How to Grow Loganberries
Loganberry, unlike other berries, is a slightly different plant, in the sense that it didn’t originate in nature but was developed accidentally by an American judge and amateur botanist and horticulturist James Harvey Logan in 1881 in Santa Cruz, California, and was named after him.
Logan was trying to cross two varieties of blackberries to create a superior blackberry cultivar.
But he planted them next to an old variety of red raspberry and all these plants flowered and fruited together. The seeds of these cross-bred plants produced plants that resembled the blackberry parent but were larger and more vigorous.
One of these was loganberry (Rubus x loganobaccus).
Loganberries – Description
Loganberry plants are known as brambles which are vigorous, proliferative vines. The plant has compound leaves with 3 to 5 leaflets with coarsely serrated margins and thorny canes. Loganberries grow inflorescence with 8 to 12 elliptic white flowers with petals 12-18mm long and 7-9mm wide. Loganberries are bright red/maroon or purple in color and are aggregate fruit made of tiny drupes. They are conical in shape and can be 4cm in length.
The fruit has a white, heavy core at its center which should be removed while preparing the fruit for eating. But the core can be easily taken out when the fruit is fully ripe. Under-ripe loganberries are slightly bitter.
However, as the fruit matures, it turns sweeter and juicier, and its color turns to deeper red and further to purple. Loganberries are consumed raw, but they are more popularly used in jams and syrups and can be used in any recipes that are made using blackberries and raspberries.
They can be added to sorbets, smoothies, cocktails, ice creams, garden salads, and cooked into compotes or syrups. They can even be used in savory dishes like gamey meats or duck, or paired with fresh or aged cheeses. They can be even macerated to flavor wines, liquors, or vinegar.
Loganberry juice is a popular drink in Western New York, USA, and Southern Ontario, Canada.
The plant of loganberry is thorny and vigorous, although one variety is thornless and more compact. The plant proliferates quite quickly and grows dozens of canes in a growing season. The canes can reach up to 6 feet up in the air and then bend downwards to touch the ground forming a wide arc. Thus each cane can attain a length of even 10 feet or more in a single growing season.
This way the plant becomes unruly and needs to be heavily pruned so as to keep manageable. Since the plant is self-pollinating, one often needs only one plant for a significant crop. This one cane can produce more than sufficient berries for the gardener and their family all summer.
Loganberries are extremely hardy and should offer great crops for at least ten years.
Why to Grow Loganberries?
Loganberries are rarely grown commercially because of several problems which eventually increase labor costs. Firstly the plants are thorny and the berries often tend to hide behind the leaves.
Plus, a single plant may grow berries of different maturity making it hard to completely harvest one. Moreover, their shelf life is short. Therefore if one wants to enjoy these berries, it’s worth growing them in one’s own garden.
The excellent nutritional profile of loganberries is another reason one should cultivate them. They are packed with manganese and vitamin C. They are also an excellent source of vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid), folate, other essential B vitamins like thiamin and riboflavin, and vitamins E and K.
What’s more, they also contain vitamin A, niacin, magnesium, calcium, potassium, selenium, choline, phosphorus, zinc, and traces of sodium and copper.
Loganberry LY59: This is the original loganberry. Its stem is thorny and it’s tremendously vigorous. It grows up to 2.5m in height and spreads out up to 2m.
Loganberry LY654: This is a thornless and more compact variety and its fruits are long, conical, and sweet. It grows up to a height of 1.5m and spreads out up to 2m.
When do Loganberries Fruit?
Loganberries fruit in the second year of planting.
Loganberries do best when grown in well-drained soil at a sunny spot. Gardeners should ensure they get a lot of space to spread. Gardeners will also need to train the plants against a wall or fence or trellis or a system made of posts and wire.
They should prune old stems after fruiting in the fall, and tie the new light green stems for fruiting the next year.
When to Plant?
It’s a good idea to plant bare-rooted loganberries in November-December before the ground turns too wet or frozen. This is their dormancy period. Or one can plant them as late as in March in non-soggy soil. But if one is going to plant them in containers, they can plant them any time.
How to Plant?
One can get loganberry plants online or order them from specialist fruit suppliers. Or they are also available as pot-grown plants during spring and summer at one’s local garden center.
Before planting, gardeners should ensure the plants will get support in the form of a wall or fence, or should otherwise install supports such as a fence, trellis, or a system of sturdy wooden posts and wires. To make a post and wire system, the gardener should erect strong 2m tall wooden posts at each end of the row of loganberry canes and run wire between them.
They should then tie the canes to these wires as they grow. If the gardener wants to place a bird netting over the top, they should attach a T-piece to the top of each post to support the net.
As such, one plant is enough for a small garden. However, if one is going to plant more than one, they should leave a gap of at least 2m between them.
Also, before planting, one should soak the roots in water for an hour or two.
Now the gardener should dig a large hole that should be at least twice the size of the root ball. Then they should add well-rotted manure or compost at the bottom. They should plant up to the level at which it was planted previously (this can be identified from the previous mark on the stem). Now they should backfill the hole and firm the soil. Now they should water the plant well.
Loganberries normally take a couple of years to establish. The gardener should water them well in the first growing season, particularly if the weather is dry.
Growing Loganberries in Containers
While planting in a container, one should plant loganberries in the same way as that of planting them in the open ground. They should plant them in spring or summer and should add a generous amount of compost to the soil.
Taking Care of Loganberries
The gardener should mulch the plants in spring with garden compost or well-rotted manure.
Gardeners often train loganberries into a fan shape against a fence or wall or trellis or post and wire system.
The gardener should prune loganberries in late summer or fall, after fruiting. They should remove the old canes that have already fruited, at the base, and should leave new canes (which look light green) to fruit the next year. They should train the new canes on the supports.
This can be made easy by another method. Gardeners should bundle all the new stems grown that year together and tie the bunch to the top wire. Once the plant fruits, they can cut the older stems and untie the bundle to let them spread out.
It’s best to propagate loganberries by hardwood cutting or layering. But still, an easier way is to propagate loganberries by taking the benefit of the plant’s natural tendency to develop a new plant from the tip of a stem that touches the ground. Such a tip will soon grow roots and new shoots. Loganberry plants do this naturally. If they are not, one can peg a tip to the ground and once it roots, they can dig up and plant it again.
Pests and Diseases
Loganberry is a wonderful plant that is hardly attacked by pests and diseases. It’s highly difficult to find a healthier and hardier plant than this one.
When loganberries are fully ripe, they turn deep red, maroon or purple, and should come away from their central white core just with a gentle tug.
Gardeners should avoid the temptation of picking loganberries when they are just red because then they are under-ripe and are bitter to taste. They should pick the berries only after they become purple. But the gardeners should pick the berries extremely carefully as they are easily crushed.
It’s best to eat loganberries on the same day when they are picked. However, one can store them in a single layer in the refrigerator for a few days, provided they are not washed as moisture promotes the growth of gray mold.
Growing loganberries is rewarding because one gets lots of delightful berries that one can rarely buy in shops and markets. Once one plants the vine, they can keep reaping this delicious fruit at least for ten years. The plant is extremely hardy and proliferative, and hence the gardener feels great when their efforts become so successful!