Small Fruit 101

Grow and harvest your own small fruits with help from Burpee. Find answers to your most frequently asked questions right here, 24/7.

BLUEBERRY PLANTS

Q: How do I get the highest yield of blueberries?
A: Burpee recommends planting at least two different varieties of blueberries for better yield. Blueberries produce more berries and bigger berries when it can cross-pollinate with different blueberry varieties.
Q: When can I expect to harvest fruit from my blueberry plant?
A: After planting your blueberry in spring, you will harvest about one year after planting. Most new growth in your young blueberry plant comes from the crown under the soil. The plants will use a lot of root energy in its first spring. More energy will be devoted to fruit and flowering the following season.
Q: What kind of soil is best for growing blueberries?
A: Blueberries will only grow well in soils that meet their needs. The soil must drain well – no standing water. Provide a soil acidity pH of 5.0. You can incorporate rich organic matter into the soil or as a top dress. When planting a row of blueberries, space the plants 4-8 ft. / 1.2-2.4m apart. You can consider “hilling” the plants: Raise them above the natural soil level by 12-18 in. / 30-45cm. high and 3 ft. / 1m wide. This improves drainage and allows you to add organic matter throughout the season.

GRAPE PLANTS

Q: How many grape plants do I need to produce fruit?
A: Only one plant is needed to produce fruit. You will see your first full harvest 2-3 years after planting.
Q: How should I support my grape vines?
A: Provide your plants an arbor, pergola or vertical trellis. This will encourage tall growth, strong roots and access to plenty of sunlight. Be sure to plant your young grape vine away from foot traffic on the outside of the structure and encourage growth to attach to the support using loose string or wire as it establishes.
Q: What are some long-term care tips for grapes?
A: Grape vines can produce for decades if they remain in good health. During its first few seasons, remove fruit from the vine to allow the main stem shoot to grow strong. Prune your grape vine each year in early spring to cut back old growth from the main canes. Grapes will only form on new shoots from the main cane, so by removing the older branching it encourages more fruiting.

STRAWBERRY PLANTS

Q: Will my strawberries produce all year?
A: To ensure you harvest strawberry fruit all season long, be sure to select the right strawberry variety. There are two types: June-bearing, and Everbearing. June-bearing strawberries will only give one large crop of berries a year. Everbearing strawberry varieties aren’t affected by day-length so they can continue to bear fruit year-round if summer temperatures stay below 75°F / 24°C and winter temperatures stay above freezing. Note that June-bearing plants produce the second year after planting. Cut all runners off during the first year; leave 2-3 runners the second year.
Q: How and where should I grow my strawberry plants?
A: Choose a location with loose, well-drained soil that contains plenty of organic matter. Strawberries can also be planted in containers, pyramid gardens, or as an edging for flower and shrub borders. To grow in rows, space strawberry plants 18-24 in. / 45-61cm apart in rows 3-5 ft. / 1-1.5m apart. “Runners” will form new plants and eventually form a solid bed of strawberries.

Make sure the root ball is sufficiently moist. Carefully unpot the strawberry plant. Set plants so the crown is level with the surrounding soil line. Back fill the hole with soil and press soil firmly against the root ball. Water frequently until plants are growing vigorously.
Q: What is the best way to harvest strawberries?
A: Pick your strawberries when its ripe and fully red. You should harvest the berry with a short piece of stalk attached. Regular picking will help keep the plants fruiting. Strawberries are best eaten straight off the plant, and may be kept for up to a week in the refrigerator if kept dry. Berries are also easily frozen or made into preserves.
Q: What other tips do you have on growing strawberries?
  • Watering is very important in early summer and again in September before frost.
  • Apply a light mulch around the base of the plants to keep weeds down, conserve moisture and keep fruit clean.
  • Fertilize beds in early summer and again in fall with a balanced fertilizer. Do not fertilize if plants are flowering.
  • Winter protection for all strawberry varieties is important in most northern areas. Apply a mulch of straw or other loose organic matter 2-3 in. / 5-7cm deep over the plants after the ground freezes but before the temperature drops below 20°F / -6°C. In spring, pull the mulch back into the rows.

RASPBERRY PLANTS

Q: How do I plant my raspberry plants?
A: Choose a well-drained, sunny location with no standing water. Prepare the soil before planting by mixing compost or other organic matter in with the soil. Work the soil deeply. Space the raspberry canes 3 ft. / 1m apart in rows 6 ft. / 1.8m apart. Dig each hole to twice the size of the root mass. Tip: Plant black and purple raspberry varieties 100 ft. / 30m away from red and yellow varieties. This limits the chance for cross pollination.

Set the plant in the hole at the same depth as it was growing in the pot. Backfill the hole and press firmly around the base of the planting. Water deeply. The water will seal off any air pockets around the root ball. After planting, be sure to mark the plants with plant labels so you know where they are and what varieties they are. Mulch with 2-3 in. / 5-7cm of compost of pine needles to retain moisture and prohibit weed growth.
Q: My raspberry plant is growing wildly. What should I do?
A: Keep weeds under control during the growing season. Weeds compete with plants for water, space and nutrients. Control them by either cultivating often or use a mulch to prevent their seeds from germinating. Add mulch each year as needed.

Remove all wild brambles near cultivated varieties to prevent virus diseases. Cane fruits may need further support to help prevent against wind damage and make for easier harvest. Tie canes to wire that is strung parallel between two posts at either end of the row.
Q: How do I prune my raspberry plants?
A: There are two types of raspberries: Standard and Everbearing. Standard raspberries bear fruit in the summer on old canes and vertical branches. Everbearing continues to bear fruit during the growing season of planting. These can be pruned to produce fruit once a year or twice a year.

Pruning Standard Raspberries
  • Do not prune the first year EXCEPT to remove dead, damaged or diseased wood.
  • Each spring select 5 or 6 of the most vigorous new canes and cut them back to 30 in. / 76cm tall. All other canes can be removed.
  • Remove and destroy canes immediately after they fruit in their second summer. They will not bear again.
  • Add a summer topping of organic matter to encourage side shoots off the canes to the pruning done in early spring and after harvest. Pinch back 3-4 in. / 7-10cm off shoots up to 24 in. / 60cm tall.
Pruning Everbearing Raspberries
  • Do not prune the first year EXCEPT to remove dead, damaged or diseased wood.
  • Each spring select 5 or 6 of the most vigorous new canes and cut them back to 30 in. / 76cm tall. All other NEW canes can be removed.
  • Do not remove last year’s fruiting canes – they will fruit again in early summer. Pinch back 3-4 in. / 7-10cm off their lateral branches.
  • Expect new canes to fruit in the fall of their first year and in early summer of their second year.
  • Remove and destroy old canes immediately after their second fruit in early summer of their second year. They will not bear again.