In a recent poll, 53% of adults in the United States reported that their mental health has been negatively impacted due to worry and stress over the coronavirus pandemic. Nourse Farms’ recommendation? Start a food-producing garden. A recent study found that engaging with a garden can distract us from our worries and stop us from obsessing about our problems. Additionally, garden tasks burn calories, being considered at least moderate exercise, and it gets you out in the fresh air.
If you make the garden a food-producing one, you’ll have a food source right in your own yard. Since the struggle to find food in stores at the start of the pandemic, there has been a surge of people interested in growing their own food. Especially foods with health benefits.
Take berries, for instance. Berries are reportedly high in fiber, vitamin C, and antioxidants. In fact, our very own Tim Nourse recently told Western MA News all about the health benefits of elderberry. Nutrient-dense berries can be added to your own home garden with some preparation and care.
If you’re ready to destress, grow your own food, and enjoy the “fruit of your labor,” the experts here at Nourse Farms have some advice for you to start small fruit growing in your own yard, even if you have a limited amount of space.
Let’s Get Started
- All Pro Digging Trowel
- Soil pH Meter
- Any necessary soil amendments
- Pest and disease control supplies
There are six important things you’ll need to grow Nourse Farms’ plants successfully, whether you are planting strawberries, raspberries, or asparagus.
1. You’ll need a sunny, weed-free location.
Plants should have a minimum of 6—8 hours of direct sun exposure daily. Early morning sun is preferred if possible because, especially in midwestern and southern states, afternoon sun can be pretty intense in the heat of the summer. In contrast, morning sun is sometimes easier on plants and it can help evaporate moisture from dew or an early morning shower. Keeping plants drier hinders fungal development.
You’ll also want to weed the area before planting and use appropriate techniques to keep the planting area weed-free. This means, on a frequent schedule, you’ll hand pull or use a hoe or rake very shallowly, to remove small weeds before they get well-rooted.
2. You’ll need healthy soil.
All of Nourse Farms’ plants grow well in a wide variety of soils. However, for best growth, we recommend that the soil have at least 2—3% organic matter. If you rake and remove grass and leaves for years, leaving nothing to decompose, your soil may have little organic matter. Your soil will need organic matter, in the form of well-composted kitchen or yard waste, manure, or commercial compost mixed in.
If the soil is not well-drained, meaning it often puddles or the ground stays wet and muddy, consider planting in raised beds, but be aware that planting in raised beds is not recommended for some plants, such as asparagus, and can add an increased risk of cold damage.
3. You’ll need to prepare your planting site ahead of time.
It is ideal to have the site prepared for planting before you receive your plants, that way they can be planted immediately. Nutrient and pH requirements are not the same for all plants. We recommend having your soil tested before planting to know your soil pH and fertility. You can contact your local cooperative extension office for information on taking soil samples, and for assistance in interpreting test results. For each soil sample, you’ll want to tell them what crop(s) you plan to grow to get the proper recommendations for that plant type.
4. You’ll need to know how and when to water the plants.
Plants need adequate soil moisture to grow and fruit well. You’ll want to be sure that you water plants thoroughly when you transplant and again once more within the planting week. While it is critical to maintain proper moisture levels during the establishment period, it’s also important to irrigate regularly to maintain proper moisture from spring right through the autumn months. Your plants will require less water in the spring and the autumn months because the sun is less direct, the days are cooler and shorter, and there are usually cloudier days than in the summer. Make sure not to overwater, but the plants should not be drought stressed going into winter. We highly recommend drip irrigation for maintaining proper soil moisture. Overhead irrigation can be insufficient for maintaining soil moisture, additionally it increases leaf/canopy moisture which increases fungal pressure.
On average, plants should receive 1—3” of water each week. Irrigate 1—3 times per week rather than every day. We say on average because many factors play a role in how much and when your plants need water. Things to remember are that in the spring and fall plants require less water than in the summer. Water requirements also vary according to soil type or texture. And your irrigation method will impact frequency as well.
We recommend using your eyes and hands—or a trowel— to check the soil moisture before you water. Perhaps even check the soil moisture every day until you get a sense of how quickly it gets dry in certain conditions.
5. You’ll need to plant early in the spring.
Plant as early as possible in the spring, but only after the soil has warmed to about 50°F, as warm soil stimulates plant growth. Average seasonal rains are an excellent aid in getting your plants off to the best start however avoid long stretches of wet weather when planting as soil can stay waterlogged. Fall planting of small fruit plants is not recommended for the majority of the Northeast and the Midwest.
Tip: Pay attention to instructions regarding how deep to set the new plants, as well as the direction of planting, as they will fail to flourish or grow if the roots are too deep or too shallow and if the soil is not pressed firmly around the roots.
6. You’ll need to rotate land.
Avoid planting strawberries or brambles in soils where previous crops have included: strawberries, brambles, potatoes, tomatoes, eggplants, or peppers. These crops harbor soil pathogens, such as Verticillium and Phytophthora, and nematodes, which may affect the health and growth of your new plants.
Bonus Tips from the Experts at Nourse Farms:
- Keep in mind that different plants may have different pH or fertilizer needs, so plant accordingly.
- Be mindful of planting taller plants where they will shade plants that need lots of sun.
- Avoid planting close to buildings or fences as this restricts air movement causing increased fungal pressure as well as heat stress during the summer.
- Pests happen. For smaller gardens or individual beds, fencing with small openings can work for non-tunneling, non-climbing pests and deer.
- If you’re planting asparagus, be mindful to plant it in a permanent location because older asparagus plants do not transplant well.
- Avoid working in wet or muddy soil.
You ready? Then let’s get your supplies! Scroll to the top of this page where you will see Berry Plants, Other Plants, and Grower Accessories menu options. Select what you’d like to shop for and go for it! If you have any questions, let us know. We’re here to help you every step of the way!
For even more tips and tricks for successfully planting Nourse Farms plants, check out our Planting and Success Guide.