Grow blackberries in containers

Container Grown Blackberries: How To Grow Blackberries In A Container

Where I live, blackberries abound. For some people, the darn things are a pain in the neck and, if left unchecked, can take over a property. I love them, however, and because they grow so easily in any green space, choose not to include them in my landscape but rather go picking them in the surrounding country. I guess I’m afraid they will be a little too enthusiastic in the garden, and maybe you are too, but a great way to coral them is by growing blackberries in containers. Keep reading to find out how to grow blackberries in a container.

How to Grow Blackberries in a Container

Blackberries are quite easy to grow in USDA zones 6-8 but, as mentioned, once established can grow out of hand. A great way to contain their rather rabid growth is by growing blackberries in containers. Blackberries grown in a pot cannot escape into surrounding garden spaces.

First things first, selecting the right cultivar for container grown blackberries. Really, any variety of blackberries can be grown in a pot, but thornless varieties are especially suited for small spaces and patios. Some of these include:

  • “Chester”
  • “Natchez”
  • “Triple Crown”

Also, the erect varieties of berry that do not require trellising are ideal for container grown blackberries. Amongst these are:

  • “Arapaho”
  • “Kiowa”
  • “Ouachita”

Next, you need to select your container. For blackberries grown in a pot, choose containers that are 5 gallons (19 l.) or larger with room for at least 6 inches (15 cm.) of soil. Blackberry roots spread out rather than down, so you can get away with a shallow container as long as you have room for the plant to develop canes.

Plant your blackberry in either potting soil or a topsoil blend. Check to see what variety you purchased and whether it needs a trellis or not. If so, at planting attach the structure to a wall or fence to allow the plant to clamber up.

Caring for Blackberries in Pots

Keep in mind that with blackberries in pots, anything in pots for that matter, require more water than if they were planted in the garden. Water the plants when the top inch of soil is dry, which might even be daily.

Use a complete balanced fertilizer to the feed the berries to promote fruiting. A slow release fertilizer should be applied once in the spring, or a regular balanced fertilizer for fruiting trees and shrubs can be used each month during the growing season.

Otherwise, caring for blackberries in pots is more a matter of maintenance. Blackberries yield their best crops on 1-year-old canes, so as soon as you have harvested, cut down the old canes to ground level. Tie up new canes that have grown during the summer.

If the plants appear to be outgrowing the container, divide them every 2-4 years during winter when they are dormant. Also, in the winter, container grown blackberries need some protection. Mulch around the base of the plants or heel the pots into the soil and then mulch over top.

A little TLC and your container grown blackberries will give you years of blackberry pies and crumbles, all the jam you can eat and smoothies galore.

How to Grow Blackberries

Blackberry is great plant for any home gardener – it provides so much and require very little. As a fruit to grow, blackberry is not demanding plant and grows well in temperate zone.

If you decide to grow blackberries, it is very important to learn few things:

– how to select and prepare the soil for planting,
– how to select blackberry varieties that suit your soil, position and needs,
– how to maintain crops in order to achieve better yields and high quality of the fruits.

Blackberry is a perennial shrub of the family Rosaceae. It is possible to grow blackberries in both warm and cold regions – some varieties tolerate warmer, even tropical conditions.

Blackberry bush consists of relatively long shoots that grow from the roots and without support, they usually bend toward the ground. With enough moisture in the soil, branches that come in contact with the soil start to root – this is just one of the many ways blackberries can be propagated in backyard garden.

The leaves consist of 3 to 7 serrated elliptical small leaves, light to dark green in color. Blackberry flowers are small to medium-large, white, sometimes with light pink shades. Blackberry blooms from May onwards. Fruits are drupes aggregate with different forms and sizes – oval, round or elongated. The color of ripe blackberry is commonly gloss black.

Blackberry Types and Varieties

Blackberry shrubs can be divided into two basic types:

Erect blackberries – this type of blackberry shrubs have strong shoots that hold themselves upright – these blackberries require no additional support. These varieties are usually more resistant to low temperatures. Most common varieties are: Cherokee, Cheyenne, Shawnee etc.

