Creating the best conditions for growing berries in your woods can be a part of the rest of your objectives for your woodland.
Berry picking is a big part of our family’s tradition and we take an active role in creating optimal conditions for berry production. It really isn’t anything special or difficult and fits in well with our other goals for our property.
We have many goals for our forest including timber production, trail riding, firewood production, attracting wildlife, and gathering a number of different forest products like berries. These goals are not mutually exclusive and in fact we attract more wildlife to our property by expanding our berry patches. We work on the last three goals at the same time.
Our needs for firewood average about eight to ten cords per year. Every fall we are in the woods identifying trees to harvest to fulfill our heating needs. As we are thinking about which trees to harvest, we are always considering our goals for wildlife habitat and berry production.
To maximize our efforts and achieve all three of these goals, we tend towards creating larger openings in the forest (i.e. larger than the space a single tree would occupy). Sometimes they can be as big as an acre in size, but usually they are no more than a half-acre. These relatively small openings create great conditions for growing raspberries and blueberries, which tend to prefer mixed sunlight.
Creating an opening is no guarantee that you will get berries growing. In fact, you may get very few or none depending on what was growing under the trees before you harvest them. We get especially good colonization of berries into the openings we create if there are berry plants growing nearby.
Now, if natural production of canes and bushes doesn’t suite your needs, then you can always plant to increase production. The plants you buy need to be matched to the types of soil you have. The local Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) office can help figure that out if you are unsure.
You can buy good growing stock from the state nurseries or from reputable nurseries in your area. If you are buying from a private nursery, make sure that the stock is grown from plants within our region of the world. In fact, the more local the stock the better.
If you have the wonderful problem of too many berries, and you are interested in selling some of your bounty, then there are some things you should know. You don’t need to be registered or have a license to sell berries if you sell them directly to consumers without any processing. If you plan to sell jam or other products or sell to a retail shop, then you may need to take a few extra steps to ensure you are doing everything right. The folks at your local Extension office can help you get the information you need.
Whether it is a good berry picking year or not, it is still exciting to make those first ventures into “virgin” patches to see what was growing.