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Monday, January 23, 2012

You Can Grow SOME Berries in the Mojave Desert

Womack blackberry grown at the orchard

Q. Have you had any luck with berries? I have a friend that says she does blackberries successfully.

A. Some blackberries will do just fine here and others do not. Two blackberries which I have found to work well here are Rosborough and Womack, both of which you probably have to purchase online. They come from the Texas A and M breeding program. One that did not do well from that breeding program is Brazos.

Dorman Red raspberry grown at the orchard
            Generally speaking, I would not recommend most of the blackberries with native American names such as Apache, Navaho, Arapaho, etc. which came, I believe, out of the Arkansas breeding programs. Historically they have not done well here according to locals who have tried them so I did not bother trying them.

Strawberries at the orchard
            Raspberries have not done well over time generally speaking. I did try a Florida variety which had a lower chilling requirement and it failed here. I have heard some reports from locals where they had some success with raspberries but they either did not remember the name or had them in for only one or two years. Others have generally reported failures with raspberries.

            Strawberries will do well with everbearing types probably doing better than the main crop varieties. You will have some iron chlorosis problems, yellowing, that will need to be addressed. I have liked them when they were growing under about 30 to 40% shade here.

            With all of these you MUST prepare the soil adequately prior to planting.


  1. Thanks for the information. I wish I would have read this before I bought the Navajo blackberry last year! It didn't make it through the summer.

    It looks like I have a half-wine barrel open for something experimental this year and I'm tempted to try the blackberry or strawberry. Any preference on what would work best in a container?

  2. I wouldn't probably put blackberries in containers. They can be kind of messy and they spread underground on runners. Depending in the container size you could use small citrus like kumquat, dwarf peach or nectarine, try low chill blueberries if you can give them shade in the late afternoon (but you better be a good gardener for that one) herbs like basil, and strawberries are nice.

  3. I purchased a dwarf mulberry on-line that is doing very well here in Spring Valley. Might be a good alternative for someone trying to grow blackberries, etc. So far, it's been a great back yard tree.

  4. Just for clarification, there is a ban in Clark County, Nevada, against fruitless mulberry (the male tree) but not mulberries that are fruited (female) because of allergies.

  5. Thank you for the information. The variety I purchased is called 'Geraldi'--it bears fruit and can easily be kept at 6' in height, for those interested in back-yard orchard culture.

  6. Another fruit that grows naturally in southwestern deserts is the Wolfberry. The Goji berry of China is a wolfberry, the world's most nutrious fruits. Very easy to grow in hot poor soils. They form bushes to about 6', slow growing, deciduous in drought. 10 varieties in AZ and more thruout the southwest and Americas.