Trailing blackberry – to grow vertically, this type of blackberries require some kind of support. Most common varieties are: Thornless, Black Satin, Boysenberry, Logan, Marion, Thornless Evergreen, Young, Waldo etc.

Semi-erect types – these blackberries have strong shoots, but they still require support to grow upright.

In addition to these basic divisions, blackberry cultivars also differ according to:

– if shrubs have thorns or not,
– if shrubs are deciduous or evergreen.

Most varieties can be purchased in both versions: with thorns or thornless. For growing blackberries in backyard garden, thornless varieties are highly recommended. On the other hand, when compared to the varieties with thorns, thornless varieties are somewhat susceptible to bad weather conditions – during both winter and summer.

Soil Selection for Growing Blackberries

Blackberry thrives in almost any soil that is commonly found in most backyards and small gardens. However, for growing blackberries one should avoid warm sandy soils, as well as cold, heavy and overly moist soils. The most suitable growing soils for blackberries are sandy loam, moderately moist soils of loess and similar soils. The best yields and best fruits are achieved on well-drained terrains with some peat or humus. Humus content should be around 2-4%, while the soil should be slightly acidic, with a pH being between 5.5 and 6.5.

What positions should be selected for growing blackberries?

Blackberries prefer warm and sunny positions. They can grow and bear fruits on partly shaded positions, but this can affect the quality of the fruits. Also, warm and dry winds could threaten blackberry plants, so it will dry out the soil and prevent proper flowering. Therefore, best positions for growing blackberries are:

– protected from the wind,
– well aerated and well-drained soils with pH 5.5 – 6.5,
– positions with plenty of sunlight.

If there are no dangers from the strong winds, the usual direction for planting blackberries is in the direction north – south. With enough distance between the rows (depending on the planned height of grown plants), this direction provide optimum amount of sunlight for every plant.

Choosing the most suitable position for growing blackberries depends on the local climate.

Blackberries prefer moderate conditions, although there are varieties that can thrive in warmer, almost tropical conditions. Therefore, the general rule is that in warmer areas at lower altitudes (200-300 m) one should avoid warmer southern locations – gentle slope toward east or west, or even north is preferred. For north – south slopes, varieties that prefer warmer conditions should be chosen. If you plan on growing only several plants in your home garden, choose position according to your local climate – in warmer areas, plant blackberries on partly shaded locations and in colder areas, choose sunny positions. Even better, plant them in suitable, larger, flower pots and test your plants – when you find the best position for plants you have, keep them there permanently. Note that blackberries can live up to or even more than 15 years!

In colder areas and at higher altitudes (up to 700 m) it is good practice to avoid northern positions. Choose terrain with gentle slope to the south, in order to protect blackberries from excessive cold and frost.

Although growing blackberries is possible in both colder and warmer areas, most varieties still don’t tolerate extreme heat. The long, hot and dry summers are not especially suitable for growing blackberries – there is increased risk of soil drying out, premature fruit ripening and even plants themselves can be in danger.

During winter, blackberries are very resistant to frost, but during the harsher winter days, cold could threaten shallow root system, especially if the soil is too wet (hence the importance of soil with good drainage). In such conditions, some winter cover is required in order to protect the plants and especially root system.

Fertilization and Soil Maintenance

Blackberries don’t require especially fertile soil – however, they will bear plenty of fruits when grown in the moderately rich, well drained soils. Fertilization should be carried out twice a year – in early spring (in March or April) and in autumn after the harvest (the best early October).

For spring fertilization, use mineral fertilizer rich in nitrogen (for example 20:10:10), but also add some humus and/or compost. If you have only several blackberry plants, using fertilizer optimized for berries with gradual release of nutrients is highly recommended. This is not the cheapest option, but on small scale, why not?

In the autumn, it is recommended to use manure, about 2-3 kg per square meter. If the soil is fertile, this process is repeated only every two or three years.

When manure is used, one should avoid the use of nitrogen fertilizers and limit the application of phosphorus and potassium fertilizers. If you do not use manure in the autumn, use NPK fertilizer – with the nutrient ratio of 10:12:26 or 15:15:15 – depending on the quality of the soil. After the fertilization, plow the soil some 10 cm (4 inches) in depth.

