Monday, October 25, 2010

Pruning Blackberries

Blackberries are one of the easiest berry bushes to get started and are a reliable producer for many years. The only maintenance required is pruning them back to a manageable size every year after harvesting the last berries in August. I have tried many varieties, but I have found no types that are superior to the thornless varieties in fruit quantity, taste and reliability. I wanted to see if the thorny types had better flavor or bigger fruit or any advantage that would justify having to deal with the nasty thorns and I have found no justification, so I have torn out all of my varieties except the thornless ones. I wish I knew what kind I have specifically, but with most of my fruit trees and berry bushes, I go out and talk to friends and farmers and take cuttings of plants that produce well with no chemicals, and often they do not know the variety. If you observe your own neighborhood or the country area around your city you will start to notice trees and berry bushes of all kinds that look kind of neglected (indicating that they are not sprayed with chemicals) yet they have good fruit output. These are the plants you want to choose for cuttings. Click here for info on taking cuttings.

Blackberries a couple of weeks from being ready to pick.

Ready to start harvesting. Blackberries produce for 2-4 weeks.

My thornless blackberries grow to be about 12' tall by the end of summer. Notice the 7' high hoop house in the background. I let them grow all summer and prune them back after harvest.

After harvest, I cut all the canes back to about 4' high and specifically remove all the canes that produced fruit this year to the ground. All brambles are different, but blackberries only produce fruit on canes that grew from the previous year so anything that had fruit on it this year will not have berries the next year.

It is easy to tell what canes had fruit, as you will see some of the unharvested seed heads on top of the canes. Cut all of these to the ground and get rid of them. They do not compost well so I burn them. The growth from this season will produce fruit next year. By cutting the shrubs back to 4' after harvest, the canes will have time to put out side shoots and grow to about 6' before fall, thus providing a thick mass of one year old growth that will produce fruit the next year. No home should be without blackberries. Good luck.

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