How to Grow & Prune Blackberries

Written by emma watkins
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How to Grow & Prune Blackberries
Blackberry bushes are classified as trailing, semi-trailing and erect. (blackberry image by Svetlana Nikonova from Fotolia.com)

Blackberries fall into one of three groups depending on their growth habit, according to Clemson University Extension: trailing, semi-trailing and erect. Erect bushes are hardier to cold weather than the other two and have an earlier fruit season. Trailing blackberry bushes also have thorns while semi-trailing don't. Consider these different features and the specific requirements of each cultivar as you select the best blackberry bush for your garden.

Skill level:
Moderate

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Things you need

  • Garden fork
  • Shovel
  • Manure
  • 5-10-5 fertiliser
  • Shears
  • Water
  • Mulch
  • Trellis
  • String
  • 10-10-10 fertiliser

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Instructions

  1. 1

    Choose a place for your blackberry bush that's in full sun and has fast drainage. The soil's pH should also be between 5.5 and 7. If you take a soil sample to your county cooperative extension service, staff will test the pH for you and tell you how to amend your soil if necessary. The University of Oregon Extension Service recommends avoiding sites where potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, strawberries and other caneberries grew within the past three years.

  2. 2

    Remove all weeds from the site the summer or fall before planting your blackberry bush. Till or break up the ground with a garden fork and shovel. Mix the topsoil with 2 to 3 bushels of manure and 1 pound of a 5-10-5 (nitrogen-phosphorus-potassium) fertiliser per 100 square feet.

  3. 3

    Choose a blackberry variety that has the growth habit and features you prefer, and that performs well in your region's conditions. If you live in an area of harsh winters, erect blackberry bushes will have a better chance of survival, for instance. Buy a certified disease-free plant.

  4. 4

    Dig a hole as deep and wide as the root ball about four weeks before the last frost. Examine the bush's roots and cut any that look unhealthy. Spread the roots out.

  5. 5

    Put the blackberry bush in the planting hole and backfill it with the soil you dug out. Firm the ground around the plant's base to remove air pockets. For multiple bushes, space trailing ones 4 to 10 feet apart. Erect varieties need 4 to 6 feet and semi-trailing blackberries should have 6 to 8 feet of space. Separate rows by 8 to 10 feet.

  6. 6

    Water your blackberry bush as soon as you plant it. Keep it moist through the growing season by giving it 1 inch of water a week. Adjust this amount if it rains. Mulch near the base to conserve moisture.

  7. 7

    Install a trellis for support if you planted either a trailing or semi-trailing variety of blackberry. Tie the bush's canes to it in a fan shape. In the dormant season, prune two-year old canes, the ones that just produced berries the past growing season. Canes only bear fruit once, in their second year before they die.

  8. 8

    Prune erect blackberry bushes every summer to keep them from getting taller than 3 or 4 feet. Erect varieties don't need a trellis for support. After fruiting, remove all two-year old canes, which just finished producing fruit. In the winter, prune lateral branches to 12 inches.

  9. 9

    Fertilise blackberry bushes twice a year, according to Clemson University Extension. Apply 2.27 Kilogram of a 10-10-10 fertiliser for every 100 feet of row when growth begins in spring and after harvest. For one to two-year-old plants, add the fertiliser in a 12-inch circle around the bush. The following years, spread it along the row. Always water your plants after fertilisation.

  10. 10

    Control weeds and pests. Pull weeds as they sprout and contact your local extension office for help identifying and finding a solution for infestations and disease. Blackberries are susceptible to several problems, including leaf and cane spot, blackberry rust, fruit rot, redberry mite and root weevils, according to the Oregon State University Extension Service.

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