If you love raspberries, blackberries, and loganberries, then try growing a boysenberry, a combination of all three. How do you grow boysenberries? Read on to find out about growing a boysenberry, its care, and other boysenberry plant info.
What is a Boysenberry?
What’s a boysenberry? As mentioned, it’s an amazing, hybrid berry comprised of a mix of raspberries, blackberries, and loganberries, which in themselves are a mix of raspberries and blackberries. A vining perennial in USDA zones 5-9, boysenberries are eaten fresh or made into juice or preserves.
Boysenberries look much akin to an elongated blackberry and, like blackberries, have a dark purple color and a sweet flavor with a hint of tartness.
Boysenberry Plant Info
Boysenberries (Rubus ursinus × R. idaeus) are named after their creator, Rudolph Boysen. Boysen created the hybrid, but it was Walter Knott of Knott’s Berry Farm’s amusement park fame, who launched the berry to popularity after his wife began making the fruit into preserves in 1932.
By 1940, there were 599 acres (242 ha.) of California land dedicated to cultivating boysenberries. Cultivation trailed off during WWII, but peaked again in the 1950’s. By the 1960’s, boysenberries fell out of favor due to their susceptibility to fungal diseases, difficulty in shipping from their delicate nature, and general high maintenance.
Today, most fresh boysenberries can be found at small local farmers’ markets or in the form of preserves from berries grown primarily in Oregon. New Zealand is the largest producer and exporter of the berry. Boysenberries are high in vitamin C, folate, and manganese and contain quite a bit of fiber.
How to Grow Boysenberries
When growing a boysenberry plant, select a site in full sun with well-draining, sandy loam soil that has a pH of 5.8-6.5. Don’t select a site where tomatoes, eggplants, or potatoes have been grown, however, as they may have left behind the soil-borne verticillium wilt.
Plant boysenberry plants 4 weeks before your area’s last frost date. Dig a hole 1-2 feet (30.5-61 cm.) deep and 3-4 feet (about 1 m.) wide. For row planted plants, dig holes 8-10 feet (2.5-3 m.) apart.
Place the boysenberry in the hole with the crown of the plant 2 inches (5 cm.) below the soil line, spreading the roots out in the hole. Fill the hole back in and pack the soil firmly around the roots. Water the plants in well.
As the plant matures, it will need support. A three-wire trellis or the like will do nicely. For a three-wire support, space the wire 2 feet (61 cm.) apart.
Keep the plants evenly moist, but not wet; water at the base of the plant rather than overhead to avoid leaf disease and fruit rot.
Feed boysenberries with a 20-20-20 application of fertilizer in the early spring as new growth appears. Fish meal and blood meal are also excellent nutrient sources.
How to Harvest
If you trained your vines along a trellis or wire, you’re going to have a much easier time picking the berries than if you allowed the plants to spread out. They’ll be hanging right there for you to grab and you won’t have to sort through thorny vines.
But if you didn’t train your boysenberries on a trellis, that’s okay too.
You’ll just need to make sure you have a pair of gardening gloves and maybe a long-sleeved shirt come picking time, so that your hands and arms don’t get scratched by the thorns.
You’ll also want a colander or a plastic container to collect the berries. It’s best if the container is the same one where you will keep the fruit after picking and until you eat it fresh, make some jam, or bake it into a pie.
Boysenberries are notoriously juicy and thin-skinned, so moving them from container to container can damage them, which will cause them to spoil quicker than they already do – usually within three days from picking time.
And you’ll need to keep them in the refrigerator in a covered container to keep them fresh for that long.
Now that you’re ready to pick, here’s how you do it:
Grasp the berry with your fingers and gently pull straight down. It should easily come off the vine.
Like blackberries, these have a core in the middle, which breaks off from the plant. This is different from raspberries, where the entire core comes out when you pick.
While you may be tempted to rinse the berries, don’t! Unless you’re going to eat them right away for breakfast, of course.
You’ll want to wash them just before use so they don’t get bruised or waterlogged, which will make them more susceptible to quick decay.
Now you’re ready to make a boysenberry pie, cake, or tart to enjoy for breakfast or dessert. Or, lay them out on a wax paper-lined baking sheet to freeze. Once frozen, transfer them to a lidded container or zip-top baggie to freeze and enjoy within six months.
You can learn more about how to store your fresh harvest of seasonal berries over at our sister site, Foodal.