Support System for Growing Blackberries

Support system for semi-erect and trailing varieties must be set before or immediately after planting blackberries. For this purpose, use poles and galvanized wire – the shoots are loosely tied to the wires during their growth. The columns can be made out of different materials, like concrete, wood, metal or plastic. The main pillars are buried 0.5 to 0.7 m deep and are anchored there – usually with concrete. Similarly, columns are buried up to the 0.5m and anchored usually with some concrete – if you can, make support system in the autumn and plant the blackberries later.

Height of columns and number of wires vary, depending on the type of support system (single- wire support system, two-wire support system etc.), planted blackberries, wind conditions etc.

If you plan on growing blackberries in your garden, the most simplest way is to use 2.5 – 3 m (8-10 feet) poles (remember that 0.5 – 0.7m of them is buried in the ground) placed around 3 m (10 feet) apart, with two strong plants between each pole. Place first wire some 0.6 – 0.9 m (2-3 feet) above ground and then single wire every 0.3 – 0.5 m (1 – 1.5 feet). This way, shoots have solid support that protect them and hold firmly even during strong winds.

Of course, if you are growing erect blackberries, you don’t need support system – great for small gardens and growing them in flower pots on permanent and semi-permanent positions.

Blackberry Plants – Planting

When buying blackberry plants, select those that have been tested for the presence of diseases and pests. Growing healthy plants from the beginning is very important, even when growing such plants like blackberries.

If you are planning on growing wild blackberries, before planting them in your garden, be sure to treat them in order to avoid any danger of diseases and pests.

Blackberries are planted in late autumn or winter, until the beginning of April. Before planting, be sure to add some humus to the soil – it will naturally regulate soil moisture and pH factor. Also, if needed, add some sand (but not much! – blackberries don’t like sandy soils, but sand in small quantities actually can improve soil characteristics) and/or peat. On really heavy soils, one should add some peat, compost, humus and even some gravel up to 50cm deep (20 inches) in order to increase water drainage.

During the autumn, or at least a month before planting blackberries, plow the soil to a depth of 30 – 40 cm (12 – 16 cm). The spacing between rows and between plants in rows will depend on the chosen varieties and the support system. Spacing between plants for erect types of blackberries is around 60 – 120 cm (2-4 feet) and for trailing blackberries around 120 – 240 cm (4-8 feet).

In home gardens, distance between blackberry shrubs should be 1 – 1.5 m (3 – 5 feet) and this is the best along the fence. If you grow them in the flower pots, use larger pots (at least 60cm (2 feet) in diameter) and plant at most 2-3 plants per pot – in that case, be sure to water them regularly.

Watering of the Blackberry Plants

For proper growth, blackberries require moderate soil moisture. Water is very important in the development of annual shoots, but also for the growth of fruits. During the summer months, blackberries need about 30 mm (1.2 inches) of water every 7-10 days – that is around 20-30 liters of water per plant when grown in the garden soil every week. In the case of drip irrigation systems, this amount is slightly lower.

Actually, drip irrigation systems are recommended since they can be easily automated and they provide constant level of moisture in the soil.

Pruning of Blackberry Plants

The first pruning of the blackberries is done immediately after planting. Remove anything that doesn’t look healthy.

Plants that bear fruits are usually about 2 m high and should be shortened to 30 – 50 cm (1-2 feet) and smaller varieties up to 20 cm (8 inches). This will strengthen the roots and buds from which shoots will grow.

For better lighting and higher quality of the fruits, blackberry shrubs should be carefully thinned. Usually, one should leave 5-6 strong shoots (or 8-12 in stronger varieties) and the others are removed. Damaged or ill shoots should be cut to the ground. Two year old shoots that had fruits are also removed. At the end of the winter, it is good practice to shorten lateral twigs on one year old branches to the length of some 30-40 cm (12-16 inches). This way, the fruits next year will be bigger and better.

