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Small Fruits for Home Gardens

Taste fruit right off the vine

Growing small fruits in the home garden offers many advantages to a gardener who is willing to pro- vide the space and care plants require. All major small fruits, including strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, currants, gooseberries, and grapes, can be grown successfully in most parts of Illinois.

These plants tolerate small spaces and are popular even for small city lots. Space limitations can be overcome by fitting small fruit plants directly into the overall landscape in shrub borders, screen plantings, arbors, hedges, patios, or perennial gardens.

Small fruits are named from the fact that edible fruit is produced on a small perennial plant. Strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, and grapes are all examples of small fruit crops. 

Selecting your site.

Site selection is an important first step in growing small fruits. Full sunlight is best, although partial shade will be tolerated by most of these crops. Soils should be well-drained and of moderate fertility. If crops susceptible to verticillium wilt were grown in the area in the past 3 to 5 years, avoid planting strawberries and brambles. Examples of crops susceptible to verticillium wilt include tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, eggplant, melons, okra, peas, beets, and roses.

Preparing the soil.

Small fruit crops prefer a soil pH range of 5.5 to 7.5. The one exception is blueberries that require acidic soils in the pH range 4.8 to 5.2. Soil tests will indicate pH values and help determine any amendments (limestone or sulfur) needed to change soil pH. Soils should also be worked up and organic material, such as compost, added to help improve soil conditions prior to planting.

Plant near water source.

Locate the small fruit planting near a water source. Sprinklers, soaker hoses, and trickle irrigation systems are all possible methods for watering small fruit plantings.

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