- Pruning tips for Triple Crown blackberries
- Pruning Blackberry Plants in Early Spring
- Blackberry Plant Care: Information On Growing Blackberry Bushes
- About Blackberry Planting
- How to Grow Blackberries
- Blackberry Plant Care
- Cultivated blackberries: Pruning and training
- The rope method
- The weave method
- The fan method
- Upright training – Lawtonberries
- Unconventional training methods
- The single post method
- Table top trellis
- Vee trellis
- Virginia Vee trellis
- Primocane management
- Varietal considerations
- Marketing considerations
- Blackberry Bushes In Winter – How To Protect Blackberry Plants
- Pruning Blackberries in Winter
- Winterizing Blackberries
- Partner Post: Protect Potted Berries from Winter in Three Easy Steps
- About the Author
- How to Grow Blackberries: Complete Guide
- Planting Your Blackberries
- Preparing Your Planting Site
- Caring for Your Blackberries
- Pruning Your Blackberry Canes
- Pests and Diseases Affecting Your Blackberries
- Harvesting Your Blackberries
- Storing Your Blackberries
Pruning tips for Triple Crown blackberries
Question: We have Triple Crown Blackberry bushes at our residence. What is the proper care for these particular bushes? They get overrun with weeds and grass during the late spring to early summer. Should they be cut completely down periodically? Any help or suggestions will be appreciated.
Answer: Triple Crown is a terrific thornless blackberry that’s well-known for its productivity and disease resistance. The flavorful fruits ripen in late summer.
Blackberries can be trailing, erect or semi-erect, depending on the variety’s growth habit. Triple Crown blackberries are in the semi-erect category, which means that their growth habit is somewhat upright but the vines will begin to trail if left unpruned and untrained. With proper pruning, however, the plants can be grown to be fully upright or to trail along a trellis.
There are two different pruning strategies you can take with Triple Crown blackberries. This variety bears its fruit on 2-year-old canes, so improper pruning or cutting the plants down to the ground every spring, as is recommended with some other types of brambles, will result in no fruit production. It’s important to remember that at any one time there can be three different types of canes on each plant: old canes that have already fruited, newly formed canes from the current season (called 1-year-old canes) and canes that were formed the season prior (called 2-year-old canes)
First, if you would like to trellis your Triple Crowns, position sturdy posts every 15 to 20 feet down the row of blackberry plants. I recommend using a 4×4 or a round, wooden fence post. Run two parallel wires between each pair of posts. The lower wire should be about two to three feet above the ground. The upper wire should be four to five feet above the ground. The plants should be spaced every 5 feet down the length of the trellis.
As the blackberry vines grow, attach them to the lower wire first. Then, as the vines grow taller, train them to grow out along the length of the upper wire.
In March, any old canes that have already produced fruit should be cut down to the ground to make room for new shoots to grow. Then, train the existing 2-year-old canes to stretch out along the upper wire. They’ll produce fruit later this season.
As new canes emerge from the ground throughout the growing season, attach them to the lower wire. In mid-summer prune off the tops of these canes so they’re level with the top wire. This encourages the production of lateral buds that will produce fruit next year.
Second, you can prune Triple Crown blackberries to grow as free-standing plants. To do this, in March, cut any canes that produced fruit the previous season all the way down to the ground. Canes from the previous season that have not yet fruited (2-year-old canes), should then be trimmed back to 3 to 4 feet. Any lateral branches on them should be cut back to about a foot. These lateral branches will produce flowers and fruit later this season. Then, in mid-summer, cut any new 1-year-old canes down to 3 to 4 feet in height. This forces the production of the lateral branches that will go on to produce fruit the following summer.
In the fall, when the canes have lost their leaves and gone dormant, prune these newly developed lateral branches back to about 18 inches in length.
Though it sounds complicated, once you get the hang of it, pruning your Triple Crown blackberries is a simple process. It does, however, require diligence, regardless of whether you grow your berries on trellises or as free-standing plants.
