Lingonberries (Vaccinium vitis-idaea) are related to the blueberry and cranberry family. They’re typically grown in cooler, northern climates and can thrive in coastal areas with mild summers. These fantastic, edible, evergreen ground-covers produce delicious cranberry-like fruit great for sauces, jellies and cooking. Beloved by Scandinavians, lingonberries are attractive, easy to grow plants with bright red berries equal to the size of a small blueberry. Lingonberry bushes are self pollinating but you will have a far better fruit yield by having them planted in pairs.
Choosing a location: Although lingonberries do well in partial shade, try to plant them in a full sun location with a well draining soil. Lingonberries can withstand arctic temperatures but in very severe climates, they can be covered with peat or sawdust in the winter. They do not care for an alkaline soil so try to do a soil test and be sure that it’s a pH of 5.8 or lower. USDA Zones 3-8 are the optimal lingonberry growing locations, but these plants can be potted as well.
Planting Directions (in ground): One of the best times to plant a new lingonberry is right after the spring cold has passed and the soil has sufficiently dried.
1) Make your hole twice the width of the root ball and just as deep in a nice, sunny location.
2) Amend compost into the soil for a boost in nutrients and to improve the drainage of the spot.
3) Leave a couple inches of the compost on the soil’s surface. Using a gardening fork (or tiller), mix it into the soil.
4) Water the planting site thoroughly to settle the soil and then apply 2-3 inches of mulch to conserve moisture.
Planting directions (potted):
1) Select a potting soil that has a high content of peat moss. Lingonberries love a pH of about 5.0 for their soil. The high content of peat moss will be perfect for them.
2) Use a 3 inch layer of sawdust as mulch to help conserve moisture. These prefer a constantly moist soil so be sure to water frequently.
3) Put next to a South facing window for a full sun exposure, they do best in full sun.
4) Container grown lingonberries should produce twice yearly. Spring will provide a small fruit yield and there should be a larger yield in the summer season.
Watering: Avoid letting the soil dry completely between waterings. A consistent watering schedule will produce the best results for the bush regardless of the season. For the first year you will want to water with just under an inch of water per week (1 inch of rainfall is equal to about one gallon of water). After the berry bush gets settled/established, it will only require about a half inch (1/2 gallon) of water per week. Consistency is KEY to the best results with your lingonberry bush.
*Tip* Adding mulch around the base of the bush helps conserve moisture as well as combat the lingonberries biggest enemy, competing weeds.
Pruning: Lingonberry bushes are very easy to maintain in terms for pruning. For the first few years the bush will require little to no attention other than the removal of dried out, dead limbs. Cut back about 6-8 vigorous canes around mid June to late July after the bush begins bearing regularly.
Fertilizing: Once the plants are in the ground, they will not require much fertilizing. Too much nitrogen boosts growth in the late fall, followed by plant dieback, leaving you a reduced crop. If the plants are growing several inches of new growth each year, avoid fertilizing them. If they lack growth, feed them with a low nitrogen organic fertilizer such as a 5-10-10 formula or compost. Potted berry bushes will require little to no fertilizing.
Harvesting: Color is what will best determine the time for harvesting the lingonberries. Unripened fruit will have a very bitter taste to them. The ripened berries will have an acidic, yet tart taste, quite similar to a cranberry. The fruit will last roughly three weeks if kept refrigerated. It can also dried, frozen or c