Do you have limited space to grow? This particular area is between road access and a high fence, only nine feet wide. Not enough space to do much, a low square footage space.
The solution is to grow vertical. Choosing plants that will work well for the soil conditions yet can be grown on a trellis or frame. Here's one such example, a mixed berry patch.
What To Consider With Berry Patch Design For Small Spaces
A mixed soft berry bed is perfect for this project at the Sustainable Homestead Institute (Virginia). Planting blackberries and raspberries in an awkward area is a great use of space.
It starts by breaking up the soil with a tiller to remove compaction. Next, spacing out plants, putting them in the ground, then mulching with cardboard. Finally, a thick layer of untreated shredded wood mulch covers the beds.
Hardy blackberries and raspberries will grow anywhere. To improve your harvest, consider these factors when choosing a space:
- Hours of sun light. This patch gets three to four hours of direct sunlight.
- Sunlight time of day. A morning sun prevents scoulding with afternoon sun.
- Intensity of shade. These soft berries are shade tolerant.
- Quality of soil. An acidtic clay soil is okay, but not ideal.
- Availability to water. Cane soft berries don't like wet feet.
- Ease of maintainance. This space is narrow but near access.
- Size at time of harvest. Give yourself plent of room to avoid thorns.
I'm using mixed berries here because plants are available, and it provides two harvest seasons. After the end of a long season, both types of berry tolerate a hard prune. These soft berries will take over the area if not managed right.
Choosing The Right Berry Combination for Your Region
When growing blackberries in Virginia, or even raspberries, you'll do okay with the red clay soil as long as you have deep mulch. Airflow is important so that pruning will happen more regularly.
The Virginia Cooperative Extension recommends different small fruit, including strawberry, blueberry, blackberry, and raspberry. Talk with your local nursery about what's available to you. Our berry plants came from cuttings of plants known to produce in this area.
Planting a blended patch gives you a survivorship bias and a longer growing season. You'll be able to pick berries at different fruiting periods. This doesn't always produce a large crop, but it will be consistent.
That's okay for a small space. Small fruit is best in tight spaces as long as you don't have too much moisture, have room to access, and proactively slow the spread. Trellising goes a long way to help increase fruiting while lowering frustration.
Write with your questions if you'd like to see more videos from this berry patch. I was able to video much of the setup, plus its growth moving through summer. Choosing hardy plants to grow quickly with minimal management.
Soft berries are a wonderful treat for any small farm, homestead, or estate. Which varieties do you prefer?
Justin Hitt is a Permaculture Design Consultant with more than two decades of experience with organic gardening. He teaches the practical application of critical thinking, entrepreneurial ecology, and homestead management. Practical insights for practitioners, estate owners, and homesteaders.