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    Blackberry

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    Overview

    Bramble fruits are very easy to grow. The keys to good yields are adequate spacing and light, and, because of shallow roots, good weed control and thick mulch. Rather than several short, close rows that limit berry development to only the upper cane parts, plant one long, narrow row that will produce berries to the bottom of the canes.

    Blackberries are biennial. First-year green stems, primocanes, bear only leaves. Two-year old brown stems, floricanes, produce fruit. Upright or erect canes are shorter, while trailing varieties (also known as dewberries in the South), grow flexible canes as long as 10 ft. Blackberries are usually hardy to zones 5 – 8; upright varieties are the hardiest.

    Harvesting Blackberries

    When berries slide off easily without pressure, harvest into very small containers so berries on the bottom won’t be crushed. After harvest, cut back floricanes to the ground. For disease control, burn or dispose of all cut canes.

    Storage Requirements

    Freeze within 2 days by spreading berries on cookie sheets and freezing. When rock hard, store in heavy freezer bags. Refrigerated, they keep 4 – 7 days.

    Pests

    Cane borer, mite, raspberry root borer, strawberry weevil, whitefly, white grub.

    Diseases

    Anthracnose, botrytis fruit rot, cane blight, gall, crown gall, powdery mildew, rust, septoria leaf spot, verticillium wilt.

    Plant Characteristics

    Height

    4 – 10 ft. when pruned

    Spacing

    • Erect and Semi erect Blackberry: 2 – 3 ft. in a row (suckers and new canes fill out row)
    • Trailing Blackberry: 6 – 12 ft. in a row (no suckers, but canes grow very long)

    Root Depth

    More than 12 inches

    pH

    6.0 – 6.5

    Bearing Age

    2 years

    Pollination

    Self-pollinating.

    Chilling Requirements

    Hours needed depending on the variety.

    Site

    Full sun; rich loam. Due to verticillium wilt, avoid planting where nightshade family plants were grown in the last 3 years. Plant at least 300 feet away from wild brambles (which harbor pests and diseases) and from raspberries to prevent cross-pollination.

    Water

    Medium; Drip irrigation is essential to avoid water on the berries, which is absorbed and dilutes falvor. Water regularly because of vulnerability to water stress.

    Mulch

    In summer, apply 4 – 8 inches of organic mulch; in winter, apply 4 – 6 inches of compost.

    Fertilizer

    In spring, apply well-rotted manure or compost before canes break dormancy.

    Training

    A trellis is very important for disease and pest reduction, quality fruit and easy harvest. For erect blackberries use a 4 ft. top wire; for trailing blackberries use a 5 ft. top wire. Fan out canes and tie with cloth strips.

    Pruning

    After harvest or in spring, cut out old canes done bearing.

    • Erect blackberries
      • Thin to 5 – 6 canes per row-foot; to encourage branching
      • Cut off the top 3 – 4 inches when primocanes are 33 – 40 inches
      • Late the following winter, cut the lateral branches back to 8 – 12 inches long
    • Trailing blackberries
      • Thin to 10 – 14 canes per hill; don’t prune in the first year
      • In late winter cut canes back to 10 ft.
    Video Credits: The Gardening Channel With James Prigioni
    Image Credits: Marevo

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