Growing Cranberry

Cranberry (Vaccinium macrocarpon)

The Cranberry (Vaccinium macrocarpon) is native to the United States and northeastern Canada. Its berries were used by Native Americans for food, medicine, and as a dye. This low, creeping evergreen has attractive dark green leaves on thin, wiry stems. Pink flowers in late spring are followed by white berries that turn deep red when ripe. This edible ground cover is easy to grow in sunny, moist, well-drained areas as well as in bogs.

Light: Plant in full sun.

Fertilizer/Soil and pH: Cranberries grow best in moist-to-wet soil. Provide a soil high in organic matter. If necessary, add peat moss to lower the pH to 4.5-5.0. Amend the planting bed every two or three years with an inch of sharp builder’s sand. Apply a light application of an organic fertilizer such as seaweed extract or fish emulsion in early spring.

Watering:Water frequently until plants are established. Cranberries do not like saturated soil during the growing season, but keep soil evenly moist.

Planting/Care: Plant Cranberries in the spring and keep beds weeded. When ground freezes in late November, mulch plants with pine needles or leaves to protect against drying during winter.

Pruning: Cranberry plants form runners and uprights; flowers and fruits are produced on the uprights. After the bed is filled in with runners, in about two years, reduce fertilizer to inhibit their growth and thus produce uprights. In the third year and yearly thereafter, lightly rake the plants in spring just before growth begins, combing the runners in one direction. Lift the runners and cut the long ones, which encourages uprights to form on the cut runners.

Harvesting: Fruit production begins on two- or three-year old plants. Harvest when the berries are dark red, usually mid to late fall, before a hard frost.