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This fall, get berry bushes off to a good start
Gainesville resident Charlotte Castleberry has had success growing raspberry bushes. - photo by Tom Reed

Hey gardeners, think fall signals the start of easy days in the garden?

Well, not quite.

As fall approaches there are some plants that are ready for a nice dip into the dirt - especially shrubs.

Shrubs can include greenery and holly bushes, but if you want to add some sweetness to your garden, don't forget berry bushes. Your work now will reward you next spring and summer when the shrubs are full of ripe berries.

"The soil is going to be warm for a while and the roots will keep growing and getting established," said Beth Stafford, a horticulturist at Syfan Landscape Center. "So that next spring and summer you've already got a good established root system and it will be easier for it to withstand if we have another drought or that sort of thing."

Another reason berry bushes, which Syfan's will have in about a week, find it easy to spread roots in the warm fall soil is the decrease in stress.

"The roots keep growing but it doesn't have the added stress of leaves or growth on top," Stafford said.

Gainesville resident Charlotte Castleberry said she didn't plant her raspberry bushes in the fall, but each year she does do something a little different to help them through the winter.

"I cut them back in the fall to nothing and I cover them up with mulch for the winter," she said.

Stafford said that is one option for maintaining your berry bush during the winter. But before you get it established, she cautioned gardeners to scope out a suitable spot first.

"You really don't have to do anything special, especially with blueberries," she said. "You don't even want to fertilize them the first year. And then blueberries like an acid soil, so you want to make sure you don't put lime in the soil or plant it somewhere that you've had lime in a garden area before."

Castleberry got the idea to plant her raspberries from friends who live in Germany.

"On my first visit there in five years we stayed in their house and there were raspberries; I had never picked a raspberry, never seen one," she said. "(My friend), who is a biologist, said you can grow these in Georgia."

So, when Castleberry returned she got three bushes and has turned a good crop.

"We're almost at end of the berries ... there's a lot of little white ones, and as long as the weather is nice they'll continue to produce," she said.