Picking Blackberries

The blackberry fruit is very sensitive and susceptible to rapid deterioration. If blackberries are harvested for consumption as fresh fruit, it is best to pick them just before full maturity and carefully place them in smaller packages. It is best to use containers that hold around 120g (4 ounces) to not more than 500g (around one pound). Fresh blackberries kept in a cool, dark place can hold up to 4 days. If you grow blackberries in home garden, wait till they are fully ripped and consume them right after picking – within minutes!

It is best to harvest blackberries early in the morning or late in the afternoon to avoid the summer day’s heat. Also, freshly harvested fruits should in no way be left in the sun – they will rapidly deteriorate, lose moisture and their glossy black appearance.

During raining days, blackberries should not be harvested, except for immediate consumption – moist fruits lose quality rapidly.

Note: for any home gardener, quality, taste and aroma of the picked blackberries should be priority, not the size! This is true for many berries.

Growing blackberries – Tips and Tricks

Here are few tips and tricks for growing strong and healthy blackberries that bear strong, healthy and great tasting fruits:

– avoid growing blackberries on positions where previously were grown plants like potatoes, tomatoes, raspberries, peppers, grapes, apples and peaches. These plants share similar diseases and pests with blackberries.

– blackberries should be grown on the positions on which previously grew plants like Sudan grass, wheat, oats or rye. If you plan on growing blackberries in large flower pots, it is best to use good, sterile, potting soil.

– blackberries like mulching – to prevent soil erosion, reduce moisture evaporation and prevent weeds to grow, spread mulch across the topsoil in your blackberry rows or pots. The best mulch for blackberries is mulch based on pine bark and wheat straw. Also, using black plastic foil is also recommended, especially if drip irrigation system is in place – be sure to protect black plastic foil with mulch, since such plastic is not very durable when exposed to strong sunlight. Organic mulch is preferred, since it slowly decompose and feeds the plants gradually and keep the pH factor in desired range (pH 5.5 – 6.5 for blackberries)

– if you take care of your blackberries, they will bear fruits for 15-20 years, some even more. Planning is very important before planting such long-lived plants.

Long Story Short – if you have small patch of soil in your garden, or you have space for few 60cm (2 feet) flower pots, grow blackberries – these plants will give you ample of healthy and tasty fruits, while leaves can be used for making great tea.

Planting & Pruning Berry Vines

SERIES 17 | Episode 22

The edge of the Dandenong Ranges, east of Melbourne, is known as the heart of berry country. Here they grow strawberries, loganberries, raspberries, boysenberries, brambleberries – just about every berry you can name.

While winter may be the coldest time of year and last season’s berries may be just a distant memory, the efforts you put into their cultivation now will reap rewards next season.

Gavin Proctor has spent over a quarter of a century growing delicious berries so there is no better person to turn to for advice on cultivating the plants.

Berries are usually sold as bare rooted plants. When buying next year’s raspberry canes, look out for ones that are nice and white because that means that plant is alive and healthy.

Thornless blackberries have nice fibrous roots, and thinner canes than raspberries.

If you decide to grow berries at home, areas with a cool winter provide the right growing conditions so anywhere along the ranges, up into New South Wales, most of Victoria, the Adelaide hills and Tasmania.

According to Gavin there are cultivars of raspberries that are autumn fruiting and have good flavour, but are too soft to grow commercially.

When planting raspberries Gavin recommends starting with at least three canes to produce about six to nine canes and lots of berries when mature.

Raspberries like well drained soil, with plenty of humus and should be planted about a metre apart and at the depth they were originally in the ground. Tuck the roots in and cut the canes off.

Boysenberries should be planted a little further apart because they, like other brambleberries (including loganberries, young berries, and blackberries) are robust plants. Plant two canes in the same hole. They don’t need to be fertilised initially, but in spring add some good general purpose fertiliser, lots of potash, and not too much nitrogen.

Gavin says that it’s also important to construct a trellis to support the berry canes. He suggests a pine post at either end of the row with two support wires for brambleberries, and one support wire for raspberries.

Maintaining and pruning soft cane fruit is really important. Young plants tend to produce a lot of canes which need thinning out. But as they mature, remove the last year’s stems and maintain young canes. Tie the canes against the trellis and cut off excess growth.

