Growing cranberries is a popular hobby worldwide, and for a good reason. This fruit is extremely healthy, easy to grow, and beautiful. Cranberries, or “bounce berries” in Massachusetts, are delicious fruit that grows on the cranberry plant (which appears as a shrub). It can be grown in bogs with sandy soil, which is why it’s native to Northern America.
Perhaps you want to eat your homegrown cranberries or start a new business growing them? To grow cranberries, you only need seeds, water, and sunlight. That is all it takes to start your own bounty of this delicious fruit from home.
Quick Facts About Cranberry Plants
- Scientific name: Vaccinium macrocarpon/ vaccinium oxycoccos
- Type of plant: evergreen dwarf shrubs or trailing vines
- Native to: East Coast to the Central U. S. and Canada
- Light requirement: full sun but not in a location that gets too hot
- Water requirement: an inch of water a week
- Preferred temperature: 60°F to 80°F (cool temperatures)
- Size upon maturity: 18 inches tall
- Type of soil: moist, well-drained, humus-rich soil
- Soil pH level: pH 4.5 – 5.5
- Fertilizer: 5-10-10
- Word meaning: a small, round, red fruit with a sour taste
- Family: Heaths
- Lifespan: 16 months
- In-Season / harvest months: October through December (early summer and fall)
What exactly are cranberry plants?
Cranberries are perennial plants that grow in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 3 to 7. They require a long growing season that lasts from spring through fall in most areas. The plants grow best in sandy, acidic soil and prefer partial shade.
Cranberry plants are small shrubs with shallow roots that grow about 2 to 4 feet tall. The leaves are dark green and leathery with serrated edges, similar to a maple leaf. The flowers appear in early spring with white petals surrounding a bright yellow center that turns red as the flower matures into a fruit. The harvest produce itself has a green skin surrounding white flesh with thousands of seeds inside each berry.
There are two main species of cranberry: American cranberry (vaccinium macrocarpon), which has larger berries than European cranberry (vaccinium oxycoccos). Both types have been bred over time to improve their flavor and production characteristics.
How does cranberry produce fruit look like?
The cranberry is a small, bright red berry. The berries are about 5 mm in diameter and have many seeds. The berries are attached to stems that grow from creeping vines.
The two main types of cranberries are named for their color: white and red. White cranberries are pale green until they ripen to white or yellow-orange; they have a mild flavor with a slightly tart finish. Red cranberries turn deep red when they ripen and have a sweet-tart flavor similar to blueberries.
Where to Grow Cranberries
The best place to grow your own cranberries depends on your climate, drainage needs, soil type and whether you want a perennial or annual crop. If you have access to fresh water from a spring or stream, this is ideal for growing cranberries because it will ensure there is plenty of moisture available throughout the year without having to irrigate your bogs too often during dry spells.
Cranberries grow best in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 4 through 7, although they can be grown in cooler climates if the soil is amended with compost or manure. The plants are native to North America and typically grow in wet soil near marshes and swamps.
How to Grow Cranberries
Growing cranberries is not a simple task, but it can be done. The plant requires more than two seeds. It’s important to remember that growing cranberries will take a lot of your time, so if you’re looking for an easy-to-grow produce, you may want to consider something else.
For starters, you’ll need a large backyard or garden space with raised bed that gets full sunlight all day long. You’ll also need these requirements to get started with growing cranberries:
Cranberries are a perennial plant that can be grown in USDA zones 3 to 10. They need a lot of light, so if you want to grow them indoors, you’ll need a very bright area with at least four chill hours of direct sunlight per day. The best time to plant cranberries is in fall or spring when temperatures are between 50 and 65 degrees Fahrenheit.
Cranberries thrive best in sandy, well-drained soils with a pH level between 4.5 and 5.5. The ideal soil temperature for cranberries is between 50 and 60 degrees Fahrenheit (10 to 15 degrees Celsius).
Cranberries grow with regular water while establishing themselves in the soil, but they do not like being overwatered. Keep the soil moist but not soggy before watering again. If you see water standing at the base of your cranberry bushes after a rainfall or when you irrigate them, soak them until it drips out of the bottom of the pot or container with peat moss they’re growing in and then wait until it’s dry before watering again.
After your cranberry bushes are established, they don’t need as much water as they did when they were first planted because their roots have grown deeper into the soil, where there is more moisture available to them naturally over time as long as there are no drought conditions in your area.
Commercial cranberry growers usually use ammonium sulfate or ammonium nitrate as their fertilizer. These fertilizers contain nitrogen and sulfur, which are important for plant growth and development. In addition, they have potassium, which is needed for strong roots and good set.
