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The flowers are followed by clusters of plump berries, starting out green before turning yellow and then bright scarlet by autumn. Becoming more visible and creating a dazzling display once the leaves have dropped, these are attractive to birds and small mammals that you will need to fend off if you intend to harvest the fruit. If you decide to sacrifice the fruit, they are a great way of bringing a greater diversity of wildlife to your garden. Cranberries should be harvested in the autumn when the fruit takes on its distinctive deep red colour, usually in September through to early November.
- Pink flowers in spring followed by tart red berries which add colour and interest to the winter garden and provide food for wildlife if left unpicked. Perfect for a range of culinary uses, including of course making cranberry sauce to accompany your Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner. Low growing evergreen with leathery leaves and a lax, cascading habit, ideal for containers or hanging baskets.Check that the inner seeds are brown by breaking one cranberry in two before you start picking and bear in mind that berries deeper into the plant won't be as red a those on the top and edges because they don't get as much sunshine - they are still worth picking as they're equally as edible and still very tasty. Cranberries are best picked before the first hard frost. If you want to wait to get more colour in the fruit and you fear there is a risk of a frost, cover the bed with plastic or a blanket during the night. Using this method, you can actually pick them straight off the plant on Christmas eve, just in time for the turkey, if you prefer. Crops increase as bushes become more established and mature, so don't worry if fruiting looks a little thin in the early years.
Whilst cranberries are self-fertile, many people prefer to plant several varieties at once to encourage pollination and increase production. If you choose to do this, plant 90cm-1.2m (3-4ft) apart to allow plenty of space for the bushes to spread over time (plant closer, around 60cm or 2ft apart if growing upright varieties as a dense hedge). If planting in a container, use an ericaceous compost and consider mixing in.Growing cranberries in your backyard is one of the easiest ways to put homegrown food on the holiday table. Cranberries are perennial, and once planted they’ll keep producing crops year after year even with minimal care. Our small 8×8 cranberry bed produces enough to keep our family supplied all winter long, and all it takes is occasional weeding and sand mulch once per year. (Source: practicalselfreliance.com)