Boysenberries are much more wanton in their growth but prune using the same principle. Cut the old wood out of all brambleberries, including boysenberries, loganberries, young berries, and blackberries. Bundle the young canes together and wind them over the wire, and down to a second wire.

Growing berries is not too difficult. It’s a question of good soil preparation and then making a choice about which wonderful berries to have all summer.

How to Grow Berries in Containers

Not only is growing berries in containers simpler than you think, but doing so doesn’t require a huge yard or giant trees. All you need is a trusty pot, a spot in full sun, and plenty of water to grow delicious berries for smoothies, desserts, and more. Learn how to grow blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries with a few faithful tips.

Image zoom Marty Baldwin Marty Baldwin

Basics of Growing Berries in Containers

Sun requirements: All fruiting plants, whether you’re growing berries in pots or in the ground, produce the most berries in full sun. Provide at least six to eight hours of sun per day.

Water needs: Berries in containers need more water than plants in the ground. Because terra-cotta is a breathable material, plants in those containers dry out even faster than those planted in plastic or ceramic pots. Check the soil in your containers daily to be sure it stays moist but not wet. In windy or hot conditions, plants might even need watering twice a day. Before watering, insert your finger up to the first joint in the soil to determine whether water is needed.

Choose the right container: The key to success is always growing berries in containers with drainage holes. Roots allowed to stay in standing water will rot. Pour water over the soil until you see water running out of the drainage holes.

Image zoom Laurie Black Laurie Black

How to Grow Raspberries in Containers

Some raspberry varieties grow too large to easily grow in containers, but newer types, such as ‘Heritage’ or ‘Raspberry Shortcake’, a dwarf, thornless variety, are well suited to growing in large pots. If you choose another variety, be sure it is a fall-bearing type.

Planting tips: Plant raspberries in a container that is at least 24 to 36 inches wide and deep. Half-barrels or five-gallon pots are ideal sizes that allow enough room for new canes to grow in future years. Start with 3 to 6 canes, depending on the size of the container.

Soil and fertilizer: Use a soilless potting mix for growing raspberries in a container. Because you’re likely going to eat the raspberries, we recommend using an organic fertilizer. Apply fertilizer soon after planting in the spring.

Pruning and other care: Raspberries are perennials that usually set fruit on two-year-old canes. You might get some berries the first year you plant them but full bearing begins in year two. New green sprouts will grow to become fruiting canes for the following year. Prune all dead canes—ones with no new growth—at ground level.

Winter care: In regions with harsh winters, move the raspberry pots to an unheated garage, allowing the plants to go dormant but watering just enough to keep them alive. Return the growing raspberry bushes to a sunny location after danger of frost passes. If you choose to leave the pot in place, insulate it with mulch for winter protection. Avoid using ceramic or terra-cotta pots outdoors year-round in cold climates, as freeze-thaw cycles can crack those containers.

Image zoom Laurie Black Laurie Black

How to Grow Blueberries in Containers

Growing blueberries indoors is great because it’s easy to control the soil conditions they like best. Start with a pot that’s at least 20 to 24 inches wide or larger.

Planting tips: Choose a potting-mix soil for blueberries designed for acid-loving plants like rhododendrons, azaleas, or camellias. Look for a pH balance between 4.5 and 5.5.

Soil and fertilizer: Use an organic fertilizer designed for acid-loving plants. Apply in early and late spring to promote growth and fruit production, then stop fertilizing for the year. Feel free to occasionally sprinkle used coffee grounds on the top of the soil around blueberry plants.

Pruning and other care: In early spring, prune any dead wood. Otherwise, blueberries need no other pruning unless you want to shape the plant.

Most blueberry plants need one to two other types of blueberry plants nearby for pollination. However, some varieties of plants, including ‘Peach Sorbet’ and ‘Jelly Bean’ are self-pollinating, although they might produce better with more plants nearby.

If you live in a year-round warm climate, remember when growing blueberries indoors that blueberries need cold temperatures for a certain number of hours to produce fruit. Check with your local Cooperative Extension Service to find varieties best suited for your climate.

In general, choose a container variety that is cold tolerant to one hardiness zone colder than the one you live in. ‘Sunshine Blue’ is a good variety for warmer climates; ‘Top Hat’ is good for cold regions.