Horticulturist Jessica Walliser is the author of several gardening books, including “Attracting Beneficial Bugs to Your Garden,” “Good Bug, Bad Bug,” and her newest title, “Container Gardening Complete.” Her website is jessicawalliser.com. Send your gardening or landscaping questions to or The Good Earth, 622 Cabin Hill Drive, Greensburg, PA 15601.
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Pruning Blackberry Plants in Early Spring
Blackberry plants are easy to prune and train, and many varieties are prolific fruit bearers — yet many novice gardeners are intimidated by them. Instead of growing blackberries in their own backyards, these folks pay a premium for fruit at the farmers market and grocery store.
Gurney’s Seed demystifies the process of growing blackberries in this easy-to-follow video, “How to Prune and Care for Blackberry Plants in Early Spring.” As the host explains, the best time for pruning blackberries is late winter, when the plants are bare and it’s easy to distinguish the healthy purple canes from the brown (dead) ones. If there’s any doubt about the viability of a brown cane, you should lightly scrape the surface to see if there’s any green beneath — indicating that the cane is still alive and should not be pruned back to the crown.
After cutting away the dead canes, turn your attention to the tips of the healthy ones where the blackberry bushes are already exhibiting buds. Each bud on a cane is capable of sending out a fruiting shoot later in the season. Some varieties — such as ‘Triple Crown’ thornless blackberries — can bear as much as 15 to 20 pounds of fruit per bush. The canes must be supported to bear such a heavy load of fruit. You can tie them to a fence or to a couple of parallel wires that you’ve strung between posts especially for this purpose. As you secure the canes to the wire support, remember to distribute them so that sunlight can reach all parts of the growing cane.
These simple steps will help guarantee the health of your blackberry plants during the growing season, and lead to enjoyment of pounds of delicious fruit that you’ve grown yourself. Be sure to watch the video for a demonstration of these blackberry growing tips by a gardening expert from Gurney’s Seed.
Rebecca Martin is an Associate Editor at MOTHER EARTH NEWS magazine, where her beats include DIY and Green Transportation. She’s an avid cyclist and has never met a vegetable she didn’t like. You can find her on Google+.
Blackberry Plant Care: Information On Growing Blackberry Bushes
Many of us love plucking ripe blackberries from those wild, rambling bushes we see along roadsides and wooded edges. Wondering about how to grow blackberries in your garden? Keep reading for more information so you can produce some of your own tasty berries.
About Blackberry Planting
Blackberries are a common sight in many regions of the United States, eaten fresh or used in baked goods or preserves. Those who pick the wild rambling berries do so forearmed with the knowledge that the prickly vines are likely to inflict some damage whilst plucking the tender fruit. The good news is that growing blackberry bushes in the home garden doesn’t have to be an exercise in pain; there are new thornless cultivars available.
Blackberries thrive in climates with warm days and cool nights. They may be erect, semi-erect or trailing in habit. The erect type of berry has thorny canes they grow upright and need no support. They produce large, sweet berries and are more winter hardy than their counterparts.
Semi-erect blackberries come in both thorned and thornless cultivars which produce more prodigiously then the erect cultivars. Their fruit is also quite large and may vary in flavor, from tart to sweet. These berries do need some support.
Trailing blackberry varieties may also be thorny or thornless. The large, sweet berries do require some support and they are the least winter hardy of the cultivars.
Each type is self-fruitful, meaning only one plant is necessary to set fruit. Now that you’ve made your choice, it’s time to learn how to grow blackberries.
How to Grow Blackberries
Once you have decided on the type of blackberry you wish to grow, its blackberry planting time. When growing blackberry bushes, it’s a good idea to think ahead and prepare the planting site a year prior to planting.
Make sure not to plant blackberries anywhere peppers, tomatoes, eggplants, potatoes or strawberries are growing, or have grown in the past three years. These plants are prone to similar problems as growing blackberry plants, so keep away from these areas.
