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Cass County Extension

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Small Fruit Culture

1. Selecting a Site (minimum of 1/2 day of sun; more sun the better the yield)

      A) Gentle north east slope (Not for Grapes)
              - good air drainage decreases late spring frosts damage

              - good drainage - plants don't like wet feet
              - grapes need a southern slope or the south side of a fence

      B) Soil Type
              - well drained loamy garden soil (not blueberries)
              - blueberries need a low pH (4.0-5.5) and high organic matter
              - try growing blueberries in buried containers filled with peat

2. Obtaining Plants

      A) When possible, purchase from local nurseries
              - normally carry hardier materials
              - more likely to be in good condition
              - can pick out and see what you buy
              - easier to resolve any problems which may develop

      B) Bare Root and Potted
              - bare root should be planted as soon as possible
              - potted plants don't need to be planted right away
              - potted plants are bare root plants potted up by the nursery
              - if plants have leafed out, try not to disturb the roots when planting
              - always remove the pots when planting

3. Care Before Planting (Bare Root)

      A) Upon arrival
              - unwrap plants and examine roots
              - if dried out soak in water for 2-4 hours
              - if excessively dried out or soft and mushy, contact the seller

4. Soil Preparation
              - firm well settled soil is desirable
              - don't plant strawberries on new ground (white grubs)
              - don't plant small fruits in areas with a perennial weed problem
              - if soil lacks fertility, add fertilizer, well rotted manure or compost
                   - base on soil test

5. Plant Spacings

              - grapes                                                       8' x 8'
              - currants & gooseberries                       4' x 6' or 5' x 6'
              - blueberries                                                 4' x 4'
              - raspberries--hill system                    4' x 6',   hill diameter 18"
                                 --row system                2-3' x 6-8', row 15-18" wide
              - strawberries-hill system                       1-1 1/2' x 1-1 1/2'
                                   -row system            18-30" apart, in rows 3-4' apart

6. Planting

      A) Time
              - spring as soon as soil can be worked; before growth has started.
              - Strawberries can be planted in late summer (before August 15)
                  - remove 75% of the leaves.

      B) Preplant treatment   for bare root plants
              - keep roots moist, wrap in wet burlap or put in a pail of water
              - prune off all damaged and injured roots

      C) Planting
              - grapes - prune to one vigorous cane, shorten to 2 strong buds
              - currants & gooseberries - plant an inch deeper than grown before
                  - leave 4 or 5 canes which should be cut back by 2/3
              - blueberries - plant slightly deeper than grown previously
                  - use water soaked peat or a peat-soil mixture
                  - could try growning in buried containers filled with peat.
              - raspberries - plant slightly deeper than grown in nursery
                  - cut canes to within 6-12 inches of soil
              - strawberries - prune long straggly roots back to 5"
                  - crown should be just above soil surface
                  - Day neutrals usually don't over winter; may need to replant

7. Weed Control

              - shallow cultivation or mulch
              - grapes - clean cultivation until August 1
                  - late cultivation encourages late growth and winter damage
                  - Simazine or Casaron may be used for weed control
              - currants and gooseberries - clean cultivation or 4-6" of mulch
              - blueberries - 4-6" of sawdust mulch
              - raspberries - clean cultivation or mulch
                  - Simazine may be used for annual weed control.
                  - can use Poast for grass control; not within 45 days of harvest.
              - strawberries - clean cultivation or mulch
                  - Dacthal will control germinating weeds
                  - don't apply after 1st bloom or while fruiting
                  - can use Poast for grass control; not within 7 days of harvest.