Winter care: In regions with harsh winters, move the blueberry pots to an unheated garage, allowing the plants to go dormant but watering just enough to keep them alive. Return the pot to a sunny location after danger of frost passes. If you choose to leave the pot in place, insulate it with mulch for winter protection. Avoid using ceramic or terra-cotta pots outdoors year round in cold climates, as freeze-thaw cycles can crack those containers. Growing blueberries indoors also works well.

Image zoom Jason Donnelly Jason Donnelly

How to Grow Strawberries in Containers

Because of their small root systems, growing strawberries in pots is an ideal scenario. Although any pot that’s at least 18 inches wide and 8 inches deep will do, you might want to plant in a hanging basket or a strawberry pot, which features a series of pockets along the sides of the container as well as an opening at the top. A container that is wider than it is deep, such as a half-barrel, allows you to grow more plants.

Planting tips: Check the plant tag, but a rule of thumb is to plant strawberries in pots about 10 inches apart. Some varieties can be spaced closer. Be sure to cover the roots with soil, but avoid burying the crown (the central growing bud) to prevent rot.

Soil and fertilizer: Use a bagged potting mix and avoid garden soil, which won’t drain properly. Growing strawberries requires little additional organic fertilizer.

How many strawberry plants do I need?: That depends on the use, but plan 6 to 10 plants per person for fresh consumption as they ripen.

The best strawberries for containers: Day-neutral types, which produce strawberries throughout the growing season and produce fewer runner plants, are best for containers. Some day-neutral varieties to consider include Tribute, Tristar, and Seascape. Everbearing varieties, which produce fruit two times in a growing season, also may be chosen. Avoid June-bearing types that produce only one crop per year and often don’t bear fruit their first year.

Winter care: There are two choices: Discard the plant, dump out the potting soil, and store the pots inside during winter. Or, carefully water the growing strawberries until late fall, then store the container in an unheated garage, allowing plants to go dormant and watering just enough to keep them alive. Return the pot to a sunny location after danger of frost passes.

  • By Deb Wiley

Thornless Blackberry Plants for the home Garden

Blackberries-Thornless

Thornless Blackberry plants are a developed cultivar of the common blackberry that provide a high cropping blackberry that is (almost) thornless.

Two varieties are commonly available in Australia, ‘Chester’ and ‘Thornfree’, ‘Chester’ is a little later to fruit, but both are heavy cropping varieties with excellent fruit

Thornless Blackberries will fruit from January through to March depending on conditions. make a wonderful addition to the home garden.

Thornless blackberry plants are sold as bare rooted canes during winter when dormant. They will grow to nearly 2m and will need some support to keep them in an upright growing position.

Fruit is ripe when nice and dark and beginning to turn soft. ‘Chester’ is the name of the most popular thornless blackberry cultivar.

‘Waldo’ is fairly easy variety of thornless blackberry to grow, although it will need support. Large sweet fruit, well suited to the home garden. ‘Thornfree’, ‘Chester’ and ‘Adrienne’ are other varieties offered.

Thornless Blackberries perform best in a sunny position in a humus rich well drained soil. Best grown on a trellis about 2m tall, and should be netted using bird netting when fruiting to prevent crop loss.

Prune old and weak canes after fruiting. New shoots should be tied into bunches and left as these will be the new fruiting shoots.

Try growing thornless blackberries in a large pot or container with a climbing frame, if you keep them well watered and fertilized they will produce masses of fruit in the summer months. Or grow along a fence in an espalier type of situation.

The best time to buy Thornless Blackberry Canes

In winter when plants are dormant, they are easily posted at this time, ready for immediate planting.

