Learning Download: How to Grow Cranberries

From Seed to Harvest: A guide to growing cranberries.

Cranberries are an easy-to-grow fruit packed with vitamins and antioxidants. They can be eaten fresh, dried or turned into cranberry sauce. Cranberries grow on low, perennial wooden vines that produce runners ranging in 1 to 6 feet long. Leaves will be glossy and green during the growth season, but they will turn red-brown during the harvesting season.

To plant:

Since cranberry plants need cold weather to trigger their dormant phase, they need to be grown in areas that reach 32 to 45 degrees for three months at a time. To plant cranberries, purchase rooted seedlings and plant one seedling per square foot. Cranberries should be planted outside after the last major frost in the spring. Remove the top 6 inches of top soil and replace it with peat moss and mix in a half pound of bone meal and one pound of blood meal to add nutrients to the transplants. Wet the bed, and then pant the seedlings. Space 1-year cuttings a foot apart, but older seedlings should be spaced 3 feet apart.

To grow:

Constantly water the cranberry bed in its first year of growth. Weed the bed by hand, as cranberries don’t compete well against unwanted weeds. however, the peat moss will help deter common weeds. Add edging around the cranberry bed since the plants produce runners, and edging can help keep the plants contained. Do not cut upright growth, but runners can be pruned as the years pass.

Before winter, add a thick layer of mulch around the cranberry plants, such as pine boughs.

To harvest:

Cranberry plants will begin to produce fruit once they reach 3 years of age. Cranberries should be harvested before the first frost in the fall. To harvest, pick the berries by hand. They are ripe when their color is a deep red. The seed inside the berry should be brown. Cranberries last much longer than most other berries after they are harvested. If kept in proper conditions such as a tightly sealed container, they can last for up to two months in a refrigerator.

What cranberries crave:

After planting, fertilize the seedlings every three weeks with a slow-release fertilizer. Follow this fertilization with a well-balanced liquid fertilizer. Encourage the cranberry runners in the plant’s first year of growth by feeding the plant with a high-nitrogen fertilizer. By the second year, runners should began making uprights, which is when the runner becomes rooted and grows up. Uprights are what produce the flower and fruit. When runners begin to produce uprights, stop feeding the plants with nitrogen.

Where to buy cranberry plants:

You can find cranberry plants at Urban Farmer.