Choose a site that is in full sun and has plenty of room for the ramblers to grow. If you put them in too much shade, they won’t produce much fruit.
The soil should be a well-draining sandy loam with a pH of 5.5-6.5. If you lack an area with sufficient drainage, plan on growing blackberry bushes in a raised bed. Once you have chosen your site, weed the area and amend the soil with organic matter the summer or fall prior to blackberry planting.
Purchase a certified disease-free variety of blackberry that is recommended for your area. Plant as soon as the soil can be worked in the spring. Dig a hole large enough to accommodate the root system. Build a trellis or system of training wires at the time of planting.
Blackberry Plant Care
Once the bushes are established, there is very little blackberry plant care needed. Water regularly; provide an inch (2.5 cm.) of water per week depending upon weather conditions. Allow 3-4 new canes per plant to grow to the top of the training wire or trellis. Keep the area around the plants free of weeds.
In the first year of growing blackberry bushes, expect to have a small batch of fruit and a full harvest in the second year. After you see ripened fruit, try picking blackberries every three to six days. This prevents the birds from getting the berries before you do. Once the fruit has been harvested, prune out the fruiting canes which will not produce again.
Fertilize new plants once new growth appears with a complete fertilizer such as 10-10-10 in the first year. Established plants should be fertilized before new spring growth emerges.
Cultivated blackberries: Pruning and training
Note Number: AG 0099
Published: January 2000
Updated: December 2011
Reviewed: August 2013
This Agriculture Note deals with pruning and training of trailing, sub-erect and erect forms of hybrid berries of the genus Rubus, subgenus Eubatus, which includes Logan, Boysen, Young, Marion, Silvan, Lawton, Dirksen Thornless, Lockness, Karaka, Thornfree, Chester and Smoothstem blackberries.
General information on varieties, establishment and management of blackberries is given in the Agriculture Notes Raspberries and cultivated blackberries: establishment and management and Cultivated blackberries: varieties.
Pruning involves removal of dead fruiting canes plus suckers growing beyond the well-defined crown of the plant. Removal of dead canes from the trellis is facilitated by allowing the dead canes to dry out. Some commercial growers cut the old fruited canes at ground level in late summer and allow them to dry until winter. This practice ensures that dead canes are brittle and easily broken from the trellis.
The fruited canes which produced last season’s crop are cut and pulled from the trellis. Care must be exercised to avoid snapping new canes which may be tangled in the old canes. Old and new canes may be recognised by the different colours of the bark, plus the presence of dead fruiting laterals (on old canes) and the presence of dormant buds on new canes.
There are no diseases of Rubus associated exclusively with dead or decomposing canes. Prunings may be left in the alleyways and incorporated into the soil by disc harrows, rotary hoe, slasher or flail mower during spring management operations.
Training is the practice of arranging new canes on a trellis. The choice of trellis structure involves consideration of initial capital costs, labour costs of each training technique, and the influence of training technique on potential yield – on whether the plant can achieve optimal potential, and whether pickers can find all the fruit. The methods used now include rope, weave, fan, and some more experimental compound trellises.
The rope method
The oldest method of trellising the more flexible varieties is the rope, in which all new canes are picked up as a bundle and wound around a single wire situated at 1.1 – 1.25 m above the ground level. Rope training is illustrated in figure 1. The bundle is wound in one direction only until it just passes the point where the next plant begins. The remaining cane is pruned off, and the next bundle of canes is wound over the last to prevent unwinding. A tie of baleror binder-twine may be useful to secure the canes, particularly with thornless varieties which can easily slip over each other.
Advantage of the method:
- low capital costs at establishment for one wire only plus posts;
- simple, relatively fast removal of old fruited canes;
- simple, fast handling of new canes.
- some buds are captured within the bundle. and fail to burst, thereby reducing potential yield.
Both variations attempt to reduce bundle thickness and thereby reduce bud suppression. The Tee trellis results in some fruit ripening between the two wires, where pickers may have difficulty reaching if the trellis height is too tall for them.
