Berry picking is a summer tradition in Alaska.

From blueberries in Arctic Valley to salmonberries on the Kenai Peninsula, the native berries are bountiful in July and August. But did you know, there are actually a variety of berry bushes that you can grow in your garden here in Alaska?

“What you can have up here is gooseberries, currants, raspberries, strawberries, lingonberries, kinnikinnick, the list goes on,” says Lorne Greiner with Mile 5.2 Greenhouse in Eagle River.

The blueberry is native to Alaska, and one of the most cold-hardy of the berry plants. Other types of berries are also able to successfully grow here because of Alaska’s unique growth periods.

“The tissue hardening time-line in late summer is accelerated by drastic day length shortening and steep, progressive temperature drops. As the plant cells harden off due to the decreasing temperatures, the cells become progressively less hydrated by water and thus, more cold hardy,” according to Mile 5.2 Greenhouse.

Many people plant berry bushes in the spring when planting annuals. However, berry bushes are perennials, so they can be planted anytime before the first fall freeze.

Regardless of when they’re planted, they will need some protection over the cold winter months. Leaves or mulch around the base of the plants will work well. Once the snow starts falling they’ll be further insulated.

Second year plants will begin producing fruit in July. Most will only produce one round of fruit, but there are a few varieties, like everbearing strawberries, that will produce a few rounds of fruit throughout the summer.

KTVA’s Rachael Penton can be reached by email, or on Facebook or Twitter.

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