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Sunday, January 17, 2016

Red Diamonds - Growing The Goji Berry

History:

Dating back to ancient China, Goji berries have a long and distinguished history.  Also known as wolfberry, tibetan goji, matrimony vine, and Lycium barbarum(Latin name).  This berry has some interesting history.  One (unconfirmed) report credits daily consumption of goji for extending the life span to 235 years old!  That is probably, ok must be, a bit exaggerated. Still there are other anecdotal stories in China where even the water from nearby wells to the plant are said to be life extending.  If that weren't enough, it is said it is also said in a couple of Chinese texts that, if consumed, beauty and sexual vitality are increased.  

More recent research is encouraging.  There are a couple of National Institute of Health listed studies but the author of both (with a little digging) is a multi-level marketing company in Arizona.  That casts a shadow on their conclusions.  On a brighter note, there are numerous studies which demonstrate the berry's properties increasing the effect of cancer treatments, enhancing the blood level availability of vitamin C, increasing zeaxanthin (important in treatment of Macular Degeneration), fighting fatigue, and yes, even slowing the aging on a DNA level of cells.  

Tasting like a cross between cranberries, raisins, tomatoes, and cherries, Goji berries definitely belong in your garden.  Like tomato you say?  Goji is in the tomato/eggplant/potato family and is hardy to at least -20 degrees.  The flowers are dead ringers to eggplant flowers.  Interesting. 

Growing Goji Berries from Seed:

Goji is easy to grow.  Plant your seeds about a quarter of an inch deep in a soilless mixture 6-10 weeks before setting them outside.  The plants will emerge in 10-14 days if the temperature is reasonably warm inside your home.  At first emergence, the seedlings are fragile so plant about 3 seeds per pot or cell.  In a few short weeks they will be nice little plants and far less fragile. 
Goji Berry New Seedlings

2 week old Goji Seedlings
Thin out the seedlings at the 2 week stage.  You can still leave a few in the pot/cell at this stage but, if they are crowded, take a few out.  These can be transplanted to other pots if you wish.  Goji's have a long tap root and can be grown in containers.  Because of that tap root be sure to choose at least a five gallon container that is similar in depth to a five gallon pail.  
Set out plants in the garden after the danger of frost has past.  Goji's like somewhat sweet soil.  pH 6.5-8  Add some lime if your soil is acidic.  They also like sun.  Goji's will grow in semi-shade but you will get much more fruit if the plant is in full sun. After 4 months, you can expect your plants to look like this. (These should have been planted at the 2-3 month age)
 4 Month old Goji Berry Plants
Goji's should be planted at least 2' apart and expect them to have a spread of 4' and unpruned height over 10'.  In all cases, prune the bottom branches from the plant.  Once the plant reaches 3' or more, keep the bottom 15" free of branches.  Row spacing is 6'. 

Consider what form you would like to grow Goji plants.  They can be trellised like grapes or grown like bushes.  Pruning to thin the branches and control height will encourage branching and more fruiting area.   Otherwise, care for them as you would any other plant and protect them a bit the first winter with a few inches of mulch after the ground is good and cold.
Mature Goji Plant


At Foxgreen Farms, we have our jiovi® Goji Berry available to purchase.  You'll find those seeds and many more for your sustainable garden at 




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