How To Grow Jostaberry: Best Tips And Advice

Learn how to grow and care for jostaberry bushes with these tips: choose the right location, prepare soil, plant, prune, and properly harvest.

Choose the Right Location for Your Jostaberry

Jostaberries require full sun exposure for at least 6 to 8 hours per day to produce the best crop of berries. Select a site with shelter from strong wind since jostaberry bushes need protection and air circulation. A spot on the east or west side of a building is ideal. The planting site should be in a spot that has not previously grown peppers, tomatoes, potatoes or strawberries to avoid verticillium wilt disease.

Provide plenty of space for your jostaberry bush. These large shrubs can reach up to 6 to 8 feet high and wide. Space the bushes at least 6 to 8 feet apart for optimal growth and berry production. Jostaberries also require well-drained, fertile soil with a pH between 5 and 6.5. The bush can tolerate a range of soil types but prefers loamy soil with lots of organic matter. Before planting, dig a hole at least jostaberry, bush, green plant with white flower buds

Photo by Charu Jain / Unsplash

Prepare the Soil for Jostaberry Planting

Preparing the soil before planting is crucial for jostaberry bushes to thrive. Jostaberries prefer loamy, fertile, well-drained soil with a slightly acidic pH between 5 and 6.5. The soil should contain plenty of organic matter such as compost or manure.

To prepare the soil, start by testing your soil pH. The ideal range is 5 to 6.5 for jostaberries. If the pH is too high, lower it by working elemental sulfur into the top 6 to 8 inches of soil before planting. For low pH, raise it with lime.

Next, dig a hole at least two feet deep and two to three feet wide for your jostaberry bush. Remove any perennial weeds in the area before digging the hole. Fill the bottom of the hole with compost or manure and mix in with the native soil. Do not place fertilizer in direct contact with the roots when planting.

Here is a list of organic materials you can add to improve your soil:

  • Compost: Adds nutrients and improves soil structure. Aim for 2 to 3 inches of compost worked into the native soil.
  • Manure: Livestock manure such as cow, chicken, or horse manure can be added. Make sure it is aged at least 6 months before adding it.
  • Peat moss: Improves moisture retention and soil acidity. Add 1 to 2 inches and work into the native soil.
  • Worm castings: Provides nutrients in a form readily available to plants. Add about 1 inch.
  • Perlite: Aerates soil and improves drainage. Especially useful for heavy clay soils. Add 1 to 2 inches per 4 square feet.
  • Vermiculite: Increases water and nutrient retention. Add 1 to 2 inches per 4 square feet.
  • Bone meal: Excellent source of phosphorus for root growth. Follow package directions for how much to add.
  • Blood meal: High in nitrogen to promote foliage growth. Follow package directions.

In summary, preparing the soil with compost, manure and other organic materials before planting will provide your jostaberry bush with the nutrients and soil structure it needs to become established and produce abundant berries. Take the time to improve your soil and it will reward you for years to come.

jostaberry, soil, person in black shirt standing on brown sand under white clouds during daytime
Photo by Paolo D’Andrea / Unsplash

Planting Your Jostaberry Bush

Once you have selected a spot with full sun exposure and prepared the soil with compost and organic matter, you are ready to plant your jostaberry bush. Jostaberries can be purchased as bare-root or container-grown plants. For bare-root plants, soak the roots in water for 30 minutes before planting. Container-grown jostaberries can be planted as is.

To plant your jostaberry bush:

  1. Dig a hole at least two feet deep and two to three feet wide. Partly fill the hole with the amended soil you prepared.
  2. For bare-root plants, spread the roots out in the hole. For container plants, carefully remove the plant from the container and loosen the roots before placing in the hole.
  3. Position the plant in the hole with the bud union – the bulge where the top meets the roots – slightly above ground level. For bare-root plants, make sure the roots are fully covered with soil.
  4. Fill in around the plant with the remaining amended soil and tamp down firmly to remove air pockets. Do not add fertilizer directly to the hole at planting time.
  5. Water the bush thoroughly after planting. Add 3 to 4 inches of organic mulch such as wood chips or straw around the base of the plant, keeping mulch a few inches away from the main stem.
  6. Prune the bush by one-third to one-half immediately after planting. This reduces leaf surface area and helps the plant get established.

For the first few years, your jostaberry bush will require supplementary watering during dry periods. Water the bush at least an inch per week. Fertilize the bush in early spring before buds open and again in June or July. Apply a balanced fruit fertilizer with equal parts nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium (10-10-10).

Following the planting and care tips will ensure your jostaberry bush becomes well established and produces berries within a few years. With ideal conditions, some bushes may even produce a small first harvest the year after planting. Enjoy watching your bush grow and thrive!

jostaberry, soil, green tree on brown field under blue sky during daytime
Photo by Rabah Al Shammary / Unsplash

Jostaberry Care and Maintenance

To keep your jostaberry bush producing abundant berries, proper care and maintenance is required. Especially for the first few years after planting, diligent watering and fertilizing will help your bush become well established.

Watering: Water your jostaberry bush regularly, especially for the first few years after planting. Aim for about an inch of water per week. The soil should dry out slightly between waterings. Mulch around the base of the plant will help conserve moisture in the soil. Reduce watering once the bush is mature and producing berries.

