At the supermarket, a handful of raspberries or blackberries can cost $5 or more. But why pay those premium prices when you can harvest baskets of these flavor-filled berries for fresh-eating, jams and desserts right from you own backyard? For easiest harvest and to reduce the risk of fungal disease, provide some types of support for the canes. A simple wire trellis set between posts often adequate. Cut spent canes to the ground after they finish fruiting.
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Choose a well-drained site in full sun at least 300 feet from any wild blackberries. Construct trellises for trailing varieties before planting.
Plant in early spring in most areas; in mild-winter areas of the south and Pacific Coast, plant in fall or winter. Space 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.
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. 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. Blackberries are subject to a number of different disease and insect pests, depending on region. Contact your cooperative extension office for information on managing pests in your area.
Blackberries fruit the first year after planting. The fruit’s green receptacle separates from the plant when the fruit is picked. The core should be small and soft.
Pick in the morning when fruits and plants are dry and cool. Watch out for bees before you reach in. Carry the berries in shallow trays because they are easily crushed. They also are highly perishable, so keep picked berries in the shade and move them to a cool location as soon as possible.