love my new berry walk! I’ve wanted my own berry garden since we bought the house a few years ago. Berry gardens are such wonderful ways to combine beautiful landscaping with delicious common edible plants. Here’s why I love my new berry walk as well as some inspiration for you to create your own berry garden.
My Berry Garden: The Berry Walk
I’ve always imagined my berry garden as a path with berries and other culinary perennials growing on either side. It would have lots of my favourite berries and small fruit, plus some herbs I use often and maybe even a few flowers. I termed it a “berry walk” after reading Landscaping with Fruit by Lee Reich. Until recently, I didn’t really have a place for a berry garden though!
This spring my husband and I were pruning an old shrubbery garden beside our garage, right by the back door of our home. Unfortunately the garden had been rather poorly-designed with the largest shrubs in the front shading out most of the other smaller shrubs. Most of the shrubs turned out to be mostly dead or to have significant damage of various types. There were a few culinary herbs right at the front, but most of the shrubs were fairly useless.
My husband suggested that we tear out the dead and dying shrubs and start fresh with some more useful plants. We would keep the plants that were thriving like the grapes and the honeysuckle, but the landscaping shrubs would go. I was thrilled! Finally…a place for the berry walk.
Designing Berry Gardens
As soon as I realized that the berry walk was a possibility, I knew the right person to design it. Jana from The Hip Homestead is a local permaculture garden designer who is known for designing beautiful edible gardens (among other things). She took the time to discuss what types of berry plants are my favourite and which berries we eat on a regular basis. This ensured that the berry garden would be well-suited to us.
Jana separated the plants into three categories: foundation plants, secondary plants, and companion plants. Foundation plants are the cornerstone of berry gardens. For my garden, we chose blueberry and raspberry plants as the foundation plants (in addition to the existing grape vine on the adjacent trellis).
Secondary plants help finish out the look and shape of the bed. We used strawberries, which are great ground covers for berry gardens. Companion plants help support the foundation and secondary plants by attracting pollinators, distracting pests, adding beauty, and providing another source of food. My berry garden includes honeysuckle, herbs, and icelandic poppies as companion plants.
Jana has put together a set of instructions about how to design your own berry walk garden based on how she designed the berry walk for me. If berry gardens are of interest to you or you’re considering your own berry walk, check out her article and get started growing your own organic berries at home!
Low Maintenance Berry Gardening
A little extra up-front work makes berry gardening an easy, low-maintenance way to grow your own fruit. Berry gardens thrive in the right conditions…you’ve just got to set up those conditions to see success!
Some berries such as blueberries prefer acidic soil. If you’re not growing your berries in a very acidic environment, consider adding some peat moss or other organic soil pH adjuster to mimic optimal soil conditions.
Our garden consisted of sandy loam as the natural soil as well as some old bits of bark mulch and peat moss left over from the old shrub garden. I chose to leave the existing soil in place an top it with some fresh high-quality growing mix.
In my berry garden, I used Pro-Mix Premium Organic Vegetable and Herb Mix for soil preparation. Pro-Mix provided this product to me to test and I found it worked very well in this application (especially because it is safe for organic gardening).
I spread the mix out over the existing ground primarily to inoculate the soil with beneficial mycorrhizae. This is an organic method of strengthening plant roots by creating a symbiotic relationship with beneficial fungi. The mix also added some varied organic matter to my very sandy soil. After placing the Pro-Mix, I mulched with homemade compost to retain moisture, keep weeds down, and give the plants some additional nutrients.
Berries also require moisture in the soil. I use drip irrigation in my berry garden. Installing your own DIY drip irrigation (which is different than just using a soaker hose) is the easiest way to ensure your garden is getting consistent moisture in a controlled fashion without wasting water. Check out this tutorial on installing your own DIY drip emitter line irrigation (trust me, it takes longer to water the garden by hand a few times than it does to set up automated drip irrigation). I also use organic mulch to keep moisture in the soil by reducing evaporation.
Fruit to Grow in Berry Gardens
Here are some plant ideas for what to grow in your own berry walk garden:
Large Berry Trees and Shrubs
- Sea Buckthorn Berry
- Goji Berry
- Acai Berry
Medium Berry Bushes and Canes
Small Ground Cover Berries
- Strawberry (I love alpine strawberries)
More ideas and botanical details about berries can be found on this list of berries. It can also be fun to add in some vining fruit. My berry walk includes a grape vine. If it were in a shadier area I might have included a hardy kiwi vine too! If you’ve got the space, fruit trees like apples, peaches, plums, and pears are also lovely to add as foundation plants into your berry walk.
Berry Gardens: My Favourite Way to Grow Fruit
Berry gardens are wonderful ways to grow some of your own fruit while also providing a lovely area of the garden to walk through and appreciate your plants. If you’re thinking of creating your own berry walk, I really do encourage you to check out this article about designing your own berry walk. It’s worth taking a bit of time to properly plan it out before you head to the garden centre!
Do you grow any berries? What are your favourite berries to grow in your berry gardens or to buy at the Farmers Market? Do any berries grow wild in your area? Share your stories and questions in the comments section below!
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