Fertilizing: Fertilize your jostaberry bush once in early spring before buds open and again in June or July. Use a balanced fruit fertilizer with equal parts nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium (10-10-10). Follow the directions on the product packaging for how much to apply based on the age of your bush. Do not overfertilize.

Pruning: Jostaberries require annual pruning to maintain their size and shape. Prune the bush in late winter or early spring before buds open. Remove any dead, damaged or crossing branches. Thin out crowded shoots to improve air circulation. Head shoots back by one-third to one-half to promote new growth.

Pests and diseases: Some common pests and diseases to watch for include:

  • Birds: Netting may be required to protect ripening berries from birds. Use bird netting or wire mesh with openings no larger than 1 1/2 inches.
  • Aphids: Apply insecticidal soap or oil during spring.
  • Scale insects: Scrub off with insecticidal soap in spring.
  • Spider mites: Spray with insecticidal soap or predatory mite treatments.
  • Fungal leaf spot and canker: Apply fungicide during summer and prune out diseased branches.
  • Verticillium wilt: Improve soil drainage and air circulation; remove severely infected bushes.

By providing your jostaberry bush with proper watering, fertilizer, pruning and pest control, you can keep it producing an abundant harvest of berries for 15-20 years or more. With diligent care and maintenance, your bush will reward you with its tasty berries for many years to come!

jostaberry, bush, a rocky outcropping on a foggy day
Photo by T. Selin Erkan / Unsplash

Pruning Jostaberry Bushes

Annual pruning is necessary for jostaberry bushes to maintain productivity and shape. Pruning should be done in late winter or early spring before buds open. Never prune jostaberry bushes in the fall, as this can encourage new late season growth that will not have time to harden off before winter.

The goals of pruning are:

  1. Remove dead, damaged or crossing branches. Use pruning shears to cut branches off at their point of origin.
  2. Thin out crowded shoots. Remove shoots growing inward toward the center of the bush as well as shoots that are crossing or rubbing together. Leave the healthiest, most vigorous shoots in place.
  3. Head shoots back by one-third to one-half. Heading shoots will encourage new shoot growth from lower down, leading to a fuller, more productive bush.
  4. Maintain an open, goblet shape. An open center with shoots originating from the base will allow for the best air circulation and light exposure. Remove shoots growing straight up in the center of the bush.
  5. Rejuvenate older bushes. For bushes that are over 6 to 8 feet tall or 10 years old, cut one-third of the tallest shoots down to the ground each year over 3 years. This will promote the growth of new vigorous shoots to replace the old ones.

Here is a visual guide for pruning a mature jostaberry bush:

Jostaberry Pruning

By following good pruning practices, you can keep your jostaberry bush productive for 15-20 years or more. Diligent annual pruning will result in a bush with an ideal shape for light exposure and air circulation, which leads to the best harvest of plump, flavorful berries. Happy pruning!

jostaberry, pruning, white duck on water during daytime
Photo by Rebecca Campbell / Unsplash

Harvesting and Storing Jostaberries

After providing your jostaberry bush with a suitable location and diligent care, you can look forward to harvesting its tart yet flavorful berries. Jostaberries typically ripen in late summer, around August in the Northern hemisphere.

To harvest jostaberries:

  1. Check if the berries are fully ripe by looking for a deep, dark red to purple color and slight softness. The berries should still feel firm, not squishy. Picking underripe berries will result in a bitter, acidic taste. Overripe berries quickly become mushy and rot.
  2. Either pick individual berries using pruning shears or use a inexpensive piano wire harvesting tool that can grab an entire cluster at once. Make sure to wear gardening gloves as the berries can stain your hands and the stems have small spines.
  3. Remove any damaged, underripe or overripe berries from the cluster. Rinse the berries briefly under cool running water. Gently pat them dry immediately using a clean tea towel or paper towels.
  4. Refrigerate the berries as soon as possible after picking. Unwashed jostaberries can last 1 to 2 weeks in the refrigerator. For longer storage, freeze the berries individually on a baking sheet before transferring to an airtight container or freezer bag. Frozen berries can last up to 6 months.

Here are some tips for using your jostaberry harvest:

  • Eat fresh: Jostaberries are excellent for munching on fresh, though quite tart. Mix with other berries like blueberries or blackberries to balance the flavor.
  • Jam, jelly and preserves: Jostaberries contain plenty of pectin, making them ideal for jam and jelly. Mix with sugar in a 1:1 ratio.
  • Pies and other baked goods: Jostaberries work well in pies, tarts, crumbles and muffins. Add extra sugar since they are quite tart.
  • Cordials and fruit wines: Jostaberries can be used to flavor cordials, fruit wines and liqueurs. Their flavor complements vodka, gin or brandy.
  • Sauces and chutneys: Jostaberries pair well in savory applications such as sauces for meats like duck or game and in chutneys.

By harvesting your jostaberries at the perfect ripeness and proper storing, you can enjoy their unique flavor throughout the year. Homemade jostaberry confections also make wonderful gifts for jam and berry connoisseurs. Your diligent care of the bush will reward you with harvests for many years to come!

jostaberry, bush, green leaves plant during daytime
Photo by David Wanjohi avidclicks / Unsplash

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