Most small fruit plants will occupy the same location at least three years and as long as thirty or more years. Therefore, it is desirable to build up the soil fertility of the proposed planting site before planting.
Planning one or two years ahead can also help to reduce weed problems.
All small fruit plants benefit from the addition of organic matter to the soil. If composted manure that is free of weed seed is available, incorporate four bushels (or 100 pounds) per 100 square feet in the summer or fall before planting. Similar levels of com- post, decomposed leaves, or lawn clippings can also in- crease the soil’s organic-matter level. Use only lawn clippings that have not been treated with herbicides. It is a good idea to add ten to fifteen pounds of 10-10-10 fertilizer (or equivalent) per 1,000 square feet when leaves are used. Thoroughly work the organic material into the soil. In September, sow a cover crop such as annual rye at three pounds of seeds per 1,000 square feet to protect the soil during winter. Turn the crop under in spring to improve the soil.
To reduce weeds, plant and cultivate row crops for one or two years prior to planting small fruits. Avoid the Verticillium-susceptible crops listed earlier. Also, avoid sites where herbicides with long carry-over periods have been used recently. Regular cultivation and hoeing will be necessary to control weeds. The cultivation helps improve soil conditions by mixing organic matter in the soil and increasing aeration.
If sod must be turned under, it should be done in fall to allow decomposition to begin. Sod often harbors grubs (insect larvae) that feed on roots. Most of the grubs die if the sod is turned under and the ground cultivated at least one year prior to planting. All small fruits except blueberries grow satisfactorily in a soil pH range of 5.5 to 7.5. Blueberries require a pH of 4.8 to 5.2 for best growth. The pH measurement refers to the relative acidity or alkalinity of the soil: 7 is neutral, 6 to 7 is slightly acid, and 7 to 8 is slightly basic (alkaline).
Prior to planting, work the soil as thoroughly as you would in planting a vegetable garden. The soil should be well pulverized and moist, and soil granulation should be no larger than a pea.