How To Grow - Blackberries


With fewer blackberries available in hedgerows, growing your own blackberries is becoming ever more popular. They are a versatile fruit to grow as the plants will produce a decent crop even if grown in the shade. This is our guide to growing your own blackberry canes.

When and where

You can plant out your blackberries at any time between October and March, avoiding periods when the soil is frozen over or is logged with water. The ideal time is when the soil is still warm and moist in October.

Blackberries will grow and fruit in the shade and in poor soil conditions. To get the best from your canes, however, choose a site with full sun and good drainage. Mix in plenty of organic material and avoid chalky soil. If you have a small garden and wish to maximise your use of space, placing a blackberry cane in a shady unused corner may be a good way of getting more fruit per square foot. Frost is not a concern as the blackberry flowers late.

How to plant

Dig out a hole in which you can keep the root crown level with the soil’s surface. Spread out the roots in the soil and cover over, firming down gently. Water in well, continuing to water as the canes begin to grow in their new location. Canes should be trimmed to around 28 to 32 cm high immediately after planting. A relatively large space needs to be allowed between canes, depending on the variety you are growing – from 1.5 metres for less vigorous varieties, to 4 metres for large or ‘giant’ varieties.

Harvesting

Don’t expect a blackberry harvest in the first year as fruit only grows on last year’s growth. Blackberries have a long harvesting period, from August through to October if the weather holds out. Early varieties will begin to fruit in July. Blackberries are ripe when they are dark purple and full in shape. They should also be easy to pick from the plant. Pick in dry weather and harvest regularly to encourage more and longer fruiting. Store blackberries in a cool, dry location or in the fridge if you are storing over several days.

Through the year

At the end of the harvest period, cut the stems which have fruited down to the ground. Leave new growth alone as this is where next year’s harvest will develop. Don’t forget to wear sturdy gardening gloves and old clothes when handling blackberry plants! Ensure that your canes do not overgrow and become tangled, without free circulation of air and access to sun – if this occurs then prune strategically in April, or consider changing the supports provided for the canes. Wooden posts 2 metres high with wires strung between them will allow you to tie some growth to supports so that the canes grow into a tunnel shape over the ground. Good air circulation helps to keep disease down to a low level.

Handy Tips

Use a fruit cage if birds and small mammals are a particular problem. New blackberries can be propagated easily by bending and burying a growing tip in a 14 cm hole, filled in with soil. After two months, new tips will have grown. The new plants can be transplanted in the spring, cutting the original stem away at around 25 to 30 cm away from the new blackberry plant.


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