Blackberry Essentials

by National Gardening Association Editors

Planning

  • Choose virus-free plants.
  • Plan a training system to match the growth habit of your variety - either upright or trailing.
  • Plant in early spring in most areas; in mild-winter areas of the South and Pacific Coast, plant in fall or winter.

Preparation

Preparation

  • Choose a well-drained site in full sun at least 300 feet from any wild blackberries.
  • Construct trellises for trailing varieties before planting.

    Planting

    • Plant upright varieties at 3-foot intervals in rows 8 feet apart. Set trailing varieties 5 to 8 feet apart in rows 6 to 10 feet apart.
    • Set plants 1 inch deeper than they were grown in the nursery.

    Care

    • Cultivate shallowly; the roots are near the surface.
    • Mulch with a thick layer of shredded bark, wood chips, leaves, or hay.
    • Plants usually don't require pruning the first year. Prune out fruiting canes as soon as berries are harvested each summer, and select replacement canes for the following year.
    • Fertilize early each spring with 1/2 to 3/4 cup of a complete fertilizer such as 5-10-10 or 8-8-8 per plant. Sprinkle it in a band 12 to 24 inches from canes and hoe it lightly into the soil.
    • To prevent chilling injury in the winter, lay the canes of trailing types on the ground in winter and cover with a thick layer of mulch.
    • See our article Fruit Pests and Diseases for controls of common blackberry pests such as viruses, aphids, mites, and raspberry crown borers.

    Harvesting

    • Berries should be harvested every 2 to 4 days when ripe.
    • Pick berries in the cool of early morning. Refrigerate berries immediately after harvesting.

    Photo courtesy of the USDA Agricultural Research Service

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