A dwarf, low growing, trailing shrub, some 8 cm high, rather like heather in appearance and found in acidic bogs throughout the Northern part of the Northern hemisphere. The native Cranberry can still be found growing wild in Scotland. However, the garden varieties are derived from the New England Cranberry. In New England, the Cranberries are cultivated on bogs. Cranberries are self-fertile.
It is a fruit that requires moist acidic soil, apparently less than pH 4.5, but you do not need to go as far as flooding your growing bed!! There should not be too many problems in providing suitable conditions in Scotland or the North of England, as most of these soils tend to be naturally acidic. If you choose a damp area to grow them in, you have good conditions to grow Cranberries. Try to provide a moisture retentive and sunny position.
If your ground is not naturally moist and acidic, then you could grow them in a large container filled with specialised ericaceous compost, such as a peat based compost without lime or nutrients. Perhaps a better solution would be to construct a sunken bed some 20 cm deep, and fill it with ericaceous peat. Water well with lime free water, such as rainwater collected in a water butt. After planting your Cranberry plants at 30 cm spacing, cover the bed with about 3 cm of course, lime-free sand to prevent the peat drying out too quickly and to help the Cranberry stems root into the ground. During late spring, apply a proprietary ericaceous fertiliser as instructed by the manufacturer. As weeding can be a problem until they form a dense mat, I found that planting the young plants through porous ground cover fabric gave good results in preventing any weed growth. However, The spreading shoots were unable to root through the membrane without the help of cutting slits in the membrane and pegging down the emerging shoots.
They ripen from September in the South to mid October in the North of the UK, when they turn dark red or semi-black, depending on the variety. Picking of the fruit is a bit of a chore as the berries need to be individually picked off by hand, while you are on your hands and knees!
Pests and diseases. I would tend to net the plants against the birds if you want to harvest any fruit! Otherwise, not much else to do.
Best used fresh in pies and muffins.
For short term storage, they should keep for a month in the fridge.
For long term storage, they can be stored in the freezer and used as required.
CRANBERRY (Vaccinium macrocarpon)
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