University of Illinois Extension
Bruce Spangeberg

These articles are written to apply to the northeastern corner of Illinois. Problems and timing may not apply outside of this area.

Stateline Yard & Garden

Small Fruit Crops for Northern Illinois

January 18, 2001

Gardening catalogs often contain a variety of small fruits, such as strawberries, raspberries, and others. Small fruits are named from the fact that edible fruit is produced on a small perennial plant. All small fruit crops will need full sun and a well-drained soil. There are several to choose from, but which are best for northern Illinois?

Strawberries are probably the most popular of the small fruits. Two types are available: spring (June) bearing and everbearing. The best use of everbearing cultivars would be for container gardening. In general, they do not produce as well as spring bearing varieties. In choosing spring bearing cultivars from catalogs, consider not only dessert quality but also disease resistance. Red stele and verticillium wilt are major disease concerns. Examples of cultivars with both good quality and resistance to both diseases would be Earliglow, Delmarvel, and Allstar.

Another popular fruit for northern Illinois are raspberries. Red, black, purple, and yellow fruit types are available. Both summer bearing and everbearing (June, Fall) varieties are available - except for black raspberries. Black raspberries tend to have disease problems, and can carry a virus disease that can spread to other raspberries. Everbearers, such as Heritage, can be pruned in early spring to the ground to produce a fall only crop.
Blackberries are not dependable here in northern Illinois due to winter damage problems. If you really want to try them, look for the thorny cultivar Illini Hardy.

Blueberries have very demanding needs. One is acidic soil, as blueberries need soils with a pH range of 4.8 to 5.2. Many soils in northern Illinois are alkaline (high pH). Blueberries also need well-drained soils, mulching, and irrigation.

Grapes can be grown in the backyard, but trellises will be needed to support them. American varieties are hardier and more suited for table use than European types. Among suggested cultivars for northern Illinois are Niagara, Fredonia, Concord, Delaware, Steuben, Swensen Red, and Reliance.
Finally, currants and gooseberries are hardy and easy to grow. Both are alternate hosts of White Pine Blister Rust, currently not a major problem in Illinois. Suggested currant varieties include Red Lake, Cherry, White Imperial, Consort, and Crandall. Pixwell, Poorman, Captivator, and Welcome are suggested if you want to try gooseberries.


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