How to grow elderberry plant: A complete overview
Elderberries are quite simply, a treasure to have in your garden, and they are surprisingly easy to grow. Spring is the best time to start growing the elderberry plant. The miracle berry, as it is called, is a sworn by cure for many ills and improves immunity. From flu to heart disease and a boost to weight loss efforts, the elderberry plant has been the talk of avid gardeners for some time now!
If you have a partially shaded garden and it is not prone to flooding, it is easy to grow elderberries and enjoy the ‘fruit’ of your labor. Once you have lavished care on your elderberry plant for some months, it will grow and produce a significant amount of berries for years to come. Pick the ripe purple berries and make jams, jellies, juice, and syrups that will help your wellness regime.
How to Plant Elderberries
Elderberry plants are partial to shade and like to grow in cool and moist areas. Avoid areas that lack proper drainage, and you are ready to plant. Elderberries thrive in pairs planted within sixty feet of each other for optimal cross-pollination. Their roots are shallow and mat-like, and they grow up to six feet across and twelve feet tall. You can plant seeds or cuttings both as per your liking.
Order seeds from a reputed nursery or take the easier route of using softwood cuttings. The cuttings have to be taken from an elderberry plant that is growing. The best time to do so is mid-July or thereabouts.
You need to cut three to six inches from the elderberry plant from the green tips of the branches. You need one intact leaf at every branch end to achieve a successful planting. You can also choose to use a hardwood cutting or hardwood with sprouts as your graft. Softwood cutting is the most popular way to propagate an elderberry plant.
Maintaining an Elderberry Plant
Once the initial growing phase is over, and the plant has taken root, it is relatively easy to maintain an elderberry plant. The breed grows wild too, and that is a testimony to the sturdy nature of the plant. You need to water the elderberry plant generously at the beginning as they like moist soil. Be careful with ample drainage as standing water will make the roots rot.
There is no overt need for fertilization, but a little manure never hurts the plant and can enhance the crop too. You can use 1/8th of a pound of ammonium nitrate every year of the elderberry plant’s age every year in spring from the second year of planting the tree. It is advisable to keep the fertilizer to a maximum of one pound per plant for maximum benefits.
The sturdy elderberry needs no specific guidelines to grow. A little weeding does not hurt either! Common weeds can crowd the shallow roots, and it would help remove such intruders by pulling them out by hand. It is best to be careful not to disturb any more than the top two inches of the topsoil for the best results.
Harvesting the Elderberry Plant
Growing elderberries is relatively easy, but harvesting the small berries is labor-intensive, to say the least. Unripe elderberries can cause nausea and diarrhea, so it is best to harvest the fruit when they are deep purple or black. The berries should be soft and juicy. Birds love the taste of ripe elderberries, and you should pick them off as soon as they ripen on the plant.
The best way to get your berries from the elderberry plant is to cut them off at the base of the cluster with a pair of shears. You can pick the berries off the stem once they are harvested. It is essential to remove all stems and leaves as they can have unpleasant effects. If you have bugs on the fruit, soak them in water for a couple of hours before using them.
Using the Elderberries
You can use the ripe elderberries off the plant immediately by using them in pies and juices. These delicious berries are best not eaten raw as they might leave you with an aftertaste that is not particularly pleasant. If you have had a bumper crop, you can store them by canning or freezing them. You can also make an antioxidant-packed tincture or syrup that will keep illness at bay.
Freezing Elderberries For Future Use
The first step is to clean the berries. Once you have removed the extra stems and leaves, wash them thoroughly and drain them on a towel. Put each cluster of the purple berries on a lined cookie sheet and freeze for at least a day. You can then store the frozen berries in a plastic freezer bag. Once the fruit is frozen, tap against the kitchen counter till you hear them rattling in the freezer bag. This will gently separate the smaller stems from the berries. It is simple to remove the smaller stems from the fruits, and you can then safely freeze them till you need them.
Why Grow The Elderberry Plant
Elderberries have been touted as a superfood and supplement your diet with a natural source of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. They are potent immunity boosters and can be safely taken by children and adults. There are many products available in the market that claim to contain elderberry extracts. It can be easier on the pocket and better for health to grow your own elderberry plant to get the purest of juices, jams, and jellies at your disposal.