Growing of the Elderberry Plant Basics
Elderberry plants are hardy perennials that typically bear a small harvest after the second year of planting and are fully mature and have a 10-12 pound harvest average by the third year. Recommended growing zones are 3-8.
Growing the elderberry plant can be done from seed or from cutting. Plants from cuttings are preferred because an elderberry plant from seed will not have the exact characteristics as the mother plant. This can be a problem if you want disease resistance, uniform berry or cluster size. or uniform harvest times. Elderberry cuttings are easy to start and will produce the same characteristics as the plant that it was taken from. There are many new varieties of elderberry that are much better than older ones and very much better than wild elderberry plants.
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Plant spacing recommended is typically 4 feet apart and if in rows the rows are generally 10-12 feet apart. Ten feet may seem like a wide aisle in the beginning but after the plants have matured is only wide enough for a lawn mower with a large deck. The side branches will often be disturbed when mowing a 10 foot aisle elderberry planting. If you have the space 12-15 feet row spacing for elderberries may be more productive. This would allow tractor access between the rows.
If you are going to grow elderberry starting with a known variety is a much safer and smarter way to grow than wild or from seed. Imagine putting 2 years of effort into getting an elderberry plant to its first harvest only to find you have a plant that has irregular cluster ripening. You can only harvest a cluster every third or fourth day and do not have enough ripe at one time for even one bottle of syrup. Or worse yet, the clusters do not ripen evenly meaning very tedious work for you of picking all the green berries you can find out of your cooking pot. Inevitably you will miss a few, these along with the berries that were almost ripe but still a little red, will cause off flavors and a green scum on the top of your cooking pot. Let the wild stay wild and plant a known variety selected for it’s outstanding characteristics.