Cranberries are very easy to grow. Cranberries do require cool temperatures, acidic soil, and also plenty of water.
The cranberry is a low, creeping, evergreen shrub, almost a vine. Cranberries have a woody stem that runs along the ground. The stems can grow six or eight feet long. The upright shoots grow from the stems. The berries form at the top of the shoots from the pink flowers.
Cranberry fruit are actually small and tart. The ripe fruit has deep red color. The high acidity of the cranberry really makes it excellent for relishes and jellies. Cranberries will add zest to salads, cakes, muffins, stuffings, pies, and puddings. Cranberry juice is refreshing and it can be used in punches and cocktails.
Best Site and Climate for Growing Cranberries
- Cranberries grow best in USDA hardness Zones four to seven. Cranberries require 3 months of chilly winter weather at thirty-two degree Fahrenheit to forty-five degree Fahrenheit to ensure flower set and fruiting in spring.
- Plant the cranberries in full sun but not in a location that really gets too hot; a south-facing location is not favorable.
- Cranberries actually thrive in moist, well-drained, humus-rich soil. Cranberries are often grown on sandy or peaty bogland. They can easily grow in ordinary acid soil. You can plant them in ordinary soil and use a heavy peat mulch to protect the plants in winter.
- They grow best in acid soil; a soil pH of 4.0 to 5.5 is most favorable.
- You can grow the cranberries on a raised bed or in a sunken bed where you can control the acidity of the soil and drainage.
- The cranberries plants do not tolerate dry soil, although they can withstand flooding in cold weather.
- Cranberries can grow to one foot high and wide or slightly larger. The stems root will touch the ground and continue to grow larger.
- Space cranberries about one to two feet apart.
How to Plant Cranberries
- You can plant the cranberries in autumn where winters are mild. You can plant the cranberries in spring where winter is cold; you can also plant after all danger of frost has passed. Don’t plant cranberries in hot, dry weather.
- Start by preparing the planting bed by mixing shovelfuls of acid peat into the soil, before planting.
- You can easily make a special bed for cranberries by setting up an old bathtub or animal watering trough in the ground or line a sunken bed with ceramic tile then fill it with acidic potting mix.
- Dig a hole half again as deep as the root ball and twice as wide, then moisten the hole before planting.
- Plant the cranberries as the same soil mark of the nursery pot level with soil of the new planting hole.
- Try and backfill the hole with half native soil and half aged compost or commercial organic planting mix. Firm in the soil to be sure no air pockets remain around the roots.
- Water the new cranberries plant in with a high phosphorus liquid starter fertilizer.
- Make sure you keep the soil evenly moist as the plant begins to grow.
- The cranberry planting beds are not covered with water; this is a popular misconception.
Growing Cranberries Container
Grow cranberries in a container that is at least twelve to eighteen inches deep and wide or wider. Here are 2 methods to grow cranberries in a container:
- Start by filling the container with acidic potting mix and coarse, lime-free grit to improve drainage. Place the container in a saucer topped off with water so the soil never dries out then plant.
- You can construct a bed of perforated plastic (use pre-formed rectangular plastic pond). You have to fill the bed with acidic potting mix or low pH soil, and then cover the surface with a layer of lime-free grit or sand to act as a mulch, the established plants will spread to form a mat-like ground cover.
Caring For Cranberries
- Cranberries plant requires a lot of water, you need to keep the soil constantly moist.
- Cranberries plants do not actually require regular feeding, you can apply a lime-free, liquid general fertilizer in mid-spring.
- A topdressing of grit or sand across the planting bed will really help to retain moisture and also keep down weeds.
- Make sure you keep the soil weed-free until the shoots create a thick mat covering the soil.
- Make sure you renew the mulch or grit or sand periodically; you can also mulch the plant with sawdust.
Pruning Cranberries Plant
- Prune or trim the cranberries plant in spring to keep them bushy; removing runners will actually keep the plants compact and bushy.
- You need to prune the cranberries so that they will not become overcrowded. You can prune them by cutting away some of the sprawling stems and some of the upright fruiting stems. Prune the plant so that the remaining stems will have room to grow on.
- Cranberries plants are usually propagated by stem cuttings which root readily.
- Take the cuttings from the upright shoots in spring before the terminal buds begin to sprout.
- Set cuttings on eighteen inch centers in peaty soil with an inch of cutting above the ground.
- Where winters are mild you can set the rooted cutting outdoors in fall or set them out in early spring.
Harvesting and Storing Of Cranberries
The Cranberries are ready for harvest when the berries are fully colored, usually deep red. The berries that are white or pink are not ripe. The cranberries are generally harvested by hand or mechanical harvester. Commercial growers flood the field to cover the plants by six to eight inches of water. The berries will float to the surface for collection. In the home garden the planting bed does not actually need to be flooded.
The ripe berries can stay on the bush for 1 month or 2 as long as there is no freezing weather; you can pick the cranberries as you need them. Frost will damage the berries so make sure you harvest before freezing temperatures. The Cranberries can be kept in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 months in an airtight plastic bag or container; the cranberries can also be frozen.
Pest and Disease Control in Cranberry
- The yellowing of leaves is actually a sign of chlorosis; it can be lime-induced; the leaves that is yellow at the edges and the yellowing that is spreads between the veins which remain green can be treated with chelated iron.
- Fruitworms bore into the cranberries fruits, eats the seeds and exit; fruitworms are actually the larvae of a Sparganothis moth; you can use pheromone lures to trap moths.
Varieties of Cranberry to Grow
Cranberries have more than 100 different cultivars that grow in North America. Some of the traditional varieties include: ‘Searles’, ‘Early Blacks’, ‘Ben Lear’, ‘Howes’, ‘McFarlain’ ‘Stevens’. Other cultivars are: ‘Mullica Queen’, ‘Crimson Queen’, ‘Demoranville’, Some other varieties of cranberry available from the Grygleski family are: ‘Pilgrim King’, ‘Valley King’, ‘GH1’, ‘Midnight Eight’, ‘BG’, ‘Granite Red’ ‘Crimson King’.