Stark Bro's Plant Manual for American Cranberry

Getting Started

Acclimate

Plants grown in a greenhouse must be acclimated carefully before planting or placing them outdoors. This is especially true in hot or sunny locations. Many species should never be grown in full sun. Before purchasing a plant, learn about its sun requirements. Knowing the plants requirements can avoid any damage to the plant by incorrectly giving it the wrong conditions.

If your plant has been grown in a greenhouse, here are a few steps we recommend you follow:

  • After purchasing your plant, place it outside in a sheltered, shady spot or on your back porch.
  • Leave it there for 3-4 hours and gradually increase the time spent outside by 1-2 hours per day.
  • Bring the plants back indoors each night.
  • Water it regularly to keep the plant moist.
  • Occasionally spray the leaves with water.
  • After 2-3 days, move the plants from their shady spot into morning sun, returning them to the shade in the afternoon.
  • After 7 days, the plants should be able to handle the outdoor temperatures, if they stay around 50 degress F.
  • After 7-10 days, your plant is ready to be planted in its permanent location. Try to do this on a cloudy day and be sure to water the plant well.
  • Observe foliage daily. If any type of leaf discoloration occurs, put the plant back into filtered light and attempt this step at a later date.
  • Special care must be taken to avoid burning the leaves.

These are general guide recommendations. Some plants take longer than others to acclimate.

Location

The best way to succeed is to plan before you plant. Let’s discuss location: Do you know where you want to locate your new plant? Avoid many future problems by considering all aspects of the planting spot, such as:

  • Cross-pollination
  • Sun and good soil
  • Leave space for future planting

Cross-Pollination

Is a pollinator variety present? Cross-pollination by a different variety, of the same type of plant, is key to the success of many plants. In most cases, its absence is why the plant doesn’t bear fruit or produces poorly. Most berry plants are self-pollinating, but for a larger fruit and crop plant more than one variety.

Sun and Good Soil

Your plant would love a sunny place with well-drained, fertile soil. But it will be quite satisfied with six to eight hours of sunlight. Good drainage is required to keep your plant “happy.” If your soil has high clay content, use our Coco-Fiber Potting Medium or add one-third peat to the soil at planting time. We do not recommend planting in heavy, pure clay soils.

Even if your yard isn’t the most ideal location, take heart. Most berry plants are very adaptable and respond well to fertilizers, so they can get along well even where the soil is nutritionally poor. Just steer clear of sites with extremely heavy soils or very poor drainage.

Space for Future Plantings

Once you’ve found out about fruit growing goodness firsthand, you’ll want to expand your home orchard. It’s important to plan so that the future growth areas will be ready when you are.

Planting

Few things are as delicious as homegrown cranberries, and the success of your harvest begins right with the planting site and method. For maximum growth and yields later on, give your plants the best foundation possible.

Before Planting

Before you plant, check your soil pH. This can be done by contacting your local County Extension Office for information about soil testing in your area, or purchase one of our digital meters for quick and accurate results. Ideally, your cranberries need a soil pH between 4.5-5.5. To increase the acidity of your soil, use a soil acidifier. Steer clear of soils that are extremely heavy or very poorly drained.

Location and Spacing

  • Pick a location with full sun, good drainage and very fertile soil. Cranberries have a shallow root system that only grows in the top six inches or so.
  • Space your cranberry plants 2' to 3' apart. They will only grow about 8-10 inches high.
  • Amend the soil with organic matter such as dehydrated cow manure, garden compost, peat moss or our Coco-Fiber Potting Medium.

Planting Tips

  • Don’t plant too deep. The crown should be right at the soil level, with the roots just under the surface.
  • If your cranberries are bare root, plant them at same depth as they were grown in the nursery row.
  • If your berries are potted, plant them at the same depth as they were in the pot.
  • Give your new plant a soaking with a solution of Stark® Tre-Pep® Fertilizer. Soil should stay moist without being soaked. (If planting in the fall, wait to fertilize until spring for best results.)

Additional Notes

  • Cranberries ripen over several weeks, so plan to pick more than once.
  • Protect your crop from birds with a Garden Net.
  • Cranberries benefit from a layer of sand every few years.
  • No pruning is necessary at planting time.

Soil Preparation

Preparing your soil before you plant will greatly improve your plant’s performance and promote healthy, vigorous growth. It is a good idea to have your soil tested to determine if it is lacking in any essential minerals and nutrients. This can be done through your County Extension Office or with one of our digital meters.

The goal of soil preparation is to replenish vital minerals and nutrients, as well as break up and loosen any compacted soil.

When To Prepare Your Soil

Soil preparation can be done at any time that the ground is not too wet or frozen. Your trees may be planted even when temperatures are quite cool. If a hard frost is expected, it is advisable to delay planting for a while until temperatures become more moderate. Generally, as long as your soil is workable, it is fine to plant.

How To Prepare Your Soil

  • Roots grow faster when they’re spread out. Dig the hole deep and wide enough so the root system has plenty of room to easily expand. Keep the topsoil in a separate pile so you can put it in the bottom of the hole, where it’ll do the most good.
  • To loosen the soil, mix dehydrated cow manure, garden compost or peat moss (up to 1/3 concentration) into your pile of topsoil. Make sure the peat moss you get is either baled sphagnum or granular peat. You can also add our Coco-Fiber Potting Medium or 2 or more inches of organic material and work in evenly with the existing soil.

Your lawn can provide you with ideal organic materials such as grass clippings and shredded leaves. Not only will the grass and leaves break down to provide soil nutrients, but they will help loosen the soil as well. You can gather these in the fall with spring planting in mind.

