University of Illinois Extension


Site Preparation

Small fruits are named from the fact that edible fruit is produced on a small perennial plant. Strawberries, brambles (raspberries & blackberries), blueberries, grapes, currants, and gooseberries are all examples of small fruit crops. An excellent, complete publication called Small Fruits in the Home Garden is available from your local University of Illinois Extension office for a nominal fee.

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.

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.

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.

Suggested Small Fruit Crops for Illinois


Some Suggested Cultivars
(in order of ripening within each group)


June bearing include 'Earliglow,' 'Annapolis,' 'Honeoye,' 'Delmarvel,' 'Seneca,' 'Jewel,' 'Kent,' and 'Allstar.' Day neutrals include 'Tristar' and 'Tribute.'

Raspberries (Red)

'Boyne,' 'Latham,' 'Heritage' (everbearing), 'Ruby' (everbearing)

Raspberries (Purple)

'Brandywine,' 'Royalty'

Raspberries (Black)


Raspberries (Yellow)


Grapes (American)

'Niagara,' 'Steuben,' 'Swensen Red,' 'Fredonia,' 'Delaware,' 'Concord,' 'Reliance'(seedless)

Currants Red

'Red Lake,' 'Cherry,' Black – 'Consort,' 'Crandall,' White – 'White Imperial'


'Pixwell,' 'Poorman,' 'Welcome,' 'Captivator'

Small Fruit Crops for the Backyard - University of Illinois Extension