How to Grow Cranberries
Cranberries are small, trailing shrubs about 25 cm (10 inches) high. Plants produce runners from 0.3 to 1.8m long (1 to 6 feet). The vines form a thick mat over the surface of a cultivated bed. The stems are relatively thin, while leaves are green to dark green and rather small - they turn red-brown during the dormant season.
Flowers are white to light pink, around 8 mm long, with a bell-shaped crown. The fruits consist of coral red berries that are sour, tart, and aromatic in flavor.
Cranberries ripen from mid-August to late September. Red cranberry fruits contain organic acids, tannins, iron, and other vitamins and minerals.
Cranberries reproduce by underground shoots that develop underground and develop trailing branches above the ground.
Also, it creates 'runners' – shoots that come into contact with topsoil develop roots; after some time, these 'clones' can be replanted elsewhere.
Proper Conditions for Growing Cranberries
Cranberries are very resistant to cold and frost (-40°C; -40°F). It is necessary to use rainwater for watering, especially if the available water contains too much carbonates.
Cranberries can be watered using a surface sprinkler system or a dripping system, which has several advantages. Dripping systems are buried under the surface of the raised beds in the direction of the rows before planting.
During the first year, regular watering is required all summer long. One should not allow the soil to get entirely dry between irrigations.
Cranberries like humid areas, cooler positions, and acidic soil (pH 4.0 to 5.5). Cranberries are generally grown in areas with cold climates and, in some regions, thrive up to 1500 m above sea level.
Individual cranberries don't require much space but can be picky about soil and growing conditions.
In home garden, it is best to grow them in containers (a few plants for decoration, testing, etc.), but in order to grow more than just a few plants, raised beds are recommended.
First, prepare raised bed about 30 cm (1 foot) in height. The key to successful cranberry growth is having soil with low pH and high in organic matter like peat moss. Also, add some sand.
Cranberry plants will grow poorly in clay or silt soils – make a raised bed, fill it with an appropriate growing medium, and don't worry too much about the soil in your garden.
Instead of a raised bed, one can dig a small trench, for example, 1x2m or 1.2x2.5m, and fill it with proper soil. Some gardeners also add a plastic foil (with numerous holes) on the bottom of the raised bed and/or trench to increase moisture retention. This simulates the natural growing conditions of cranberries – wetlands and marshes.
When planting young cranberries, first remove the plant from the container and plant it at the same level as the soil surface.
Cover topsoil with a humus layer to a thickness of about 2-3 cm (1 inch). Cranberries should be planted in spring or autumn at a depth of 5 - 7 cm (2-3 inches), some 30 - 40 cm (12-16 inches) between plants in the row, and 80 - 90 cm (up to 3 feet) between rows and at 25 cm (10 inches) distance in the row, if the rows are 100 cm (3' 4") apart.
Cranberry plants in containers can be planted throughout the year, but the ideal time for planting is from March to May.
Fertilization and Plant Maintenance
For cranberries, it is recommended to use fertilizers with an acidic reaction. It is necessary each year to add mulch in the form of a thin layer of peat moss, pine needles, humus, or sawdust around each plant. Cranberries are one of many berries that require acidic soil, so be sure to have a home garden test kit and verify the pH of the soil in several positions just to be sure.
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After two years, it is necessary to eliminate huge numbers of branches and leave 4-5 new shoots for growth to be resumed. Old and dry branches are trimmed down entirely, and those with low crop yield should be trimmed to about one-quarter of the bush height.
Every 4-5 years, sand is added in a thin layer on the soil, without digging it in – soil on the cranberry patch is layered, not mixed :)
Harvesting and Storage
In autumn, when the fruit is ripe, commercial growers flood fields.
When ripe cranberry is dropped on the floor, it should bounce off the ground. This happens because cranberry fruits have four air-filled bubbles, making them float.
The fruits are picked when they are bright red or dark red color. If they're harvested too early, they may remain very bitter. However, cranberries ripen to a dark red color after several weeks of storage.
In home garden, cranberries are harvested manually or with a small rake suitable for various small berries (blueberries, for example).
Cranberries can be kept for 3-5 weeks in a refrigerator cooled to a temperature of 0-7°C (32 – 45°F). When frozen, they can be stored for several months.
For more information about cranberries, feel free to check:
- Health Benefits of Cranberries
- Can Dogs Eat Dried and Fresh Cranberries?
- How To Make Pure, Unsweetened, Sugar-Free Cranberry Juice Without Cooking
- Homemade Cranberry Grape Juice
or check the following cranberry articles:
Cranberry juice, in its simplest form, is a liquid extract obtained from cranberries. These berries are small, tart fruits native to North America, specifically regions such as the northeastern United States and southeastern Canada. Renowned for their vibrant red color and distinct sour taste, cranberries are harvested from evergreen shrubs that flourish in wet, acidic soils typical to bogs or wetlands.
Aside from its unique flavor, cranberry juice is highly valued for its nutritional profile. It is packed with essential nutrients, including vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin K1, and several B vitamins.
Published: July 3, 2023.
Cranberry juice is a drink packed full of nutrients, and having it every now and then can be super healthy for you. For people who don’t enjoy the taste, actually drinking the stuff is the problem. Here’s how to make cranberry juice taste better.
Adding sugar is the simplest way to make your cranberry juice taste better, although you can also add honey, sweeteners, and fruit juice to alter the flavor. Many people choose to dilute their cranberry juice with soda water or water to mute the flavor.
Published: December 23, 2022.
Cranberry juice is an exceptional superfood. It's loaded with antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals that place your body on a path of healthy living. While cranberry juice is known for lowering instances of urinary tract infections, what (if anything) does it have to do with your gut?
For those who suffer from IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) and deal with chronic constipation because of a lack of water in their diets, cranberry juice may have some positive effects. However, there is no definitive proof that cranberry juice helps you poop.
Published: November 7, 2022.
Cranberries are enjoyed fresh, dried, and cooked, in the form of juices, salads, jams, etc. Thanks to their slightly tart but very specific aroma and fragrance, cranberries are often mixed with other foods.
However, many people rarely eat fresh cranberries and often wonder if the cranberries have seeds at all and, if they do, are their seeds edible...
Published: September 13, 2022.
Cranberries are delicious berries that look beautiful too with their bright red color. The plants tend to grow in swamps and bogs, and if one doesn’t have a yard of their own, they may be disappointed with the thought that they can’t grow cranberries of their own. But the good news is that they can grow cranberries in containers!
Yes, this low-growing, trailing woody, evergreen perennial that grows along the ground forming a dense mat can grow even in containers.
Published: March 12, 2022.