Strawberries, Blueberries, Raspberries, and Blackberries
at Plow Creek Farm in Tiskilwa, Illinois
"The best berries are the ones you pick yourself."
For current availability and schedule, visit our
Farm Headlines page,
which is updated daily during harvest season.
Plow Creek Farm is located near Tiskilwa, IL in Bureau County.
Some people say "pick your own" (PYO), "Pick it yourself" or "self-pick"; others say "You-Pick" which is written "U-pick", "U-pik" or even "U-pic", but any which way, it is a fun and economical way to get the fresh berries you want.
Bring the family or the gang. Children are very welcome -- even if they eat more than they put in their containers. First-timers may benefit from this detailed description of how to pick strawberries.
Pick Your Own crops include:
Strawberries, Blueberries, Blackberries and Raspberries.
Strawberry picking season begins between mid-May to the second week
of June, depending on the weather. Picking lasts three or four weeks.
See our Strawberry News
when the season approaches for schedules and crop reports.
We regularly get comments on how our strawberries are the best strawberries people have ever tasted.
Our strawberries are certified naturally grown, the grassroots alternative to certified organic strawberries, following the OMRI organic standards.
You may pick your own strawberries, order strawberries in bulk, or buy strawberries at our farmers' markets.
2017For 2017 we expect to be picking 35 (500 foot) rows of strawberries covering about 1.4 acres.
Early Season (7 rows)
- 3 rows of L'Amour
- 3 rows of AC Valley Sunset
Earliglow yields deep red uniformly colored berries known for their sweet flavor. They are usually the earliest to ripen. Many of us here think they are the best tasting. But after the first picking, later berries are often pretty small. Many think the extra work is worth it. They're great for making jams and jelly.
Galetta (new for 2016) ripens early with very large, deep red fruit that is symmetrical and round. Flavor is quite variable with weather but tends toward tart - a good dessert berry. We have found it to be a good early producer. It is rapidly growing in popularity.
L'Amour (new for 2016) proved its reputation for excellent fruit quality - firm, bright red berries with excellent flavor. Long, round conic shape with a fancy calyx makes them very attractive. L'Amour is adapted to a wide range of soil conditions and is very vigorous. Losing size as midseason varieties come in, it is not the most productive variety, but a good consistent performer.
Flavorfest (new for 2016) is one of the newest and most promising varieties available. Customer response in 2016 was almost entirely positive. Berries are large with an attractive bright red color and a plump, rounded wedge appearance. Flavor is not as complex as Jewel, but quite sweet and satisfying even to long-time U-Pickers and resident connoisserus here. It has a long harvest period, good yield potential and holds size well through the season. Plants are vigorous and have shown excellent leaf disease resistance. In fall 2015 and 2016, these were the healthiest plants in our field.
Jewel has large, excellent quality fruit, especially delicious for desserts and for freezing. Later in the season, berries become smaller but maintain Jewel's satifying balance of sweetness and tartness. This variety is also admired for its appearance: bright red with primary berries wedge-shaped and later berries mostly conical. Jewel has been the midseason standard throughout much of the country for decades, including here at Plow Creek.
Rutgers Scarlet (new for 2017) is a new release from the Rutgers breeding program. This variety was bred specifically to supply outstanding berry quality and exceptional flavor to a local market. It has generated quite a bit of excitement out East, and was rated by our plant supplier as "some of the best flavor out of any of the varieties that we offer."
AC Valley Sunset - starts and lasts later in the season than our other varieties. Berries are lighter red, shiny and very large. Flavor and yield are very good most years, but can be hindered by excess rain.
Blueberries Pictures News How to pick blueberries
Plow Creek Farm has 15 varieties of blueberries, ripening usually from mid to late June into August or September. We have 28 rows, averaging about 250 feet long. In 2011 and 2012 late frosts greatly hurt blueberry production. The 2012 drought damaged some bushes, but most of the bushes were loaded again in 2013. The 2014 harvest was very small across much of the Midwest, including here, following extreme cold that killed blueberry branches. Production was better in 2015 and we expect continued recovery if weather is anywhere near normal.
You may pick your own bluewberries, order blueberries in bulk, or buy blueberries at our farmers' markets. Be be sure to check our schedule before coming to pick.
Many people come back year after year to pick blueberries on our very peaceful Blueberry Hill. We get great reports about their flavor. People are learning about newly discovered health benefits of blueberries.
We use the blueberries in jam, pies, muffins, and fresh and frozen on cereal.
- 2 rows Bluetta
- 4 rows Bluejay
- 3 rows Spartan
- 3 rows Blueray
- 7 1/2 rows Bluecrop
- 1 1/2 rows Jersey
- 1 1/2 rows Coville
- 1 1/2 rows Elliot
- Joan J
They ripen roughly in this order, from west to east. There are also a number of large scattered Late Blue, plus some smaller bushes of Duke, Toro, Nelson, Aurora, and Elizabeth.
Blackberries Pictures News
2014Early 2014 was exceptionally cold, and killed about 90% of the older blackberry floricanes and all of the floricanes of the new 2013 planting. Floricanes are the second year canes that would produce fruit. We may bring a few to market, but it looks unlikely that we will open for limited picking. We do not expect this to hurt the plants permanantly, just this year's crop. Our older blackberries, up on Blueberry Hill, had been attacked by blackberry rosette disease. The most effective organic way to combat this is to mow them down, skipping a year's crop so we did not have blackberries available in 2012. The 2012 drought hurt them, but gave a fair crop in 2013 and we have hope for a good crop in 2015.
In spring 2013 we planted two 400 foot rows of new blackberries in the field by our strawberry plants. These are mostly thornless varieties said to be resistant to blackberry rosette disease. We planted Arapaho, Navaho,Ouachita, Apache, and Chester. These rows also include some Boysenberry and Loganberry, which are blackberry-raspberry hybrids that look pretty much like blackberries, but a different flavor. These should start have started bearing berries in 2014 but froze. It will probably be a few years for full production.
Blackberries have been rated the antioxidant champ.
Our older blackberry plants, up Blueberry Hill, are the thorny ones,
so dress appropriately for the challenge.
Wear extra sturdy clothes or those you don't mind being ripped.
Schedule and news | Picking Guide
One of the bigger bushes of our new planting
| Most of our older red raspberry plants had died or
outlived their productive lifespan, so in Spring 2013 we
planted a new acre of raspberries in the field by our
strawberries. These surprised us by bearing well the first
year, so we expect to have excellent quantities for 2014.
The planting includes 6 varieties
designed to have ripe berries from July until they freeze in
the fall. We'll have to wait and see to be sure, but we
expect we may be open for picking red raspberries much of
We again expect an abundant crop of Red Raspberries for 2015 U-Pick. Initially in June and early July, there is only enough for market sales. Keep checking the Raspberry News page for field reports and U-Pick schedule as the season progresses.
Once the season is in full swing, you may pick your own raspberries, order raspberries in bulk, or buy raspberries at our farmers' markets.
Picking in our new patch
We strive to grow all crops using healthy, sustainable, even if not certified organic, farming practices .