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How Do I Grow a Cranberry Plant?

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  • Written By: Mark Wollacott
  • Edited By: Lauren Fritsky
  • Last Modified Date: 10 September 2014
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You grow your cranberry plant with good preparation and by giving it year-round care and attention. Cranberry plants require a specific kind of soil that allows them to thrive, and any imbalance can threaten their growth. With a rich and acidic soil, careful weeding, and good watering, the plant should flourish year after year.

Cranberries are a hardy shrub that is native to North America. The cranberry plant is perennial so once planted, it should come back year after year. It is grown for its berries, which can be used in a variety of dishes as well as to make cranberry juice. Cranberries are rich in vitamin C and antioxidants.

Make sure the cranberry plant or seeds are purchased from a reputable retailer. They should be in good condition and well-packaged. Check the dates of any packaging to make sure they are good for growing. Buy the plants and seeds either in late fall in the months of October or November, or in early spring in April or May. Plant them at the same time you purchase them.

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Before planting the cranberry plant or seeds, make sure the soil is well-prepared. Cranberries require acidic soil with a sandy layer and access to clean, fresh water. The soil needs to be protected from flooding, however, as water-logged soil will kill the plants. You can make the soil more suitable for cranberries by mixing in acidic peat moss and odorless manure. It is also helpful in the long term if you create your own compost.

Prepare the soil as you would prepare a normal flower or plant bed. You will, however, need to bear in mind that the cranberry plant will expand as it grows. It is OK to have a smaller bed for the first year, but there needs to be additional space from there onwards. Plant the cranberry plants approximately 1 foot (30 centimeters) apart. Each root ball needs to be planted approximately 2 inches (5 centimeters) into the soil, as each cranberry plant only uses the top 4 to 6 inches (10 to 15 centimeters) of the top soil.

It is important that as the plant grows, you keep it well-watered. You should also make sure the plant bed is thoroughly weeded throughout the year. This is especially important during the first year of the plant’s growth because it allows the root system to take hold and establish itself. Check the plant to make sure it is free of diseases and insect infestation and is protected from caterpillars and slugs.

Frost can be deadly to the cranberry plant. After a frost, you should water the plant as soon as you can so it can regain some of its moisture. You can also protect the plant in a number of ways. First, you can mulch the plant with other leaves so that it retains moisture during the winter. Second, you can also use a protective covering, but make sure that the covering does not heat the plant bed too much or does not provide a haven for wintering rodents.

Your cranberry plant is best harvested before the first frost in early fall. This varies from local climate to local climate, but typically means during September or October. Hand-pick the berries and check the color of the seed. If the seed is brown in color, then the berry is ripe enough to eat. It is a common misconception that berries should be picked after the first frost, so try to avoid this.

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