Cara’s Reading List: The BackYard Berry Book

The BackYard Berry Book, by Stella Otto                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 Published 1995, by OttoGraphics

Confession: I’m really quite behind on my reading list. My original goal had been one book per week, and I kept up quite well for the first month and a half. More recently, I’ve divided my free time between beading, working on counted cross-stitch projects, reading, watching WNBA games, workouts, bike rides, and so on, and the result has been that I’ve had less time for each activity. However, I picked up a few new books last week, finished my current book a few minutes ago, and am hoping to get back on track. So, here we go…

I grew up in a house with red raspberry bushes and Concord grapevines, and I’ve spent the last ten years since moving missing them. As anyone in my immediate family can attest, when a garden catalog arrives, I usually have a grand plan of some kind for getting blueberry or raspberry bushes so I can have homegrown berries again. (My family can also attest to the fact that berries don’t last very long when I’m around. That’s a different story.) So, I was excited to find Stella Otto’s The BackYard Berry Book on Theresa’s bookshelf a few weeks ago! I found the book to be very detailed and thorough, focusing on what it defines as “small fruit” – strawberries, brambles, blueberries, lingonberries (WordPress’s spellcheck has apparently never heard of lingonberries…), currants (which I saw and tasted for the first time this weekend at my grandparents’ house), gooseberries, grapes, and kiwifruit. The first several chapters address general topics important for the gardener wishing to grow small fruit – site selection and preparation, soil requirements, plant selection and propagation, the anatomy and development of small fruit plants, pest control, and disease identification. The glossaries of pests and diseases contain several illustrations, and advice for dealing with these problems should they arise. The remainder of the book is divided into chapters dedicated to a specific small fruit (for example, a chapter on blueberries, a chapter on currants and gooseberries, etc.); each chapter discusses the fruit’s specific soil and site requirements, varieties and their uses, fertilizer and water needs, pruning and mulching suggestions, ripeness indicators and expected yields, and information on pests and diseases specific to that crop.

A fun fact from the book (and from my Fall 2012 Applied Plant Science class): botanically, a true berry is a simple fruit, formed from one ovary, with a fleshy pericarp and one or more carpels. Grapes, currants, and blueberries are all true berries, as are tomatoes and cucumbers (just to keep things interesting). Strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries are not true berries, but aggregate fruit.

Stay tuned for more from my reading list – I promise to do better! (I also hope to get out this week, weather permitting, for more photos around the farm!)


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