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Archive date:  March 28, 2001

Small Fruits in the Home Garden

A delicious addition to the landscape!

Small fruits such as strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, and grapes are tasty additions to the home landscape. There is almost always a place for them, even in small yards. For instance, strawberries are an excellent groundcover and make a cute border for a flowerbed. Grapes and raspberries look nice on a trellis or a fence, and blueberries may be planted to form a dense hedge.

When planning a small fruit planting, select an area that receives full sun and is free from frost pockets, low/wet spots, and exposure to strong winds. Small fruits thrive in a fertile, sandy loam soil high in organic matter, but they will give good returns in average garden soil with a little TLC.


Strawberries

Strawberries are the most widely home-cultivated small fruit in America. They are adaptable to a broad range of soil and climatic conditions. The most important requirement is to provide a well-drained site in full sun.

'Delmarvel' is productive on a variety of different soil types. It is an attractive berry with good aroma and flavor. Plants have excellent disease resistance and good winter hardiness.

'Earliglow' is a variety noted for its superior dessert quality and disease resistance. The medium-large berries are very attractive with a glossy, deep-red color. It is one of the best for eating fresh, as a frozen product, and in jams and jellies. The plants are very vigorous and productive; however, they bloom early and are subject to frost injury.


Grapes

Grapes can be grown almost anywhere as long as the right varieties are selected for the area. There are many varieties that perform well in and around Nashville. Its fun to include several varieties that ripen at different times, providing a show of fruit all season.

'Himrod', a new golden-yellow grape, has good flavor and is almost seedless. Hardy, vigorous, and productive, it has been superior to its sister seedling, 'Interlaken', in areas where both have been grown.

'Concord' is by far the most widely planted blue-black grape. The good-quality fruit ripens unevenly some seasons in warm climates. Concord is an excellent variety for the home gardener! The vines are vigorous and productive.

'Niagara' has green-white berries and is used in wine and as a table grape. It is the most widely planted white American grape in the United States and is being used more and more for white juice.



Blackberries

Blackberries prefer a light, well-drained soil with a high moisture holding capacity. Do not plant them where tomatoes, potatoes, or eggplants have grown previously; the site may be infected with verticillium wilt and the berries cannot grow there.

'Black Satin' is a thornless, semi-erect blackberry and is very productive and hardy. The fruit is large, firm, jet-black when fully ripe and has a delicious flavor. Peak quality is attained two to three days after the berry turns black.



Raspberries

Raspberries are the hardiest of the cane berries and are excellent as a homegrown fruit. Raspberries are usually expensive at the market because of the high labor costs during harvest. Also, they are usually harvested before they ripen for easier shipping. At home they can be eaten right off the vine making them a more than worthy homegrown fruit!

'Latham' is the standard, spring-bearing, red raspberry grown in the eastern United States. Plants of this variety are vigorous, productive, and somewhat tolerant to viral diseases. The berries are above average in size, firm, and attractive. The flavor is somewhat tart, but the quality is good.



Blueberries

Blueberries may be grown in any area where native blueberries, azaleas, mountain laurel, or rhododendrons do well. They have a better flavor when grown where nights are cool during the ripening season. They are very exacting in soil and moisture requirements, but require little protection from insect and disease pests. Birds are the primary pest; netting helps to keep then out. To provide adequate cross-pollination and to increase chances for a good crop of fruit, two or more varieties of blueberries should be planted.

'Bluecrop' - Highbush - Although lacking in vigor, 'Bluecrop' is very hardy and drought-resistant. The fruits are large, light blue, firm, and resistant to cracking. Their dessert quality is excellent.

'Tiffblue' - Rabbiteye blueberries (Vaccinium ashei) have black, often dull fruit about 3/4 inch in diameter. These plants can grow in drier soils and are more productive than highbush blueberries.