Building A Berry Abundant Permaculture Homestead

Building A Berry Abundant Permaculture Homestead

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You ought to have seen what I saw on my way
To the village, through Mortenson’s pasture to-day:
Blueberries as big as the end of your thumb,
Real sky-blue, and heavy, and ready to drum
In the cavernous pail of the first one to come!
And all ripe together, not some of them green
And some of them ripe! You ought to have seen!”
― Robert Frost, Blueberries

When it comes to growing an abundance of bush fruits on your homestead, or as I like to call it “building your own nature’s candy factory” there are a few things to consider like, what to grow, how much to grow, where to grow them, and how to maintain them.

Even after taking all these things into consideration, it is my opinion that growing berries on your homestead is one of the most beneficial uses of your time, space, and energy when it comes to growing your own food.

Berries Are A Gift That Keeps On Giving

Benefits of perennials such as bush fruits

Perennials don’t need to be replanted every year, so the energy-intensive and equally energy-inefficient seasonal task of plowing, digging, and sowing seed that is carried out for annual crops is no longer a concern. Another benefit to perennials is their deep roots, and a slow growth habit means that less fertilizer and water are required to grow perennial plants, and they are generally a lot more productive than annuals.

Growing perennial food plants is far more sustainable and energy-efficient and requires much less work overall.

Photo of a basket of berries

Multiply through runners, offsets, and cuttings

Raspberries, blackberries, and elderberries can easily be multiplied through their runners. Many of the other bush berries can be multiplied in different ways.

Methods such as through offsets, which are little plants that grow up around the mother plant, or through cuttings which are made just below the leaf node where last year’s growth ends and this year’s growth begins. These are great methods for continually expanding your garden in an affordable way.

Health Benefits of Berries

I won’t step too far into things I’m not an expert in, but berries have a lot of health benefits. Folk medicine for centuries has utilized berries for medicinal purposes, but in recent decades the mainstream medical community has also been recognizing the health benefits of berries.

Anthocyanins that provide berries with their wonderful color and serve many benefits for the plant, Quercetin, a powerful flavonoid, Vitamin C and Fiber have all been studied and utilized in berries for their amazing health benefits.

photo of child eating berries

Where To Grow Bush Fruits

Use them for decorative landscapes

Bush fruit can be used just like other decorative shrubs in that you can use them to build a beautiful edible landscape on your property. They can be planted in places around a porch or along a flower bed or just about anywhere where you might need a little something extra in the yard.

Grow a food hedge or “fedge” as they are commonly known

Use bush fruit shrubbery grown closely together in a row along property lines or other areas of your property that you might want to divide or separate to grow a hedge of edible goodness. This can also serve as a privacy hedge if you grow some of the taller varieties and can work much like a fence when grown close enough together.

Grow along fence rows

Long areas of fence can work much like a trellis to grow your vining varieties of berries. This can add beauty to your fence row and the vines intertwine and fill in the fence creating a wonderful addition to just about any homestead. This is a really good way to add a lot of food to a property that doesn’t have a lot of growing space as you essentially double up on the use of one area.

Photo of raspberry bush

Utilize spots with less sunlight

Some varieties of berries blackberries and gooseberries will grow in relatively low sunlight, making it possible for you to make better use of those shadier areas of your property where other things might not be very productive.

Just do a little homework to find out what will work best, while many will grow in shady areas it may make a difference in the amount of fruit they produce and can even influence the taste of the berries.

What Berries To Grow

Grow what you like to eat

I get asked this question all the time when it comes to growing food. People ask me, “What should I grow?” and my first response is “I don’t know, what do you like to eat?”

My advice would be to not put a lot of effort into something you’re not going to like to eat but make sure you’re sure. Just because you may not like the taste of a certain berry right off the vine doesn’t mean you won’t like the taste of it prepared some other way like in a jam or cooked in a pie. So, try some of the potential things you might want to grow in different ways to be sure what you like and may want to grow.

Photo of elderberry bush

Grow what will naturally grow best

Many bush fruits can be grown just about anywhere, but no doubt some grow better in some places, so consider what might grow best in your area or your particular soil and light conditions.

Finding out what grows naturally in your area might be a good way to select what you want to grow because these types are obviously suited best for your zone, but on the flip side of that coin, because they grow naturally, those berries may be easier to forage for while you make use of growing less common varieties on your property.

Popular Bush Fruit OptionsUSDA Growing Zones
Blackberry4-10
Raspberry4-9
Blueberry3-10
Currants3-8
Gooseberry3-8
Beach Plum3-8
Elderberry3-8
Jostaberry3-8
Bush Cherry3-8
Shrubby Chokeberry3-8

Where To Get Berry Bushes

Local nurseries and suppliers are usually a great option. If local plants aren’t available there are some great reputable online companies. I have received some great plants the last couple years from Stark Bros. Nursery, but there are some other great options as well.

What Can You Do With All Those Berries?

One thing is for sure; once you fill a homestead up with an abundance of bushes producing berries, you will need to have an idea of what you are going to do with all of them. So, here are just a few ideas, although there really is no end to the creativity of using berries in the kitchen.

Jams and Jellies

What a great way to preserve the goodness of your berries year-round and enjoy them anytime. Jellies and jams are easy to make, and recipes abound on the internet, so just do a search for how to preserve the berries you grow in a jelly or jam recipe that looks good to you and get started.

Pies

Get in touch with your inner baker and take those berries and make a pie. Many berries can be used in this way, although some are more suited for the task and taste better. We always like to freeze a lot of our berries so we can make pies throughout the year and prolong the joys of this option.

photo of berry pie

Dry them for healthy snacks

One of the simplest and most healthy things you can do, and in my opinion, one of the tastiest is to dry your berries. If you have a dehydrator, this is super easy, but even if you don’t have a dehydrator because of the sugar and acid content of most berries, they can be safely sun-dried outdoors.

Fruit Juices

Making fruit juice is not complicated, and you can even make it in a concentrate and freeze it to preserve it and enjoy it anytime. Making juice is one of the best ways to get the benefits of the antioxidants of most berries and really harness the flavor of nature’s candy.

Enjoy the huge harvest of berries you will get when you build a berry abundant permaculture homestead!

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Harold Thornbro
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