Figure 1. Rope training
Figure 2. The standard weave method
The weave method
Canes are trained around two or 3 wires, by leading them over and under in a series of loops, as shown in figure 2. Canes may be handled singly or in bundles of two or three. Start by training a cane from the centre of the crown, pass it over the top wire, under the lower wire, up and over the top again until it is all restrained. The remaining canes are progressively woven to create an even distribution of canes along the wires. This will result in an even wall of foliage, and encourage fruiting laterals to grow outward away from the trellis, thereby making picking relatively easy, particularly of thorny cultivars.
Advantage of method:
- full expression of yield potential by even spacing of fruiting laterals
- good presentation of fruit.
- slow to prune, and slow to train unless the techniques are learnt from an experienced grower.
- the Newton trellis uses wooden laths of 10 mm x 20 mm thickness positioned vertically against the wires as canes are woven; canes stay on one side only of the trellis, and loop around the wooden laths. The laths are pulled out before pruning, and allow the dead fruited canes to fall free from the trellis. The advantage of this variation depends upon a supply of cheap laths.
The fan method
The fan is often illustrated in gardening text-books, and is the preferred commercial trellising method in highly vigorous plantations in New Zealand. Fan training is illustrated in figure 3. The trellis is identical to the wire weave trellis, and each cane is led over the top wire, past the lower wire, and trimmed. The last cane to be trained can be used to lace the trimmed canes to the bottom wire.
- quicker to train than the weave method, as excess cane is pruned
- even fruiting lateral distribution, as for weave
- ease of harvest
- only applicable in very vigorous plantations.
Figure 3. Fan training
Upright training – Lawtonberries
Lawton canes grow straight upright more like raspberry canes. Trellising is essentially the same as for raspberries. One pair of wires may be used at 1.2 m to capture new canes using ties or clips every 2 m. Pruning is easy in principle, except that canes bear sharp thorns.
Unconventional training methods
Growers have experimented for years to find easy methods to deal with the two separate growth phases of Rubus plants. The problems attendant to this growth pattern are seen particularly in the blackberries:
- new canes intermingle through old canes, and separation at pruning time is difficult
- pickers and machinery have to avoid crushing new canes.
The principle behind all experimentation is to physically separate the primocanes from the floricanes and to direct the growth of primocanes out of harm’s way and into a useful position for next year’s crop. The most radical approach to growth phase separation is Alternate Year cropping, in which primocanes are removed entirely during fruiting to produce a “fruit only” year, and in the following season, the “off” year, primocanes only are grown. This method has not been publicly trialed in Australia, but is practised by some growers in Oregon, USA. More detailed notes relevant to blackberries are included in the Agriculture Note Raspberries: Alternate Year management.
The single post method
Plants are established next to posts of 100 mm diam, 1.7 m height spaced 900 mm apart along rows. As new canes grow they are wound up the poles, and down again if they reach the top. Training occurs in summer, as canes grow. Winter pruning requires unwinding of new canes, removal of old canes, and re-winding of new canes. Ties may be needed to hold canes to posts (Figure 4).
- high planting density is possible
- winter labor is quick, despite “double handling” of new canes.
labor input in summer to wind new canes once per fortnight. The total labour input per annum is higher than with conventional systems.
Figure 4. Single post method
Figure 5. Table Top Training
Table top trellis
A pair of wires are erected 1.0 m apart, 1.0 m above ground level. Canes are held between the wires with a criss-cross lattice of binder-twine (Figure 5). If plants are widely spaced, new canes can be progressively trained as they grow, in an opposite direction to fruiting canes. The trellis end assemblies need to be stronger than normal to retain adequate wire tension.
- winter pruning is very quick if the alternate direction variation is used
- fruit grow above the trellis and are easily seen and easily reached.
- trellis cost
- wide spacing reduces yield per hectare.
The principal behind Vee trellising is to separate fruiting canes from new canes on either side of a Vee trellis. The difficulties relate to the problem of fruit ripening within the Vee and being hidden or inaccessible.
