Growing Your Own Goji Berries: Make Your Own Juice!
Here's an idea: instead of buying goji juice and goji berries, why not grow your own? With very limited time and resources needed to get your own berries at a fraction of the cost, this is a fine alternative for those of us who are open to trying it. And you don't need much to do it... (well, you'll need a juicer to make juice, but the investment would still be worth it!)
What You Need
Seeds, growing area (outdoors and/or in pots), soil, water, access to sun and/or light, a little time. That's it. I'll tackle each one of these in turn.
You can get seeds directly out of goji berries, but you can't be sure what variety you are getting necessarily and if the berries are sun dried this may cause the seeds not to germinate properly.
These are goji plants I am growing presently, on February 21, shortly after planting.
Where to Grow (To Pot or Not)
Okay, so your biggest expense will be the pots, no doubt about it. That is, if you even need a pot. If you live in an area that doesn't get colder than -15 F (-26 C), then you might be alright to just grow the berries outside (if you live in a colder area, skip to next paragraph). You'll need to prepare a place to
This is one of the plants on April 13.
If growing in pots, you can save money by getting creative here. If you can get access to a wooden barrel (half barrels are sold at some garden centers or hardware stores), cutting it in half would give you two nice, large, decorative pots that can be used to grow a few goji plants in. If you have the money, you can always just buy a few large pots too. You'll probably need a few of them to get a decent amount of berries growing.
You'll basically just need regular potting soil and some organic matter. If you're planting outside (recommended if climate is suitable), you'll need to prepare a patch to grow the plants, as stated above. These soil tips apply to both outdoor growing and indoor: Make sure your soil has good drainage, contains a lot of organic matter (if you can get a hold of some compost, vermiculite, rotted manure, or other organic matter, this would be very beneficial). Do NOT use chemical fertilizers such as Miracle Grow to grow goji berries. There are no nutrients in chemicals, and if you supply them with enough healthy, organic matter such as manure, they will not need chemical fertilizer. Using chemical fertilizer to feed your plants is like forcing a human to live off of only a few of the basic chemicals needed to live, in liquid form, but not allowing them to eat solid foods like fruits and vegetables or whole grains to get the vitamins and minerals that are important for them to be healthy. Your berries will not contain the nutrients they are supposed to if you fertilize with chemicals as opposed to organic matter. If growing in pots, you'll also have to change out some of your soil every year or so, as the goji berry plants "eat" the existing nutrients. Luckily, plants get almost all of the matter that they produce their growth and fruit from directly from the air and sunlight, so you won't need to add organic matter very often. If growing outside, make sure to work some manure, compost, vermiculite or other organic matter into the soil at least once a year.
IMPORTANT:Goji berries like somewhat moist soil (although once established they are fairly drought tolerant as well). In natural settings, plants typically do NOT EVER have bear soil around them, so it is extremely important to mulch the planting beds of your goji plants, especially directly around the plants. This will drastically reduce water evaporation from soil and support a healthy soil ecosystem of worms and beneficial bacteria and fungus. Use wood chips, well rotted hay, straw, leaf litter (but not oak or walnut leaves) or any other organic materials you can get your hands on. At least a couple of inches of mulch would be beneficial, and no more than four inches. It is best to use wood chips that are weathered and rotted a little, especially if you are dealing with cedar wood chips, since they are acidic and acidity is significantly reduced by weathering.
Well, you're going to need to water your plants obviously. When the soil gets dried out, just water them a little. Make sure not to saturate the soil, and to let it dry out before watering again. The soil should absorb water, but also have good drainage. If your plants are outside, make sure they do not get saturated with too much rain and that the excess water is able to drain from the pots. The plants will drown if they are soaked in water too long. Also, if you are in a hot area, the soil will drain more quickly. It is important that you also water the plants from the bottom; that is, try to avoid getting water on the leaves, since this will promote fungal disease. Also, the best time to water in order to avoid fungal disease is in the early morning.
If your plants are inside, make sure they have access to as much sun as possible. The more sun they get during the course of the day, the more berries they will produce and the more nutritious those berries will be. Gojis should get at least 8 hours of direct sunlight per day. If you can't give them enough sun inside, you might consider putting a floresenct, full spectrum light over them for a few hours a day (perhaps turning the lights on when you wake up and turning them off when you go to bed). It is actually better to leave the light on 24/7 until the plants get a little bigger. If in pots, the plants can be placed outside in direct sunlight, to be brought in only during the winter or during potentially damaging storms, etc. If your plants are grown indoors away from direct sunlight, make sure to slowly "harden" the plants to exposure to the sun gradually, by placing them in the sun for only a few hours at a time at first before planting them outside permanently or even before just placing them outside in pots for the warm season.
A Little Lovin' Goes a Long Way
So all you need to do is sit back and watch your goji berries grow. It will take a couple of years to get good sized goji plants that produce a nice amount of berries, but at least when that time comes, you won't be dependent on anyone else for your dose of polysaccharides and other beneficial agents and nutrients found in goji berries. Until you get your own plants up and going, if you want to buy goji juice or goji berries, learn a little bit about the companies offering goji products out there before making your choice about where to get your berries. All goji is not created equal!
Making Your Own Goji Juice
One more thing, if you really want the goji berry juice as opposed to just goji berries themselves, just grow your own berries, get a juicer, and there you have it!