Growing salal


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Portland metro area of Oregon
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This summer I have been looking around my area (western Oregon) for wild berries. I picked up a book about them and found it fascinating. I want to use the berries for culinary uses but I also want to propagate them. I want to see if I can grow my own fruit to supplement what I find in the wild. It should be an interesting experiment.

However, what I have run into is that there doesn't seem to be all that much knowledge about how to grow these wild berry plants or at least not much information on getting maximum quantity and quality of fruit from them.

Being wild plants they will never be as productive as a domesticated cultivar. But I think I may be able to come up with methods of pruning, fertilizing, irrigating, and sunlight levels that will lead to good results.

The plants I am looking over are thimbleberry, salmonberry, evergreen/black/red huckleberry, red/blue elderberry, wild currants, serviceberry, and salal. Those are the ones I have been able to find and get seed or cuttings for. Whether the cuttings or seed produce useable plants is unknown. I am waiting to see if the cuttings take or the seed germinates in spring. I am still trying to find others such as sumac, black crowberry, various wild blueberries, etc.

The plant that has interested me the most is salal (gaultheria shallon). I think the fruit it produces is quite good. The berries are a decent size and you usually get five or so per fruiting stem. It's easy to remove the whole fruiting stem/spur/sprig/whatever without damaging the plant. The berries are good raw or cooked. I think it has a lot of potential and I'd like to grow my own fruit for use in jams and such.

Does anyone have any tips for growing this stuff? I got one plant from a nursery. And managed to kill it like an idiot by sticking it in full sun. I got a couple more and am hoping to get more from seed.

In the coniferous forest habitat where it grows wild I have observed some interesting patterns: Salal grows best vegetatively in full shade. The leaves look the healthiest there and the plant looks unstressed. However, in full shade it will *not* produce fruit.

Conversely I have seen patches of it in mostly full sun. In full sun the plants look like hell. The leaves are discolored, sunburnt, and it looks like insects and diseases are attacking it. But it does produce fruit.

My conclusion is that without some direct sun salal plants will not be triggered to fruit. But too much sun probably does more harm than good. So there needs to be a balance. But I don't know where that balance is. If I can propagate enough plants I intend to run shade/sun experiments to see what I can come up with. If I can learn something useful I may be able to help out other people who want to grow salal primarily for fruit.

I haven't found a lot of information about growing it. What information there is basically comes down to: It likes shade. The berries taste nice.

Any information or suggestions you have would be welcomed. Thank you.
 
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Logan

Logan
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I only know that to grow plants from wild berries they will probably need a cold spell to germinate.
 

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