Dewberries are perennial- hermaphrodite plants which are native to North America. They grow more like a bush that are very thorny. They are occasionally cultivated although they wildly grow in many regions and are considered to be weeds in some areas. They sprout in Hedgerows, amongst shrubs and in rough dry meadowland, usually on basic soils. They are sometimes referred to as ground berries. The flowers are usually white or a pale pink, which have numerous pistils, depending on the sex. The berries grow in clusters, and are green when unripe and turn to red to blackish-purple when they ripen. The berries of dewberry plants are similar to raspberries and blackberries and the seeds are much larger and tougher than those of the blackberry. The vine produces stems up-to 15 “long and trail along the ground. Dew berry varieties include Aberdeen dewberry, European dewberry, Lucretia dewberry: Mayes dewberry, Northern dewberry, Pacific dewberry, Southern dewberry, Swamp dewberry, and Upland dewberry.
Grown in the wild, the berries are slightly more acidic and can be processed to produce jam, pies, and cobbler or even harvested for homeopathic remedies utilizing the leaves and roots of the plants. The berries are sweet and they can also be eaten raw.
IDEAL ECOLOGICAL CONDITIONS FOR DEWBERRIES
Dew berries do well in dry conditions.
The berries tolerate different soil conditions including those containing loam, clay-loam, sand, or rocky material. The soil in question should be well-drained, high in organic matter and have a pH of 6.0 to 6.5. Sandy loam or loam soils are best. Where sandy soils are used, a good irrigation system should be adopted.
A gentle, uniform slope is most desirable.
They grow best with full sun. They do well outdoors where there is plenty of sunshine.
PLANTING AND MAINTENANCE OF DEWBERRIES
Dewberries are a hardy perennial that needs very little attention.
Dewberries can be propagated from both seeds and rhizomes. They can be obtained from agricultural stores or from wild patch of dewberries. Always ensure you choose the best variety suitable for your zone. Consider also opting for the disease-resistant cultivars to reduce the cost of maintenance.
Land preparation and planting
Land should be cleared and ploughed prior to planting. Clear the land of all trees and other vegetation. Prepare the soil by turning in some composted manure or compost. Planting holes should be large enough for the root ball of the berry planting, at least one foot deep. The holes should be spaced at 4 feet apart. The rows should be at least 3 feet from each other. When planting the seeds, put the seeds in the planting hole and cover with top-soil mixed with farmyard manure and firm gently around the plant base. Fill the remainder of the hole with the loose soil, and press the soil down well. A light irrigation should be done after planting until the soil is moist and mulch around the base for moisture retention. Set up a trellis to train the bushes to grow on a fence to keep them off the ground and make fruit more accessible. If possible, plant it in a place protected from wind and frost, taking into account a lot of sunlight. If there is strong wind, make sure that the necessary wind breakers such as hedges are put in place. If you have very sandy, dry soil I would also suggest adding peat moss or a lot of compost.
Although these hardy plants do not require amending the soil, you can still fertilize the plant to ensure faster and healthier berries. The amount of the fertilizer applied should be adjusted as the years progress. Fertilizer application is aimed at adding the necessary nutrients to the fruits. Not all farms need this and some require different types of fertilizer. Some factors that determine the amount and type of fertilizer used include the growth phase, the climate, and the characteristics of the soil fertility and the yield of fruit.
You can mulch around the base for moisture retention.
Thinning evens out production, prevents a heavy crop from breaking limbs, and ensures better-tasting, larger fruit crop. Thinning means that some of the already formed fruit is removed in order to reduce the competition for nutrients, and thus guarantee high-quality fruit. Soon after berries-set, remove the smallest berries or damaged ones.
Pruning is done to maintain the shape and height of the tree and to remove broken parts of the tree. It is mainly done during the early stages of growth, before flowering and after completion of the harvest. Pruning improves yield and ensures a superior tree structure. Prune to remove dead or diseased parts at any time throughout the year. Ensure that the pruners are clean and disinfected so you don’t spread the disease to other parts of the dewberry plant or to other areas of your garden. Occasionally, prune out all the canes that fruited last season. It is easy to tell which ones they are, as they have the greyish bark on them. When you have pruned right, you should have no more than about 15 canes per meter (3 feet) of row. Tie those you can to the wire.
Maturity and harvest
Blackberries in the dewberry grouping tend to ripen a bit earlier than other blackberries. Basically, it takes 4-5 years for dewberry plants to mature enough for fruit production. The tiny green berries grow red and then a deep purple-blue as they ripen. When the berries are ripe, they are tender and tend to be hard to pick because they are so soft, you can easily squish them. Therefore be gentle when harvesting them. Harvesting is mainly done by hands. Pluck your fruits when the green color disappears.
Moths feed on the leaves. They also cause premature ripening and fruit drop. Maintain proper orchard sanitation. Infested fruits should be removed immediately disposed of.
The birds eat the berries from seedlings, leaves, fruits and the buds. You can keep of the birds with netting, cotton or cages. Covering the plants with netting or fleece is a common and very easy technique. Scarecrows and bird-scaring mechanisms work for a while, but the most reliable method of protection is to cover plants with horticultural fleece or mesh.
- Blackberry Leaf-miner
These causes damage to the leaves creating silvery tunnels and may cause defoliation.
- Saw-fly maggot
They tunnel through leaves causing damage to the leaves. They often feed on the leaves and often cause tremendous leaf defoliation damage within a short span of time. Spraying with liquid derris as soon as the larvae are noticed would help controlling these insects. Always ensure that you inspect the plants carefully from mid-spring onwards, examining the undersides of leaves and especially the centre of the bush. Remove any notable larvae by hand.
- Blackberry Aphid
These insects live in clusters sucking sap on the underside of young leaves, on petioles, young branches and fruit. They cause slight rolling, or twisting of the leaf midrib. To control the spread of aphids, cut off the affected branches and dispose them immediately.