Berries are some of the most useful fruits that will grow and is the easiest to grow. Just make sure you select and focus on the right ones. You can use berries in many similar ways but each has something quite unique about them that should push us a bit further to think about how they can each impact us.
There are many berries you can trial but the following are the five berries that are the easiest to grow and will have the biggest impact. Every single berry on this list just about grows itself. Anything that we thought might die without proper care and consideration wouldn’t even come close to making it to this list, especially considering at least 2 of them are considered “weeds” they’re so hardy.
Consider planting a number of these first before even considering others. You are likely to thank yourself in 1-3 years (the length that all of these begin producing).
Unless you have an aversion to blueberries, everyone should have a hedgerow of blueberries. So long as you have soil that is acidic rather than alkaline soil blueberries will do well. There are a number of native blueberries throughout the southeast. Why not plant what already works?
So why plant them?
Blueberries are the Epitome of Easy
Everything about blueberries points to easy. They require very little care for growing, they're easy to pick by hand and they're easy to incorporate into any food or beverage product we put into our mouths. There is no other berry, period, that is more versatile and as easy to grow. Blueberries should be the absolute first plants installed at any home before moving forward.
Blueberries are the gateway drug of fruit.
When Do They Ripen?
In most of the Southeast, depending on variety, blueberries will ripen as early as late April and as late as the end of July. That is over 3 months of fruit.
In our experience, most blueberries taste the same and their only real difference is when they ripen. Look for ones that ripen at different times so you can extend the harvest out.
How Many Bushes Do I Need?
For one person who wants fresh blueberries for the entire season we recommend at least 1 plant per month, or 3 plants total for the year. For a family of four this means a minimum of 12 plants should be planted.
These blueberries can be planted as densely as 3’ apart or up to 5’. They’ll fill the space that is given to them.
Blackberries can be found natively growing all across the southeast usually on forest edges. There are two different types of blackberries (upright and trailing), and depending on the type and where you live it may mean putting in a trellis. Blackberries are normally known for their thorns, but there are also thornless varieties as well.
With all the different things to consider, why bother with blackberries?
Real Blackberries Taste Amazing
Homegrown blackberries are absolutely nothing like ones purchased in the store. Naturally grown blackberries have a very powerful and delicious taste that can stop you in your tracks. Blackberries are most notably used for fresh eating and making jams and baked goods.
If You Want Easy Get Erect Thornless Blackberries
The erect AND thornless varieties of blackberries are take out all the difficulty of growing blackberries. They stay in place without a trellis by shooting up from the ground, while not having prickly thorns that can make harvesting blackberries a bit of a chore. The erect and thornless varieties are by far the easiest, and at least in my opinion you’re not sacrificing anything in the process.
When Do Blackberries Ripen?
They ripen pretty much the same time as blueberries, so there is definitely overlap between the two. Having said that blackberries typically ripen just a bit later than the earlier blueberries, so one could get early and mid-season blueberries and then get blackberries to create a full berry transition.
Choosing Between Blueberries and Blackberries? Go with Blueberries.
If you are even wondering if you should go with one or the other you should go with blueberries. Blackberries taste amazing, but blueberries are just much easier to get right all around.
Now that we’ve gone through the most common berries (blue and black) we’ll jump into a bit more obscure ones that have serious appeal.
Mulberries are one of the most underutilized and best tasting (and healthy) fruits you can possibly purchase. It is not entirely clear why the United States has not embraced the mulberry nearly so much. One taste of a fresh mulberry and it will drive you to want to eat handful after handful after handful. How I had lived my life as long as I did before eating a mulberry I am not sure.
With mulberries not being so well known why plant them?
The only thing a mulberry can’t do, is your taxes.
Some can fruit 1 year after planting, it is the first to ripen in the year (beginning of April), it comes in 3 drastically different colors/flavors (white/black/red), they can be grown to any shape or size, and they contain protein.
