Choosing the Right Plants
First decide what fruit plants would be most suited to your
climate and soil type. In general, most plants like a well
drained site with at least six hours of sun light a day. The
diagram below is a general zone chart for Berries and Grapes.
- Blackberries: Zone 5 - 9
- Red Raspberries: Zone 3B - 7A
- Black Raspberries: Zone 4 - 7
- Blue Berries - Zone 4 - 7A
- Grapes - Zone 4 - 7B
- Gooseberries - Zone 2 - 6B
- Currants - Zone 3 - 6 B
- Asparagus - Zone 4 - 7
- Strawberries - Zone 4 - 8
- Rhubarb - Zone 4 -6B
- Elderberries - Zone 4 - 7B
A - Represent the colder area of that zone
B - Represent the warmer area of that zone
Site Selection and Preparation
Choosing a Planting Site
Avoid sites that hold standing water, or just doesn't drain
well. Low swags are also more susceptible to frost pockets.
Choose an elevated site when possible to allow good air and water
drainage. If the soil you have is not ideal drainage. Consider a
raised ridge or bed to allow better drainage.
Preparing the Planting Site
After you decide which plants works best in your area, start
preparing the planting site. If possible, a year in advance would
be preferred. First take a
soil test which
is normally free of charge at your local county extension office.
There is a small charge for certain soil, such as nematode
testing, which is a recommended soil test, will tell you many
things: your soil type, your P.H. balance, which nutrient are
needed and how much to apply. It will also tell if you have
nematodes, what kind, and how many your soil contains.
Weed and Grass Problem
If the planting site had a weed and grass problem, you might
consider using a non-selective herbicide, such as RoundUp, to
kill the existing weeds. It's good to do this the summer before
planting. Or you could use a clean fallow type program. To do
this, simply till the planting site, and each time new weeds
emerge, till again. Do this the entire summer through the fall.
You will be ready for planting in the spring.
Low in Organic Matter
If your sight is low in organic matter, consider a green cover
crop to help build your soil back up. Simply till your site, sew
the seeds, and till it under after it reaches maturity. Your
county extension agent can help you decide which grain to plant.
Some of the more common ones are buckwheat, oats and rye grain.
Avoid Tomatoes, Potatoes, Eggplants in Recent Years
Avoid sites that have had certain vegetable crops in recent
years, such as tomatoes, potatoes, eggplants. These are host
plants for nematodes, and some viruses. A nematode is a
microscopic pathogen. which looks like a worm under a microscope.
There are only a few species that cause any real problems. The
root knot nematode, and the dagger nematode are the most
destructive. The root knot nematode will burrow inside the roots
and restrict the uptake of moisture and nutrients. Varieties of
fruit plants susceptive are strawberries, grapes and red and
black raspberries. Blackberries, blueberries, gooseberry,
currants, elderberries, and rhubarb are not generally effected by
nematodes. It is possible to reduce the numbers of nematodes by
starving them out. To do this, avoid planting a host plant for a
three to four year period, so that they have no plants to feed on
Or you may simply plant a fruit variety that is resistant to
The P.H. balance is also important for good growing
conditions. A PH of 7 is considered neutral, any number lower
than 7 is acidic. Anything above is alkaline. Here are some fruit
varieties and their most favorable PH levels.
- Blueberries - 4.5 to 5.5
- Red and Black Raspberries - 6.0 to 6.8
- Strawberries - 6.5 to 6.8
- Grapes - 6.0 to 7.5
- Gooseberries - 6.2 to 6.5
- Currants - 6.2 to 6.5
- Blackberries - 5.5 to 7.0
- Rhubarb - 6.0 to 7.0
- Elderberries - 6.0 to 7.0
- Asparagus - 6.0 to 7.0
To raise the PH level add lime as recommended by the soil
test. To lower the PH add sulfur. If you are unsure of how much
to apply, always consult your county extension agent. The soil
test will also tell the proper amount of nitrogen, phosphorus,
potassium, and certain other trace nutrients recommended.
For More Information
For more in depth details, we recommend reading the
Back Yard Berry Book which we offer.
For commercial growers we also recommend certain other helpful
books, like the Compendium Series books, from the
Phytopathological Society. Call or write us for any additional