If you’re not growing commercial-size beds of berries, it’s unlikely that you’ll need any fertilizer at all other than what’s naturally present in the soil. If your soil surface is poorly drained and sandy, you may want to add some soil acidifier, composted manure or composted leaves to it before planting your cranberries — this will provide additional nutrients along with organic matter that will help improve the structure of the soil over time before harvest.
Feeding your cranberry plants is one of the most important things you can do for them. By feeding young plants with commercial growers, you will ensure that they get the nutrients they need to grow and flourish.
Cranberries require a lot of nitrogen during their early growth stages. Nitrogen helps with leaf growth, which is essential for the plant to produce fruit. As the plant matures, it will require less nitrogen and more phosphorus, potassium, and calcium.
If you notice that the leaves on your new plant are starting to turn yellow, then it is likely that they are lacking nitrogen in their diets. It is important to keep an eye on this because it could lead to problems such as leaf scorch or even root rot in extreme cases if left unchecked.
Cranberries will keep for up to a year if stored properly in the refrigerator after harvest. To store cranberries, wash them thoroughly before eating or cooking with them. To store fresh cranberries in your refrigerator, place them in an airtight container with a paper towel between layers to absorb excess moisture and prevent them from clumping together. You can also freeze cranberries for up to six months by placing them on a baking sheet in single layers and freezing for two hours until solid before transferring them into freezer storage bags containing just one layer of frozen berries each.
How to Plant Cranberries
Cranberry plants are propagated from rhizomes, which are underground stems that store food and nutrients. Each rhizome produces roots at its tip, which anchor the plant in place while it grows new shoots aboveground. When planting cranberries, ensure at least one inch of space between each rhizome to allow for adequate growth. You can also plant them on top of each other with acidic potting mix, which will reduce their yield as they compete for resources from belowground. If you want to know more about how to grow cranberry plants in your garden, here is what you need to know.
Find a location cranberries get plenty of sun and is near water. These plants grow best in full sun with partial shade during the hottest part of the day. The plant requires moist garden soil but cannot tolerate standing water or being planted too deep in the ground. It is important to keep the soil drained well so that there is no standing water at the bottom of the hole when planting it into the potting medium.
Prepare your planting area by digging up the soil deep as the root ball to a depth of 2 feet and removing rocks, weeds, and other debris. You can do this by hand or with a tiller or mechanical cultivator. The soil should be loose and friable — that is, easy to work with your hands without using tools.
Plant your rootstock into the ground according to its instructions on how deep it should be planted — usually between 18 and 24 inches deep, with the top of the rootball at ground level or slightly above it. Fill in the hole with peat moss or compost and water thoroughly. If you want to grow several different varieties together, plant them closer together than for single-variety plantings — about 3 feet apart per variety is recommended for this type of planting scheme.
Water your cranberry plants regularly. Cranberries need at least an inch of water per week, so be sure to check the ground and improve drainage around your plant once a week to keep the soil damp between dry times.
How to Harvest Cranberries
Your own cranberries can be harvested anytime between September and January. The best time of year to harvest cranberries is when the berries are plump, red, and firm.
The best way to harvest cranberries is with a sharp knife or pair of scissors. Cut off the top third of the berry and discard it. Then cut off the bottom third of each berry and discard it. Pick out any leaves or stems that may have fallen into the bucket while you were wet harvesting or dry harvesting.
You can use this method if you are going to use them immediately, but if you have more than a few pounds at once, you should freeze them, so they do not start to rot before you cook with them.
Popular Varieties of Cranberry Plants
There are more than 100 varieties of cranberry plants grown in North America alone. The most common varieties include:
A compact variety that grows less than 2 feet tall and produces small berries with a good flavor. It is ideal for small gardens or containers.
A large-fruited variety that produces one large berry per stem. It has larger leaves than most other varieties, so it requires more space for pruning and cultivation, but it produces large amounts of fruit throughout the growing season.
In addition to being small and round, Baily Compact berries are also quite sweet. They are excellent for canning and freezing because they do not fall apart when cooked. Baily Compact berries come from Wisconsin and were developed by Donald Baily in 1962. These plants have a very high harvest of sweet fresh fruits and can be grown successfully in northern regions where other varieties might freeze out during winter months. Its compact habit makes it suitable for home gardeners who have limited space but want to grow their own fruit crop.
The small, yellow-orange Marselle variety is popular among commercial growers because it has a long shelf life (up to three months) without refrigeration. It also holds up well during shipping, so it can be shipped across the country without spoiling before reaching its destination. In addition to being delicious raw or cooked into cranberry sauce, jams, and jellies, this variety makes excellent wine and cranberry juice!
The Merrimac is a medium-sized berry with firm flesh and a light color. It does well in low-lying areas where water may pool during spring floods.
The Patterson is a large, dark red berry with firm flesh and a tart flavor. It’s an excellent choice for growing in wet conditions because it tolerates standing water better than other varieties.