Virginia Vee trellis
Although the Virginia Vee trellis has not been demonstrated in Australia, it has been proven sufficiently well in the USA (USDA Appalachian Research Station, West Virginia) to warrant inclusion. It is based on a “flip-flop” trellis of steel frames which can be rocked from one position to another, as illustrated below. It relies on the principle that developing laterals display phototropism – that is, they orient themselves towards light until fruit set, after which they lose their phototropism and remain “locked” in position. It was developed specifically for the late-season thornless blackberries such as Thornfree, Chester etc. (Figure 6 – 10)
Figure 6. Virginia Vee: New primocanes are led to fixed trellis frame, but not secured.
Figure 7. Virginia Vee: New primocanes are tipped at 2m length to encourage secondary branches.
Figure 8. Virgina Vee: The flip-flop wall is laid over the fixed side and dormant canes are attached to the movable trellis.
Figure 9. Virgina Vee: In summer, flowering laterals all orient themselves upwards and fruit set in this position.
Figure 10. Virgina Vee: In late summer, the flip-flop side is raised to allow fruit to ripen in one plane. New primocanes are trained as in Fig 6.
The new canes of all cultivars except Lawtonberries are pruned to two nodes either just prior to harvest, or, in the case of late-ripening cultivars, by mid-December. The two remaining nodes will produce new canes. In this way, plants are encouraged to produce larger numbers of thinner canes than would otherwise emerge, and the risk of breaking canes during training is thereby reduced. The shortening of primocanes also removes some competition for water and nutrients from fruiting canes, as the major growth phase of the new canes is delayed. There is also less new cane to interfere with pickers or to be damaged by them.
Late-ripening erect blackberries may also be variously pruned at the level of the top-wire or first wire, depending on vigour (e.g. Loch Ness at top, Chester at lower level), or, not tipped at all but tucked in or tied off along the trellis. The advantage of this approach is that there will be no branching to interfere with picker access. The disadvantage is a very long unbranched cane to be woven along the trellis after harvest.
Left to themselves, new canes will grow in any direction, and either risk damage by tractors and machinery, or prevent vehicular access to alleyways. The conventional training techniques all leave canes on the ground until late winter. They can be periodically trained to run under the trellis, and some growers have tried hanging primocanes in “S” hooks looped to the lower trellis wire or irrigation wire. The conventional techniques allow summer training of primocanes and thereby avoid risk of damage.
Overseas research and local observation, all indicate that training should be done either during active growth, or alternatively, as late as can be gauged before bud burst. Training during active growth is not a practical proposition except when the post training system is employed.
Lawtons tend to sucker more than other cultivars and stray suckers emerging beyond the row base should be slashed during the growing season.
Boysen, Silvan and Young are most commonly trained by the weave method. Fan training could be considered, where vigour allows.
Marion is usually very vigorous and may be fan-trained under normal circumstances.
Logan does not always show the vigour of other cultivars and is not normally suited to fan training.
The late-ripening, semi-erect thornless cultivars Loch Ness, Chester, Dirksen Thornless, Thornfree and Smoothstem produce stiffer canes than the others mentioned and do not lend themselves to being treated like string. They are usually arched over the top wire of a two or three wire trellis in a variant of fan training.
Pick your own customers are not averse to harvesting thorny cultivars provided they do not have to climb into the plants to locate hidden fruit. The table top trellis was developed for PYO enterprises. The weave trellis is adequate for PYO, but care must be taken not to position the lower wire so low that pickers must crawl to see under the lower foliage, as this is the activity most commonly associated with minor injury, mainly from dry pieces of pruned cane which have not been properly buried or removed
This Agriculture note was developed by Graeme McGregor, FFSR in January 2000.
It was reviewed by Mark Hincksman and Neville Fernando of Farm Services in December 2011.
