Small Fruits

Categories // Dig In, Plants, Tips

Small Fruits

Strawberries, Raspberries, Blueberries, and one yummy recipe for all three. 

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

Site Selection

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 moderately fertile. If crops susceptible to verticillium wilt were grown in the area in the past 3 to 5 years, avoid planting strawberries and raspberries. Examples of crops susceptible to verticillium wilt include tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, eggplant, melons, okra, peas, beets, and roses. Soils should also be worked up and organic material, such as compost, added to help improve soil conditions prior to planting.


Two types are available; spring (June) bearing and everbearing. In general, everbearing do not produce as well as spring bearing varieties. In choosing spring bearing varieties, consider not only dessert quality but also disease resistance. Red stele and verticillium wilt are major diseases caused by fungi, which live in the soil. Spring bearing varieties with resistance to these diseases and featuring high quality fruit include 'Earliglow,' 'Allstar,' and 'Delmarvel.'

Dad said, to pinch all blossoms off the first year and just let the plants grow.  This will increase your yield the second year and fill in your patch. 

For more information on strawberries, visit the Illinois Extension site, Strawberries & More. It's packed with information. 


Another popular small fruit for backyard gardens are raspberries. Red Raspberries, black, purple, and yellow fruit types are available. Almost all raspberries bear fruit on 2-year-old canes, and then the cane dies. This calls for ongoing pruning as a regular care practice when growing raspberries. Both summer bearing and everbearing (June, Fall) varieties are available - except in the case of black raspberries. Suggested red raspberry cultivars for northern Illinois include 'Boyne,' 'Latham,' 'Heritage' (everbearing), 'Caroline' (everbearing), 'Autumn Bliss' (evebearing) and 'Ruby' (everbearing).

I like to prune red raspberries in late winter, three to five canes per clump.  Black raspberries, I prune after fruiting.  

For more information, visit the Illinois Extension site, Raspberries & More


Although popular to eat, blueberries have very demanding needs. The greatest of these demands is an acidic soil, as blueberries need soils with a pH range of 4.8 to 5.2. In addition, blueberries need well-drained soils, mulching, and irrigation. Mature blueberry bushes need to be pruned every year, and fertilized with Ammonium sulfate.

To help create acidic soil, plant near pine trees, mulch with pine needles or oak leaves.  That is a natural way to help build acidic soil.  The fall color is awesome on blueberries. Perhaps consider incorporating them into your landscape.  The variety 'North Sky' makes an excellent addition as either a focal point or hedge.

Balsamic Berry and Basil Fruit Salad


⅓ cup frozen strawberry daiquiri concentrate, thawed 

1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar

3 Tbsp water

2 cups fresh strawberry halves

2 cups fresh raspberries

2 cups fresh blueberries

6 basil leaves, chiffonade or left whole


In a bowl, combine the daiquiri mix, balsamic vinegar, and water.

In a large bowl, add the berries and basil.

Gently fold the dressing in with the berries and basil.

Refrigerate for 1 hour.

Gently fold again before serving and remove basil leaves if using the whole leaf.

If you don't want the pieces of basil in the salad, which tend to darken after the hour in the fridge, just fold in the leaves while it sits in the fridge. Then remove the leaves before serving. This will infuse the flavor without having to have the pieces in the salad.


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