This is the most common plants in the U.S., and it was first cultivated in New Jersey in the early 1800s. Its berries tend to be smaller and more tart than other varieties, which is why they’re often used in recipes that taste good even without too much cranberry sauce.
Managing Pests and Cranberry Diseases
Plants can be attacked by insects, mites, fungi and bacteria. The best way to protect your plants is to grow them in healthy soil with plenty of organic matter in planting bed and good drainage. Plants that are already stressed by poor soil or lack of water are more susceptible to attack.
- Cranberry tipworm (Winthemia bicincta): It is a small (1/8 to 1/4 inch), yellowish caterpillar that feeds on leaves, buds and stems of cranberries. You can use sticky traps baited with sex pheromone lures for monitoring purposes.
- Cranberry fruitworm: Cranberry fruitworms (Diaphania indica) are native moth that feeds on the flowers, leaves, and tender shoots of cranberry plants. Insecticides can be used to control cranberry fruitworm but must be applied prior to egg hatch (June) or when new growth begins (early July).
- Grape leafhopper (Erythroneura elegantula): It is a small insect that feeds on the tender leaves of grapevines and spread the viral disease called false blossom. Damage caused by grape leafhoppers typically does not significantly reduce vine yield; however, it can make fruit rot and more susceptible to sunburn during the ripening process, which will diminish its quality. It’s best to remove dead or damaged stems to prevent the rotting from spreading completely.
Propagation of Cranberry Plant
Propagating cranberries is a great way to expand your berry patch and increase your income. Cranberries are easy to grow, and the plants are capable of producing fruit for decades.
Cranberry vines can be grown from seed or from stem cuttings. The seeds require a period of cold stratification before sowing and are planted directly in the ground, but cuttings should be made from healthy vines. Rooted cuttings should be taken in June or July, when new growth has already begun to appear on the vine. Cuttings should be about few inches long and have five or six leaves attached to them. Remove any flower buds before taking cuttings or they may not root successfully.
Take each cutting and dip it in a powdered rooting hormone before planting it in moist sand or peat moss at least two inches deep in a container with drainage holes at the bottom of the planting bed. Keep the container in indirect sunlight until new roots form, which will take between two weeks and three months depending on temperature conditions inside the house or greenhouse where you’re growing your new plants.
Nutrients Found in Fresh Cranberries
Cranberries are a rich source of nutrients, including vitamins C and K. Cranberries are also a good source of dietary fiber, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, and copper.
Its juice contains high levels of vitamin C, an important antioxidant that helps protect the body from damage caused by free radicals. Vitamin C may also help to relieve symptoms of colds and flu, such as congestion and coughing.
These plants are also known for their ability to support urinary tract health. The juice’s acidic nature can help prevent bacteria from adhering to the walls of the urinary tract, thereby preventing infections.
It is also well known for preventing bladder infections because it contains proanthocyanidins (PACs), natural compounds that block out E. coli bacteria from sticking to the bladder wall.
Can you eat raw cranberries?
Yes, you can eat raw cranberries. In fact, they’re often added to summer salad and other dishes in the holiday table. But be careful; they can be very tart!
What meat goes well with cranberries?
Cranberry sauce is often served with roast turkey at the Thanksgiving table. But cranberries can be used in many other dishes as well. Just add some fresh herbs like rosemary or thyme for extra flavor!
What is peat moss good for?
Peat moss is a natural soil amendment that improves the texture of garden soils, adding organic matter and nutrients. A thick layer also helps retain moisture in sandy soils and prevents erosion in clay soils. You can ask your local nursery more about their benefits and to find plants to fit your garden.
Do cranberries grow in water?
Yes, you can grow cranberries in water. They are a vine (a type of berry) that grows in swampy areas where there is lots of water and cold weather. The vines grow up to 15 feet long and can spread over 2 acres.
What is the difference between fresh and frozen cranberries?
Fresh ones are picked when they are deep red in color and firm to the touch with no soft spots or blemishes. They will have a slight “snap” when you break them in half. Frozen cranberries have been freeze-dried to preserve their nutrients for a year or more without any preservatives or additives, so they taste like fresh berries all year long! Frozen berries also retain their bright color better than fresh berries exposed to heat or light during harvest and transport from farm to store, which can cause them to oxidize and turn brown or purple in color over time.
How many calories are in cranberry juice?
Its juice contains less than 50 calories per 100 grams. This makes them an excellent choice for weight loss diets for anyone on a calorie-controlled diet. Try giving cranberries to your diet-strict friends!
It may seem simple, but there are a few critical steps to making a healthy, productive cranberry bog. First and foremost, you need a good location that’s both fertile, wet, has acidic peat soil. Just remember, it’s not a quick process. With yields from harvest that can be reasonably good and sufficient, cranberries are worth considering as an alternative crop to the traditional vegetable garden or berry patch.