There is nothing more delicious than a blackberry fresh off the blackberry bush. And, blackberries are a fairly hardy plant and easy to grow. The blackberry plant will provide an abundant crop year after year with minimal care.
Blackberry plants are made up of 2 types: trailing and erect.
Erect blackberries are more rugged and require less maintenance than trailing blackberries. Some erect blackberries can withstand temperatures as low as 25 degrees F. Trailing blackberries do best in warmer climates and can grow up to 20 feet. The trailing blackberry plants are sweeter and have fewer seeds than erect blackberry plants.
It takes about a year for the blackberry plant to mature enough to bear fruit. The blackberry plant will spend its first year growing side shoots off the main stems. It is these side shoots that will bear the fruit during the next growing season. Newer blackberry plants have been designed with less thorns so they are easier to harvest and prune. When purchasing a blackberry plant be sure to get the thornless variety.
Purchasing & Planting
Blackberry plants should be purchased in early spring and only if the plants have at least 3 strong canes (stems). As your local nursery for a disease resistant thornless variety. Do not purchase plants with spotty or discolored leaves. Do not buy bareroot plants that seem to be totally dried out.
When you bring you blackberry plants home fill a bucket with water and a vitamin solution and soak the blackberry plant roots for at least 2 hours. Dig a hole a few inches wider than the root spread. Form a pyramid of soil in the center of the hole. Place the blueberry plant on top of the pyramid and spread the roots out. Fill in with soil and firm down evenly.
Use a wire support to train your blackberries. Bury two stakes behind your blackberry plants on either side of the blackberries. String 3 of 4 lengths of wire between these two stakes and attach the canes to wire with ties. If you train new blackberry canes to grow to one side and older blackberry canes to the other side it will be easier to remove the older blackberry canes at the end of the season. For erect blackberries control their shape by pruning back the tops of the stems to the height you prefer. Do this during the first year of growth and your blackberry plant will become bushier and bear more fruit.
Blackberry plants prefer strong direct sun but need to be protected from wind. Blackberry plants like well-drained soil. Be sure to add compost or humus to the soil every few weeks.
Blackberries that grow on stems far from the center of the plant are usually smaller. If you want large blackberries prune back the tips of the canes. Blackberries also work as a barrier to keep animals out of your garden. Simply plant a row of blackberry plants along the border line.
Blackberries are susceptible to Anthracnose. It is a fungus that appears as dark bumps with gray centers on fruit and the stems. Remove any diseased blackberry fruits and canes and prune back the blackberry plant.
For seasonal care begin in early spring with planting of pre-existing plants. Cut back side stems about 12 inches so the blackberries will be larger. In mid to late spring remove and straggly stems. During the summer and fall get rid of any suckers that appear and cut away old canes after the blackberry plants have stopped bearing fruit. In colder areas remove young blackberry canes from their support and buy them in shallow trenches.
Varieties of Blackberries
You choices amongst the erect blackberries includes the Thornfree variety. Thornfree blackberries ripen late in season and while they are trailing the first year they become erect thereafter. Darrow blackberries ripen early to mid season. Darrow blackberries are quite large and very sweet. They have a larger blackberry crop than other varieties. Ebony King blackberries ripen early in the season. Ebony King blackberries can handle the cold very well. The Ebony King blackberry has sweet fruit and is quite disease resistant. Illini blackberries ripen mid-season. Illini’s are tangy and cold tolerant. Eldorado blackberries ripen early to mid season. They also tolerate cold well and are disease resistant. Smoothstem blackberries ripen late in the season. The Smoothstem blackberry plant, as the name implies, is thornless. Smoothstem blackberries are tart and the plants are disease resistant.
Trailing blackberry plants come in many varieties too. Young blackberries ripen in mid-season and they are thornless and tangy. Brainerd blackberry plants ripen in early season. The Brainerd blackberries are thorny with large fruit. Evergreen blackberries ripen late in the season. Their canes are thornless except for the suckers from the roots (remove these suckers). Hedrick blackberry plants ripen in early season and are cold tolerant. They are susceptible to orange rust. Olallie blackberry plants ripen mid-season. These blackberries need a frost free climate. The Olallie blackberry is very sweet. The Jersey Black blackberry plant ripens mid-season. The Jersey Black blackberry is very large and somewhat sweet.
Most blackberry plants can spread up to 12 feet wide and 7 feet hight. The blackberry plant is an easy to grow perennial. The average blackberry plant will produce up to 3 quarts of blackberries. The blackberries ripen from late summer to early fall. The blackberry plant like full sun and well-drained soil. The blackberry plant grows best in zones 5-8.