Blackberry Bushes In Winter – How To Protect Blackberry Plants
Most gardeners can grow blackberries, but those in colder areas will have to think about blackberry bush winter care. All blackberry bushes require pruning during the cold season and, if your temperatures dip below freezing, you’ll also want to learn how to protect blackberry plants in winter. For more information about care for blackberry bushes in winter, read on.
Pruning Blackberries in Winter
You can’t just forget about blackberry bushes in winter. They require care. You need to cut back your blackberries during the cold season. Pruning blackberries in winter is part of blackberry bush winter care.
Before you begin snipping blackberry bushes in winter, you need to identify which canes on your plants are first year canes (primocanes). These are the canes that have not yet borne fruit.
If you have erect canes (canes that stand up on their own), prune your canes in late winter. Remove all of the weaker canes of each plant, leaving only the three or four strongest canes standing. When you are pruning blackberries in winter, cut back long, trailing branches on your erect canes to 12 to 18 inches.
Follow the same pruning procedure if you have trailing canes. These are the brambles that lie on the ground unless you tie them to a stake. Prune trailing blackberries in winter in the same way as the erect canes only act in the very beginning of winter, not the very end.
Generally, blackberry plants thrive in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 5 through 10. However, each cultivar is able to survive to different low temperatures. Frost tender blackberry varieties can survive temperatures that dip from 0 to 10 degrees Fahrenheit (-17 to -12 degrees C.), but hardy cultivars survive temperatures down to -10 degrees F. (-23 C.).
It is important to figure out what level of cold your brambles can tolerate in order to know when you need to think about winterizing blackberries. If you expect the cold season to get colder than your berries can tolerate, it’s best to learn how to protect blackberry plants from the cold.
Winterizing blackberries is different for trailing types and erect types of berry bushes. For trailing canes, remove them from their stakes after you have pruned them. Lay them on the ground and tuck them in for the winter with a thick layer of mulch.
Erect canes are hardier (survive cold better) than trailing ones and require less protection. If you expect chill winds, construct a windbreak to protect them.
Partner Post: Protect Potted Berries from Winter in Three Easy Steps
After harvesting freshly picked blueberries all summer, it’s time to put your plants to bed for the winter. Luckily, many berry bushes are cold-hardy and in fact need a certain amount of chill hours to set fruit in the spring.
Dwarf blueberries, such as those from the Bushel and Berry™ collection, can survive during cold months outdoors in the landscape or you may want to put them in an enclosed area. Varieties planted in patio pots generally need more protection since their roots are above ground and less sheltered. Berries planted in the ground need less care; just add a two to three inch blanket of mulch to keep them warm.
Caring for blueberries, raspberries and blackberries in containers over winter is easy. Prevent roots from freezing and cold winds from drying out the plant’s branches with just a little care.
Three steps to overwinter berries in containers and get them ready for spring
1. Give Them a Drink
Many berry shrubs don’t need much water while dormant, but check containers at least once a month. If the soil is dry more than an inch deep, water lightly but don’t soak the soil. If covered with snow, plants will get plenty of moisture.
2. Get out the Pruners
Once berries have been harvested and the plants are losing leaves, it’s time to prune. Plants can be pruned and shaped as long as the shrubs are dormant, even into late winter. Remove any dead or damaged stems in addition to approximately one-third of the lateral stems. While it may seem counter-intuitive, pruning actually encourages fruit growth in the spring.
3. Keep Berry Plants Warm
Most berries grown in containers in USDA Zones 5 and below need to be moved to a sheltered spot when nighttime temperatures drop below freezing—especially during extreme cold spells. An unheated shed, garage, basement or greenhouse will work.
If plants are left outside for the winter, place pots closely together against a shielded part of a building to provide shelter. Pile four to eight inches of straw mulch in and around the pots, but be mindful not to pack mulch against the plants’ stems. Containers can also be wrapped in several layers of burlap or insulating material. Regardless of zone, be aware of any extreme cold spells and provide additional insulation or shelter as needed.
