Can You Grow Strawberries with Blackberries?
Are you thinking of growing strawberries with blackberries in your garden this season, but aren't sure if these two plants pair well together? Both blackberries and strawberries can make good companions with other plants, but are they a sweet match made in the fruit garden? In this article, gardening expert Melissa Strauss compares the two and if there are better garden companions for both plants.
Both blackberries and strawberries are spring garden staples. Both plants are fairly easy to grow, and can withstand a bit of neglect after being planted. Blackberries and strawberries are also big pollinator favorites, which means they increase the production of other crops and flowers around them.
But do these two plants make good companion plants when grown near one another, or will they compete for nutrients, resulting in stunted growth and low fruit production?
Companion planting is the science of planting two plants near one another that will form a symbiotic relationship. But when you plant the wrong plants near one another, it can have the opposite effect.
Let’s discuss how these two plants thrive and decide whether blackberry plants and strawberry plants make good companions in the garden. We will also discuss if these plants have better garden pairings you can consider.
The Short Answer
Yes, blackberries and strawberries make very good companions. There are quite a few benefits to this pairing and very few disadvantages. The two plants have similar environmental needs, and similar blooming and fruiting seasons.
The greatest obstacle to this pairing is that they are both aggressive about spreading and taking over available space. However, they both have strong root systems and tend to hold their own against one another.
The Long Answer
To determine whether two plants are compatible as companion plants, we first need to discuss companion planting and how it works. There are benefits and drawbacks to most companion plants, and the decision to plant together typically comes down to whether the benefits outweigh the risks.
The practice of companion planting is a valuable tool for many food crops. The idea behind companion planting is to place plants together that will have a positive influence on nutrient uptake a well as pollination and pest control. In order to be good companions, two plants must have the same or very similar needs in terms of environment and care.
Companion planting was popular among the North American Indians, who among other crops, planted squash, beans, and corn together.
These three plants assist one another in a variety of ways. The corn is a support for the peas, the peas draw nitrogen to the soil, and the squash insulates the roots of the others with their large leaves.
There are plenty of pseudoscientific claims made regarding the efficacy of companion planting, but in terms of scientific evidence, the general idea behind the practice offers that plants can have similar environmental needs, and provide some sort of benefit one to another, or mutually.
Companion Planting Benefits
There are quite a few beneficial reasons to practice companion planting. Here are six reasons why companion planting is a good idea.
Certain plants improve the condition of the soil where they are planted. Clover, for example, draws a lot of nitrogen into the soil where it is planted. Nitrogen is beneficial for all plants. Clover is a great crop to grow if your soil is depleted and you want to naturally enrich it. Legumes have the same effect, so they typically make great companion plants.
Not all plants have the same appeal to pollinating insects. Squash is great for attracting pollinators with its large, yellow flowers. Beans and Peas also provide a lot of food for pollinators with their sweetly fragrant blossoms.
Some plants such as corn can be used as a support for other vegetables, such as beans, which need to climb.
Some plants that don’t mind lots of sun, can act as a shelter for plants that require more shade. Larger plants can also provide wind shelter for smaller and more delicate plants.
Some plants are very good at masking the scent of other plants that insects like to eat. Borage, for example, would be a great companion to strawberries and blackberries. Rosemary and Lavender are other plants that have a strong fragrance that repels non-pollinating insects (ironically, bees love these plants!).
Companion planting helps gardeners maximize their space by planting two crops that have different growth habits. Strawberries and blackberries, for example. Strawberries grow low to the ground, while blackberries are climbing plants.
Blackberries and Strawberries
So, how compatible, or incompatible, are strawberries and blackberries? Is planting them together a massive companion planting mistake? Let’s take a look at the positive and negative interactions of the two plants and decide whether these two tasty crops can live together in harmony.
Blackberry plants are classified as brambles. This means that they travel wherever they please and pop up in any spot that feels right. This could cause problems because the blackberries may crowd your strawberries and damage the roots. This is why plants that don’t crowd can make better companions for blackberries.
Planting your blackberries at a shallow depth may help with this issue. Strawberries can also tend to compete for space, so the two may get a bit tangled up over time. This is why plants that grow vertically tend to make better strawberry companion plants.
Strawberries act as ground cover for blackberries. This means that strawberries will cool the ground around the blackberries’ root system, as well as hold onto some additional moisture. Since both plants need plenty of water during their blooming and fruiting season, this is beneficial in particular to the blackberry plants.
Additionally, blackberries provide some protection for strawberries as well, depending on the position of both. Blackberry plants can provide strawberries with some shelter from the hot afternoon sun, as well as being a windscreen.
Strawberries are a pollinator favorite, in particular, bees love strawberry blossoms and will visit them frequently.
The strawberry plants draw pollinators, and the blackberry plants benefit as bees tend to stay in one place and harvest as much pollen and nectar as that one space will provide.
These two crops benefit one another in such a way that both plants will produce more berries because of their relationship with one another.
The protection that blackberries give to strawberries and the insulation that strawberries give to blackberry roots, along with the increased pollination of both, will create a greater yield from both plants.
Similar Environmental Needs
In terms of their environment, these two plants have very similar needs. It’s important that companion plants not have very different needs in terms of water, exposure, soil, and fertilizer. These two plants match up well on all fronts.
Both plants are happiest in full sun. To maximize the production of fruit, both fruiting plants should get a minimum of 6 hours of direct sunlight daily.
Blackberry vines grow much taller than strawberries, this is something to consider when you are planning your garden bed. The strawberries should be planted on the sunny side of the blackberries.
Blackberries and strawberries both need a steady flow of water to thrive. This is especially true during their flowering and fruit-bearing seasons.
Both berries flower in the spring and while strawberries ripen slightly ahead of blackberries, a little extra water for the strawberry plants won’t hurt, as long as they have well-draining soil.
Both fruiting plants prefer acidic soil. Both plants do best in soil with a pH level between 5.5-6.5.
Each plant also does well in sandy, loamy soil with plenty of organic material and excellent drainage. Both of these berries will grow excellently when planted on a slight slope.
Both of these fruiting plants need nitrogen-rich fertilizing at least once per year. Both plants will benefit from a standard, balanced fertilizer, but a nitrogen-heavy fertilizer is all they really need.
While blackberries will appreciate light fertilizing in the spring, this is not great for strawberries and can result in soft fruit. Both plants should be fertilized in the fall after the fruit has been harvested.
With very few downfalls and plenty of benefits, we say yes to blackberry plants and strawberry plants as companions. While this combination may require some routine thinning of runners and suckers, it’s a small price to pay for the increased yield that they bring as a pair.
Additionally, you will have less weeding to do with these two together, as very little will be able to compete with this combination. Add some borage to the mix to attract even more pollinators, for an even greater harvest.
Blackberries and strawberries are a powerhouse pair in more ways than one. Not only do they pack a huge nutritional and health benefit punch, but they also work together to produce an extra helping of each awesome berry. Break out those jam and pie recipes because this pretty pair is bound to produce all the fruit you can eat, and then some!