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Growing Blackberries

by Stephanie Suesan Smith on August 26, 2010

Blackberries are good to eat and easy to grow. They may be a bit too easy to grow, as they are weeds in some areas. What this means is that when planning your blackberry growing area you must be able to keep them from spreading too much. Blackberries should

dewberry flower

Dewberry flower

not be confused with dewberries. Dewberries are a native species that grown along the ground and do not get over about a foot tall. They can take over, though, and provide little shelter or food for animals, creating an ecological desert. Blackberries grow upward on canes. They, too, can take over a pasture and leave it useless.

Blackberries, however, have been somewhat domesticated and produce loads of tasty berries. These berries make it worth the trouble to grow the blackberry.  Blackberries produce berries on canes that are a year old, so won’t bear for the first year after they are planted.  They make you wait a year to get their goodies.

Blackberries like well drained, sandy soil with a ph of 4.5 to 7.5.  They really grown best at a ph of around 6.0 to 6.5.  Blackberries will grow in the black gumbo we have here and really thrive in raised beds.  Warm weather friends, they grow in zones 7,8, or 9 and require weekly irrigation once they are established.

Blackberries are usually planted from cuttings or from bare root plants and are planted in late December or January in Texas.  In other climates, plant them in the dormant season.  These plants take up a lot of room, so space them three feet apart and keep the rows eight to twelve feet apart.  The plants will eventually grow to form an impenetrable hedge if you let them, so bear that in mind when planning your garden.  The other thing to bear in mind is that copperheads and rattlesnakes love blackberries, so do not put them too close to the house or where children play.

Blackberries have to be pruned.  The first year, cut your canes back when they reach 36 to 48 inches by cutting off a third of the cane.  This encourages branching of the plant.  The second year, floricanes emerge.  These are the canes that have flowers on them and that produce the fruit.  After all the fruit is ripe, the floricanes die and should be cut away.  Cutting them away immediately after harvesting the fruit leaves more resources for the plant to produce more floricanes and to grow.

Weeds compete with the blackberries for resources, so keep your plants weeded.  Removing the weeds also keeps down vermin who like to steal your berries.  As mentioned earlier, blackberries require irrigation and drip irrigation is the most efficient.  You should start watering the plants about March and continue through September, when you taper off.  During the winter, you water very little to keep the plants dormant.

Blackberries require nitrogen fertilizer but rarely anything else.  Fertilizer is spread along the row at bloom and at the recommended levels for your soil.  This will vary depending on your soil chemistry.  A soil test will let you know how often you need to apply nitrogen and how often you need to do so.

Blackberries can get several fungal and bacterial infections.  The best prevention here is making sure weeds are removed, using drip irrigation, and making sure the plants have plenty of air circulation.  Blackberries should be checked frequently for pests and treated as needed.  Your Extension Agent can identify any pests or diseases you find from a sample you provide.  They can then give you an idea of what to use to control the problem.

Blackberries are really easy to grow.  They have lots of fruit.  Wear a long sleeve shirt to pick them to protect against thorns and refrigerate the berries as soon as possible after picking.  Pies, cobblers, and other tasty things can then be made.  I came across a recipe for peach blackberry compote with basil syrup at the CDKitchen site.  Or if that is too fancy for you, you can just eat them plain, the way Clever Nettle did.  Just remember that they leave your tongue and lips stained, giving you away.

Gardenbookfrontcoverthumbnail For more help gardening, buy my book, Preparing A Vegetable Garden From The Ground Up
Available in print or ebook from Amazon.com or other retailers, this book walks you from choosing the site of your garden all the way through what to do after the harvest. Buy a copy for yourself or a friend today! 


{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Ben from Green Powder July 20, 2011 at 10:41 am

You said that snakes love blackberries? Do the snakes actually eat the berries or do they just like to hide in the hedge because of how thick it is? My mom has a thick blackberry bush and she lives in an area with lots of rattlers. I’ll definitely warn her about the danger. Actually, I’ll just point her to this post, since it’s pretty much a comprehensive guide to blackberries.
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Stephanie Suesan Smith July 21, 2011 at 5:21 am

It has been my experience that copperheads love to eat the blackberries and also wait to eat the mice and other small critters that eat the blackberries. I have not seen a rattler on them, but we don’t have that many rattlers in our area. I know that before my Mom harvests the blackberries at their house, my Dad has to do a snake check, and often scares one away. They are not always poisonous, but that distinction is lost on my Mom.

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JohnsGardenTools August 23, 2012 at 11:24 am

Thank you for the information on Black berries. I have built a raised bed for growing them and your info will help when I plant and grow. I intend to try the thorn-less ones.

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