You’ll be thankful you gave your berry plants a little extra attention this winter as soon as you see new leaves and buds forming come spring.
About the Author
Bushel and Berry™ is a collection of easy to grow, exceptionally beautiful and delicious berry plants for the home garden. With 7 stunning and easy-to-care-for varieties to choose from, Bushel and Berry™ is revolutionizing the way we bring food to the table. Learn more by visiting www.BushelAndBerry.com.
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How to Grow Blackberries: Complete Guide
Do you enjoy waking up to a berry smoothie in the morning? How about the delicious aroma of a fresh blackberry pie cooling on the window sill?
If you enjoy berries, consider planting some canes in your garden this growing season.
Blackberries are one of our favorites, and in this guide, we’ll be walking you through everything you need to know about raising blackberries in your garden.
Most berries are a rich source of ellagic acid, a polyphenol nutrient that has strong antioxidant properties. By adding blackberries to your diet, you benefit from a strong antioxidant effect that scavenges free radicals out of your bloodstream. Free radicals oxidize healthy cells, leading to the signs of aging, such as wrinkles and lines in your face.
The ellagic acid found in blackberries prevents the oxidative damage from pollutants entering your body. Cigarette smoke, brake dust, gas fumes, and other forms of air pollution are all around us. By eating more berries, you reverse the oxidizing damage to your body.
Fortunately, most berry varieties are easy to grow, and blackberries are ideal for the novice garden to get their feet wet with planting berry varieties. When your blackberry plant starts fruiting, you’ll be picking berries every day, and enjoying them fresh off of the stem.
There are three varieties of blackberry.
- Trailing thornless blackberries
- Erect thornless blackberries
- Erect thorny blackberries
Trailing blackberries have long canes that require trellising for support, lean them up to a wall and weave them through the trellis as the canes grow. Erect blackberry varieties grow as a bush, and the stems are strong enough to support the plant during fruiting season.
All blackberry varieties are perennial plants, and the roots keep growing year after year. It’s common for both varieties to take two or three seasons to start [producing berries that are plump and juicy. So, don’t stress yourself if the bush or canes don’t give you amazing berry’s for the first few harvests.
Planting Your Blackberries
Trailing blackberries are the most common type found in private gardens across the United States. Trialing varieties produce long canes that you weave through a trellis. You can grow these plants outdoors, or in a greenhouse for best results. Unfortunately, growing blackberries from seed is a very challenging exercise, especially for novice gardeners.
It’s for this reason that we recommend you visit a nursery and purchase blackberry canes that are already at least 6-months old. All you need to do is take the canes home and plant them in your desired site. Plant your canes in the early spring, right after the last frost falls on the ground.
You can also plant in the late fall, and then overwinter the canes for the following season. This strategy allows your canes to root properly before the next fruiting season, accelerating growth when the weather changes.
It’s essential to ask your nursery about how your variety does under colder conditions. Some hybrid blackberry canes may be sensitive to cold, and low temperatures might kill the canes. Blackberry plants are self-fertile, so there’s no need to add additional plants to your garden to get them to fruit.
Preparing Your Planting Site
When preparing your blackberry planting site, it’s essential to select an area of the garden or greenhouse that gets the most amount of sunlight during the early morning and afternoon. The canes do enjoy a bit of afternoon shade to help them cool down on a hot day.
Make sure that your soil has good drainage, and till at least 18 to 24-inches deep to aerate the soil before planting. By tilling the planting site, you promote natural root growth for the canes and higher yields. Tilling also improves drainage, moving water away from the roots. Roots that sit in waterlogged soil with develop “wet feet,” and start to rot.
Caring for Your Blackberries
Mulch around the base of the canes once or twice during the growing season. Adding mulch around the bottom of the canes helps to reduce evaporation, leaving more moisture in the soil. As the mulch biodegrades, it releases nutrients into the ground to support the fruiting phase.
Mulch around your Blackberries Base
Give your canes at least one-inch of water every week, and double it when the plant starts fruiting. Fertilize in the early spring using 10-10-10, or 16-16-8 fertilizer.