Common soil amendments:

  • compost
  • sand
  • manure
  • lime
  • peat moss

Adding organic materials, such as our Coco-Fiber Potting Medium and compost will improve most every soil type. Organic materials bind sandy soil particles so they retain moisture and nutrients better. They also break apart clay and silt particles, so that water can infiltrate and roots can spread.

Soil Types

  • Clay and silt soils are made of very small particles. They feel slick and sticky when wet. Clay and silt hold moisture well, but resist water infiltration, especially when they are dry. Often puddles form on clay or silt soils, and they easily become compacted.
  • Loam soil is a mix of sand, silt or clay, and organic matter. Loam soils are loose and look rich. When squeezed in your fist, moist loam will form a ball, which crumbles when poked with a finger. Loam soils normally absorb water and store moisture well. Loam soils can be sandy or clay based, and will vary in moisture absorption and retention accordingly.
  • Sandy soils contain large particles that are visible to the unaided eye, and are usually light in color. Sand feels coarse when wet or dry, and will not form a ball when squeezed in your fist. Sandy soils stay loose and allow moisture to penetrate easily, but do not retain it for long-term use.

Care & Maintenance

Fertilizing

Cranberries and lingonberries require little fertilizer. In early spring, use a small handful of fertilizer (such as 5-10-10) and apply in a circle around each mature plant. Use smaller amounts for plants up to three years old. Stop fertilizing by late June.

Insects and Diseases

Every plant has the future potential for disease and insect damage. Factors such as location and weather will play a part in which issues your plants encounters. If available, disease-resistant varieties are the best option for easy care; and for all types of plants, proper maintenance (such as watering, pruning, spraying, weeding, and cleanup) can help keep most insects and diseases at bay.

Aphids

They are the size of a pin head and vary in color depending on the species. Clusters on stems and under leaves, sucking plant juices. Leaves then curl, thicken, yellow and die. Produce large amounts of a liquid waste called “honeydew”. Aphid sticky residue becomes a growth media for sooty mold.

Natural Control

  • Sometimes you can knock them off with a strong stream of water from your garden hose.

Other Control Options

  • Consult County Extension Agent

White Fly

Adults are tiny, white winged insects found mainly on the underside of leaves. Nymph emerge as white, flat, oval shapes. Larvae are the size of a pinhead. Suck plant juices from leaves causing them to turn yellow, appear to dry or fall off plants.

Natural Control

  • Traps

Other Control Options

  • Consult County Extension Agent

Mealybugs

Adults are 1/4” long, flat, oval shaped with a white waxy covering. Yellow to orange eggs are laid within an egg sac. Crawlers are yellow to brown in color. Over winters as an egg or very immature young in or near a white, cottony egg sac, under loose bark or in branch crotches, mostly found on north side. Damage is by contamination of fruit clusters with egg sacs, larvae, adults and honeydew, which promotes growth of black sooty mold.

Control

  • Consult County Extension Agent

Botrytis Blossom Blight

Usually begins on plant debris, weak or inactive plant tissue than invades healthy plant tissue cause spotting and decay of flowers and foliage and fruits or berries.

Natural Control

  • Fall cleanup is essential.

Other Control Options

  • Consult County Extension Agent

Bacterial Leaf Spot

First appears as small dark green, translucent spots that later enlarge and turn black. Usually scattered over the entire surface of the leaf.

Natural Control

  • Serenade® Garden Disease Control

Fruitworm

Adult is yellow to brown sawfly beetle, 1/4” long. Larvae are brown and white, 1/8” long. Adults make slits in flower buds and larvae feed on berries.

+Control +

  • Consult County Extension Agent

Armyworm

Newly hatched worms are white with black heads. Mature worms are light tan or dark brown with dark or orange back and side stripes. They feed on the leaves of plants.

Control

  • Consult County Extension Agent

Pruning

Pruning is an important part of proper edible plant care, and in the case of cranberries, it’s particularly easy to do.

Pruning Tips

  • After the plant begins bearing regularly, usually in the third year, rake lightly in spring just before growth begins.
  • Lift and cut long runners— this will encourage uprights to form. Only prune long runners, not uprights.
  • Remove any dead or damaged growth.

Spraying

Spraying is important to the survival of your plants. To handle potential diseases and pests, reference the guidelines below to know what you should spray, and when you should use it.

Before you begin, read and follow all instructions on labels.

Natural Control

When To Spray

At the First Sign of:

  • Serenade® Garden Disease Control for leaf spot.

Watering

Cranberries and lingonberries require an average amount of water. If you receive about an inch of rainfall every 10 days or so, your plants will be fine. If you have a really dry growing season, give your new plants a good, thorough soaking with a hose.

Harvesting

Are you ready to enjoy delicious homegrown fruit? Harvest is the time to enjoy the results of your hard work. Keep a few things in consideration as you reap the fruits of your labor: the best time to pick the fruit from your tree, and how to store the fruit.

When to Harvest

Your plant should start producing cranberries in 2 to 3 years. Harvest in late September to early October. They develop in large clusters making them easy to pick. When they are ready to harvest the seed turns a brownish color and the berries turn a burgundy color.

When using the berries for sauce, jelly or juice pick them slightly under-ripe. However, if you are going to eat the berries fresh then plan on picking after a frost so the berries will be soft and sweet.

The annual average yield per plant is 3 pounds.

Storage

The berries can be kept in the refrigerator for a short time, and may be frozen for later uses. Make sure to wash and stem the berries before freezing.