Thornless Blackberry plants are available for sale form the following nurseries

WHITE HOUSE NURSERY – Jess Exiner & Peter Harris
412 James Lane, Fern Hill VIC. 3458 – Phone 0419002651
Large range of Rare plants, Climbers, Bulbs, Perennials Fruit Trees, Ornamental Trees and Shrubs. Available both Retail and by Mail Order
www.whitehousenursery.com.auYALCA FRUIT TREES- Ph : 03 58682062
Mail order fruit tree nursery with over 200 temperate climate fruit trees.
Heritage varieties and dwarf fruit trees. Apple Trees, Stone Fruit, Nut Trees and Berry Fruit.
www.yalcafruittrees.com.auGARDEN EXPRESS – phone :1300 606 242
470 Monbulk-Silvan Road Monbulk VIC 3793
“Guaranteed mail order flowering bulbs, perennials, roses, trees, landscaping plants, garden accessories and community fundraising Austra lia-wide.”
www.gardenexpress.com.au

Growing Berries in Your Backyard

Watering. During the growing season blackberries require frequent irrigations so that they are always moist. Blackberry plants require approximately 1 to 2 inches of water per week from mid-May through October. It is best to keep the plants moist at all times without saturating the soil and rotting the roots. In general, irrigate twice a week, wetting the entire root system with each irrigation. However, during the fruiting stage or during hot and windy conditions, greater amounts and more frequent applications of water should be applied. Overhead irrigation promotes fruit rot and leaf diseases, so is not recommended for blackberries. When using drip irrigation, blackberries should be watered every day for 1 to 2 hours, longer in hot weather or when fruit is ripening.

Fertilizing. Blackberries require at least yearly applications of a nitrogen-containing fertilizer for good growth and fruit production. Apply 5 to 6 pounds of 20-20-20 or ammonium sulfate (21-0-0) fertilizer per 100 feet of row. If plants lack vigor, apply an additional 1 pound of ammonium nitrate (34-0-0) per 100 feet of row or 1.5 pounds of ammonium sulfate at bloom or midsummer, just prior to an irrigation. If you use manure or compost, apply it in the late fall or early winter to allow leaching of excess salts by rain.

How to Grow Blackberries in Arizona

blackberries image by Alison Bowden from Fotolia.com

The blackberry plant is a fruit-producing bramble that grows well in the sandy Arizona soil. Blackberries grow on 2-year-old canes with each plant capable of producing 3 to 10 pounds of berries in the two-year cycle. Arizona grown blackberries begin to ripen in May and continue to produce through June. Well-maintained plants will stay viable for up to 15 years, with the best fruit producing years being eight through 12.

Prepare a planting location that has a sandy soil, acidic pH and full sunlight. Test the soil pH to verify it is 4.5 to 7.5. Work ground rock sulfur into the soil to lower the pH number if needed.

Plant the blackberry canes 2 to 3 feet apart in rows that are 8 to 10 feet apart. Dig a hole that is large enough so the roots can spread out. Gently cover the roots with soil and tamp to hold in place. Water the soil to a soaking depth of 3 to 4 inches after planting.

Prune the canes to a length of 4 inches immediately after planting to stimulate new, strong cane growth.

Provide water to the canes every day while they are establishing. Water established canes every two days at a rate of 1 to 2 inches per week during the blossom and fruit production season. Irrigate the soil more frequently if the soil dries to a depth of 2 to 3 inches below ground level before the next scheduled watering.

Keep the soil moist during the blossom and fruit production season. Reduce water applications in September, irrigating only during periods of drought when the soil dries to a depth of 6 inches.

Fertilize the blackberry canes with 5 lbs. of a balanced 10-10-10 fertilizer for every 100 feet of row and spread in a 2-foot area around the canes one month after planting. Apply 5 lbs. of fertilizer for every 100 feet or row again in June and July when the canes are blooming. Water the soil to a depth of 2 to 3 inches after applying fertilizer to assist with absorption.

Place a 2- to 3-inch layer of organic mulch around the blackberry canes to limit weed growth and assist with moisture retention during hot Arizona summers. Pull weeds as they appear to prevent soil moisture and nutrient loss from weed competition.

Prune to remove 2-year-old fruit producing canes after harvest. Do not remove young leafy vegetative canes. Prune older vegetative canes in June by cutting the top 2 to 3 inches off to stimulate lateral branch growth. Remove all sucker growth that appears outside the blackberry rows.

Place a mesh canopy or trellis sunshade over the blackberry canes in mid-summer to prevent sunscald during the hot Arizona summers.

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