Pruning Your Blackberry Canes
After the canes finish bearing the fruit, you need to prune them at the base to inspire new growth next season. Not all the canes will fruit in the first two or three seasons. However, as the plant matures over the years, it will steadily increase the quantity and quality of the berries it yields.
By removing old canes, you allow the plant to divert nutrients to other canes and improve its fruiting efficiency. More canes will end up shooting from your pruning efforts, and always make sure that you prune the cane at a 45-degree angle.
Train the primocanes into the trellis as you prune away the other dead canes. You didn’t need to prune the primocanes, and in colder regions, leave the canes on the ground for the winter. Cover the canes with mulch and burlap for winter protection, and them dig them up the following season. Avoid working with your primocanes in cold weather, as it increases the risk of snapping the canes.
Erect blackberry varieties grow stiff, short canes that come from the crown of the roots, and they often start to form a hedgerow. Mid-summer is the best time of the season to prune your erect varieties, and you can remove the top two inches of the plant when they are around 4-feet tall to inspire new growth.
Your plants will need several pruning sessions over a few weeks to ensure that you tip all of the new primocanes that start rising to the 4-foot limit. Prune away any new primocanes that begin to grow outside of the hedgerow. In the winter you can shorten the branches to around 2-feet in length, and remove the old dead floricanes from the plant.
Pruning to inspire new growth next season
If you’re growing semi-erect blackberry varieties, it far easier to manage the growth using a double-T trellis. Using a 6-foot post, attach four-foot cross-arms across, parallel to the ground. String some high-tensile wire down the rows, connecting it to the cross-arms.
Semi erect blackberry plants require pruning in the mid-summer as well. When the primocanes reach 5-foot tall, remo0ve the top 2-inches of the canes, and remember to cut at a 45-degree angle. You’ll need to repeat the process over a few weeks during the peak of summer to enhance growth and improve fruit yield.
Remove the dead floricanes when the winter arrives, and spread the remaining primocanes out along the length of the trellis. You don’t need to shorten the canes unless you’re having issues with training them into the trellis.
Overwinter your canes by covering them with mulch and burlap, and then dig them up in the early springtime.
Pests and Diseases Affecting Your Blackberries
When raising your blackberry canes, you’ll need to be on the lookout for pests and diseases. Common pests affecting your canes include raspberry borers and fruit worms. The borers arrive on the canes and burrow their way into the joints at the base of the plant. As a result, the canes start to weaken, and the leaves will wilt. You can expect your blackberry plant to stop producing berries as well.
If there’s a run of cold, rainy weather during the summer, check on your blackberry caners after the weather clears. Grey mold is a problematic fungus affecting blackberry canes. The disease covers the foliage and berries of the plant, causing it to suffocate and wilt.
Mosaic virus is also a concern for blackberry canes, and if this disease gets into your canes, it could migrate to the roots, and overwinter in the soil. Another prominent disease affecting your blackberry canes is Blackberry Calico, and it causes faint yellow blotches on the foliage.
Harvesting Your Blackberries
It’s essential that you only pick berries that are entirely black in color. Picking and eating under-ripe berries may upset your tummy. Ripe blackberries ready for picking are plump and pull away from the plant without yanking.
The berries need no further ripening, and you’ll need to keep picking the canes as they start to produce. Leaving your blackberry plant alone during fruiting season results in all you hard work landing on the floor.
When picking blackberries, unlike raspberries, keep the central plug intact. Try to harvest your plant in the morning before the sun gets too hot. This strategy yields the tastiest and juiciest berries from your canes.
Harvesting Your Blackberries
Storing Your Blackberries
We prefer to eat our blackberries fresh after picking each day. However, if you have too many to eat, store some in the fridge, and freeze your surplus. Blackberries freeze well and last for up to six months if you store them at optimal temperatures.
Purchase a raspberry cane next season and start growing your berry mix at home!
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