8. Fertilization

      A) When & How
              - usually early spring
              - apply in root zone area
              - water strawberry plants with 1/2 - 1 cup of fertilizer solution
                  - use 2 tbsp starter fertilizer (10-52-17) per gallon of water
      B) Fertilizer Content
              - nitrogen - use ammonium sulfate or ammonium nitrate in this area
              - phosphoros - use a rate higher than nitrogen; stimulates fruiting
              - potassium - use a rate similar to the rate of nitrogen applied

      C) Iron Supplement
              - an iron chelate may be needed if iron chlorosis is a problem

      D) Rate (base on soil test or plant vigor)
              - grapes - 1 lb. of (10-20-10) or similar fertilizer per plant
              - currants & gooseberries - 1 cup of (10-20-10) or similar food per plant
              - blueberries - use 1/4-1/2 cup of ammonium sulfate/plant
                  - before budding in the spring; will help decomposing the sawdust
                  - Ammonium Sulfate has a chemical analysis of (21-0-0-24)
                  - if chlorosis develops, iron chelate can be added
              - raspberries - 5 lbs. per 100 feet of row or 1/2 cup around each hill
                  - use (10-20-10) or a similar fertilizer;  apply about May 1
              - strawberries
                  - use (10-20-10) or a similar fertilizer
                  - junebearing - 3 lbs. per 100 ft. of row; early June & early August
                  - everbearing & day neutrals - 2-3 lbs. per 100 sq feet
                     - each month when flowering and/or fruiting


      A) grapes - hardy varieties (Beta & Valiant) in March
              - prune for a single upright trunk with 4/6 laterals (1/4" diameter)
              - leave about 40 buds on the laterals
              - keep several short branches (2 buds) near trunk; future laterals

      B) grapes - tender varieties in late fall before laying down
              - cover with 6-8 inches of mulch

              - fan system - trunk 1' high with 4-5 canes and renewal laterals
                  - 40+ total fruiting buds
              - modified Chautauga system - single horizontal trunk (6-7' long)
                  - short side shoots (2 buds each)
                  - 1 or 2 suckers at the base for trunk replacement
              - grapes must be supported from 3rd year on; use wire or trellis

      C) currants and gooseberries - bear best on 1-3 year old wood
              - remove all 4 year old wood in early spring
              - currants - thin to 12 stems; gooseberries - thin to 15 stems

      D) blueberries - early spring; do very little pruning until fruiting
              - when fruiting: remove older non-vigorous stems
              - branches hanging on the ground and spindly bushy twigs
              - don't overprune

      E) raspberries
              - row system - 6-8" apart or 3-4 per foot of row
                  -rows not more than 18" wide
              - hill system - 6-8 plants per hill
              - tie up canes rather than cutting back
              - june bearing) - thin canes in the spring
                  - keep the largest most vigorous canes; most productive
                  - after thinning, cut back cane tips and side shoots slightly.
                  - after fruiting, remove canes which have fruited
              - everbearing - cut off all canes at soil level in late fall or early spring

      F) strawberries
              - matted row system - 2-3' wide row with plants 4-6" apart
              - hill system - plants 12-18" apart with all runners removed
              - all plants decline in production after 2 years of age
              - junebearers:
                  - remove flowers the first year; pinch runners until late spring.
                  - renovate as soon as harvest is complete
                  - mow off the leaves above the crowns; narrow rows by removing plants
                  - especially those which are crowded or over 2 years of age
                  - apply pesticides, herbicides and fertilizer; water well
              - everbearing and day neutrals - remove flowers until July 15                


      A) blueberries
              - two different varieties are recommended for good fruit set

      B) grapes, currants, gooseberries, raspberries and strawberries
              - self fruitful

11.Winter Protection

      A) grapes (tender)
              - late fall - remove from trellis and cover with 6-8 inches of mulch
              - spring - uncover, tie trunk and developing branches to trellis

      B) blueberries
              - cover with coarse organic matter before severe cold temperatures
              - snow cover is a real plus

      C) raspberries (tender varieties)
              - tips can be bent over and held with a clod of dirt; holds organic mulch

      D) strawberries
              - 4-6" layer of coarse organic matter needed for winter;
              - leave some of the mulch between the rows; unless slugs are a problem

Todd Weinmann, Extension Horticulturist & Master Gardener Coordinator
Phone: (701) 241-5707

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