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Home > Small Fruit Plants > Blackberry Plants > Planting, growing, care, and harvesting.

Planting, growing, care, and harvesting.

Planting Blackberries by the Editors of National Gardening

Blackberries need full sun. They aren't fussy about soils, although good drainage is important. If the soil has a good amount of humus, so much the better, but average fertility is all they need. Do not plant blackberries where any other brambles have been growing; diseases can build up over time and one of the easiest ways to avoid problems is to start fresh on a new site. Because wild blackberries and raspberries can harbor diseases and pests, try to keep your garden plants at least 300 feet from any wild relatives. Also avoid planting where any nightshade family members - tomatoes, potatoes, eggplants, peppers - grew in the last 2 years, as they can transmit verticillium wilt to blackberry plants.

Planting Particulars

Plants should be set out in early spring. If you get your plants from a mail-order company, order them at least a month or two before planting time and indicate the week you'd like the plants to arrive. If you can't plant the day they arrive, keep plants, well wrapped, in a cool place. If they are loose and unpacked, set them temporarily in a shallow trench at the edge of the garden and fill it with soil so the roots don't dry out. Nursery plants may have a 6- or 8-inch dormant cane extending from the root ball. You can use it as a handle in moving the plants and later as a row marker. Set the plants in the ground 1 inch deeper than they were grown in the nursery, then firm moist soil around the roots.

Plant upright varieties at least 3 feet apart in the row, with 8 feet between rows. For trailing types, allow 5 to 8 feet between plants and 6 to 10 feet between rows. The plants are relatively drought tolerant, but they'll need a steady supply of water to get them established. In the second and subsequent years, plants need 1 to 2 inches of water per week during fruit development, especially if the weather turns dry and windy, a bit less once the crop is harvested. Drip irrigation is a good watering method for blackberries.

Growing Blackberries by the Editors of National Gardening

The great tangles of thorny blackberry vines that sprawl over abandoned farmland in some parts of this country are a far cry from the tamer types that, with a little coaxing, grow tidily in even a small backyard. Blackberries are among the easiest fruits to grow at home. Cultivated varieties have larger berries than the wild types. They'll start to bear the second year after planting and continue for about 15 years. Trained properly, four plants, each with a 3-by-3-foot growing area, can supply enough berries for a family of four. Where winters are not too severe, the new thornless varieties do well.

Blackberry Relatives

Blackberries are classified botanically as Rubus, a genus that also includes raspberries. Blackberries may be called dewberries in some areas. Boysenberries, marionberries, or loganberries are not separate species, just common names for the blackberry varieties 'Boysen', 'Marion', and 'Logon'.

Planning Your Patch

You may be tempted to start your blackberry patch with plants from a neighbor; blackberries are prolific and tend to spread widely, so people often give plants away. It's easy to do, too. The upright types form suckers up to 10 feet from the parent so you can just dig up the well-rooted young shoots in the spring and move them. Trailing blackberries will root where the tip of a cane touches the ground, making a new plant in no time. But don't accept donated plants unless you're sure your neighbor's patch is healthy.

Blackberry Care & Harvesting by the Editors of National Gardening

Each year blackberry plants produce new canes from the crown just below the soil surface, and from roots that extend some distance out. Each cane lives for 2 years. The first year a cane produces only leaves, the second year it bears fruit. It won't fruit again, so old canes should be pruned out as soon as possible after the harvest to prevent disease from attacking the plant. Pruning reduces stress on the plants. Keep enough fruiting canes to have a good crop and remove the rest along with undesired root suckers each year. There are two different types of blackberries, upright and trailing, and each requires a different pruning method. The upright ones produce arching canes that can just support themselves. Included in this group are the semi-uprights, which flop a bit but can be treated just like the uprights. The trailing types sprawl and must be supported on wires.

The two groups also bear their fruit differently: upright kinds have fruit at the tips of the canes, trailing kinds have berries all along their length. The trailing types tend to be less hardy than the uprights, but they are usually more productive. Your choice depends on where you live, how much space you have, and the variety of fruit you prefer.

Post System

If you want to support upright-growing blackberry plants, you can train them to grow neatly around posts. Space plants 3 feet apart in rows. Each plant should be attached to a 6-foot post about the thickness of a wrist or to a 2- by 2-inch board sunk about 1 foot into the ground. When the new canes (the leafy ones) are about hip high, pinch back the growing tip of each one; this encourages the canes to branch out during the rest of the season. The next summer the leafy canes become fruiting canes, bearing amazing clusters of fruits at a height where they're easy to pick. Later in the summer, immediately after you've harvested the blackberries, cut off the fruiting canes close to the ground.

Wire Trellis System

Give trailing plants a wire trellis or fence to grow on instead of a post, and spread the canes out as much as possible. How much the canes will grow in 1 year varies; one way to handle the very long ones is to wrap them around two strands of wire. The fruit dangles within easy reach, minimizing scratches while harvesting.

Wintering Over

In northern areas, where winter protection is necessary, set the canes on the ground for the winter, cover them with clean straw or leaves if you don't get much snow, then carefully place them up on the wire in early spring before they start growing again. In milder climates, train the new canes on the wire as soon as you've cut out the fruiting canes and leave them right there through the winter. Each year remove the canes that have fruited and allow several leafy canes to replace them. In areas with long growing seasons, the vines may get extremely long and require a dormant-season pruning. Cut them back to about 8 to 10 feet in late winter. Fruiting is heaviest near the base of the canes, so you won't be losing much of the crop and the resulting berries will be larger.

Harvesting

Berries will ripen over a period of several weeks and should be harvested every 2 to 4 days. Pick berries in the cool of early morning and avoid bruising them. Refrigerate the berries immediately; they'll keep for 4 to 5 days at 35F if picked when warm, berries don't keep as long.

Planting, growing, care, and harvesting.

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