How To Grow Blackberry Bushes – here are my tips on growing blackberry bushes based on my experience with blackberry bush plants in US hardiness zone 6a.
Blackberries are the original “living fence”. Around for over 2000 years, blackberry brambles were allowed to grow to thickets to repel unwanted invaders back in the day (the practice may continue today for all I know!). Blackberries are perennial plants. Botanically it is termed an aggregate fruit – a collection of small fruits form the berry.
Where you plant your blackberry bushes is of utmost importance. Choose wisely, and your blackberry bush will grow very well. Do not grow Blackberry Bushes near tomatoes, potatoes, eggplants, peppers – and you probably shouldn’t even plant where these plants have been grown recently. There is no good companion plant for blackberries.
Plant in full sun. If you have more than one plant, plant 3-6 feet apart. If you are planting in rows, try and space the rows 5-8 feet apart. You want your sunlight to hit the plants head-on, and you don’t want one plant blocking the rays to the next plant.
“Plants should be set out in early spring a month or two before last frost.” While that is the most common recommendation, I don’t do this. I have planted when available locally. I put a lot of trust in local nurseries to know when the best time to plant in my area is. I also buy in a bucket which helps with a later planting, and I suggest you do the same if you are new to the plant. While you won’t get any fruit the first year from a bucket plant, you will the second year, and you’ll get enough to bake with and eat the third year.
I highly, highly, highly recommend a thornless plant(s). Unless you want a bramble, and all the shoots and thorns that go with it, buy a thornless variety. I actually yanked out my thorned variety after never getting much fruit, getting only shoots (great if you want a bramble, not so hot if you don’t), and getting torn up by the thorns anytime we went near that plant. Wasn’t worth it. Bub-bye and on to a new thornless plant.
Blackberries should be planted in well drained soil, about an inch below the bucket they came in. The pH level of the soil should range from 6.0 to 7.0, meaning blackberries like soil that’s acidic or neutral (7 is neutral, below 7 acidic, above 7, alkaline), but not alkaline.
I use Holly plant feed for my blackberries. For the first few years the fertilizer can be sprinkled around the blackberries in a ring. Once the bushes mature, spread the fertilizer around evenly at the base of the plant.
Your blackberries will need a steady supply of water to get them established. After the first year, blackberry plants need 1″ to 2″ of water per week while growing fruit.
The plant on the left is 5 years old. The plant on the right was planted a few weeks ago; a tad close, but that is all the room I have – we shall see!
Your blackberries will need a trellis to keep the canes off the ground. I have found this to be a real challenge because these plants can grow very tall, and the canes can grow very long. Make sure those canes are off the ground though – this allows the sun to get into the fruit and makes the fruit easier to pick.
When you harvest, the blackberry will fall off in your hand. You don’t have to tug to remove the fruit, a simple thumb flick will do it.
Three to four plants are considered enough to supply a family of four for a season. I think that is pretty subjective as it really matters how much people like blackberries!
Cutting the canes back in the fall depend on the variety of blackberry bushes you purchased. I cut mine way back, to the ground in the fall as my blackberries are considered a semi-erect type. Semi-erect and erect blackberries are considered more hardy for cooler climates.
Have you grown blackberry bushes? What is your advice for successful blackberry growth?
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