There is not a single other berry on this list that even comes close to possessing the qualities of a mulberry. I failed to mention that even the leaves are edible and have protein in them. Mulberries have been used as fodder for animals for exactly this reason.
Now onto the tasty fruit…
The Native Red Ones are Sweet and the Blacks are Sweet-Tart
The southeast should consider planting red mulberries, which are a native plant and black mulberries. The red mulberries have a light sweet taste while the black ones have a tart complex taste which has to be tasted to believe. Depending on variety they start the fruiting season at the very beginning of April and can carry on for months. The variety can really dictate when they come into production so keep this in mind.
Did I say they can produce after 1 year in the ground?
Our go-to mulberry can produce a decent sized crop in just a single year of growing. Plant it in the winter, let it grow 1 year, and then the 2nd year you’ll get a decent sized crop off of it. There is nothing else on this list that comes close to the productive capacity of them.
One thing is for sure, once they start producing they don’t stop.
A friend asked once “You need to teach me where I can find elderberries.”
My reply was short and simple. “The ditch along the road where your work is completely loaded with them. You drive by them every single day and don’t see them.”
That sums up our current relationship with the elderberry. Baffling but true. This medicinal powerhouse is an incredibly productive and delicious berry plant.
If nobody has even heard of this thing, why would I ever recommend it?
The Elderberry is a deliciously medicinal Pandora’s box
Once this plant is unleashed there is no stopping it. It can grow in not just any soils, but soils that are completely saturated, always. Not even flooding can stop it.
The birds know the value of this plant and will begin dropping new recruits on forest edges. The elderberry is one of the most productive and bulletproof plants ever conceived and forged from nature and yet it has loads of benefits.
Now You Can Enjoy Taking Medicine
It doesn’t matter if you’re using elderberry dried in a tea or putting down some elderberry liquor, you’re likely getting healthier. The entire plant is actually medicinal and contains powerful medicinal effects that are widely documented. Here is how we use elderberry the most:
- Elderberry Jam (wow)
- Dried for Tea
- Medicinal Tinctures
- Elderberry Mead
Just one is needed for Summer Berries
The elderberry is productive after most berries have finished and if timed correctly with pruning (cut back after the first harvest) can potentially produce twice a year. You really only need one elderberry. While there are different varieties of elderberries I would stick to one that is comes from as close to where you live as possible. You can always dig up and transport roots.
The last berry on our list is very much unheard of and generally untrialed in the southeast, until now.
I saved this “sleeper” for last. You may have never heard of the aronia berry but for those who like to process fruits into something wonderful, this is a great one. While new for us, we have already seen this bush having characteristics that make it a must plant for those who make jams, pies and other baked goods. While the aronia berry in general isn’t used for fresh eating, even though it can, its main usefulness is in being cooked or preserved.
If we already have berries that can be used in all these ways, why is it on the list?
Aronia Produces Long After Other Berries Stop
Aronia produces after July which makes it the absolute latest producing berry we know of in the southeast. This makes it extremely useful for extending out a berry harvest season well beyond the typical windows of spring and early summer.
This makes it excellent for combining with other berries.
As part of using permaculture design, we are always looking to make multiple uses out of the same space. Having a hedgerow of a single species means that when that species isn’t fruiting the space it occupies is no longer returning value. No fruits, just plants.
We intentionally selected the aronia so we could sneak them into the same location as our blueberries. That way at two entirely different times of the year we can pick berries from the same space. Since aronia stays compact it fits very well with blueberries in a hedgerow.
And Talk About Bulletproof
We planted ours with tiny roots in the beginning of summer, watered it once and walked away. It has never blinked since.
Our experience with aronia says that it’s not just a tough plant, it’s seriously tough. Perfect for southeast bakers.
Unless you’re weird and don’t like berries, you could be growing a ton of berries right now. Regardless of where you live or what your conditions are, at least one or more of these berries are likely going to produce fruit year after year with minimal to no care. Now you know that you can’t make excuses about where you live whether that is somewhere low and wet or up on a hillside. These are the toughest fruits in the southeast.