Blackberries are often seen in the wild and have become a hot pick for humans due to their beneficial attributes. Blackberries are bramble fruits that you can often find in stores and markets in the form of jams, wines, jellies, pies, juices, and liqueurs.
When planting blackberries, be sure to pick a sunny area with fertile and well-draining soil. There are three self-fruitful varieties of blackberry: erect, semi-erect, and trailing. The ideal time for planting blackberry is early spring when the canes are dormant. For the successful growth of the plant, mulching, fertilizing, and frequent watering is the key.
In this article, we will discuss blackberries, including the three best varieties to plant, and how to grow them properly in your backyard. We also deal with how to care for them while they’re growing and when to harvest.
What Is a Blackberry and What Is Its Origin?
A blackberry is a good fruit thanks to its richness in essential nutrients and antioxidants, which are good for human consumption. The origin of the fruit is hard to trace since it grew rapidly around the globe. However, blackberries were first found in Asia, North and South America, and Europe.
Throughout history, blackberries have been used in many ways, from food to medicine. Greeks and Romans used this fruit as medicine, while Native Americans used it for food, medicine, and to dye animals’ skins.
Blackberries come in different species that are mostly found all over the world due to their ability to adapt to a country’s climate and conditions. Bramble, brummel, brambleberry, and bly are some other names for blackberries.
Blackberries are considered wild fruits, and so, in their early days, were not cultivated. There are 40 known species of blackberries, a fruit also known under its scientific name, Rubus fruticosus. Blackberries are grown on either vines or bushes, and though they have “berry” in their names, do not belong to the “berry” family.
A blackberry is a bramble fruit and a member of the “Rosaceae” family, like roses. You can often find blackberries in jams, wines, jellies, pies, juices, and liqueurs.
Varieties of Blackberry
There are three kinds of blackberries, namely the erect, semi-erect, or trailing. Each of these varieties is self-fruitful, which means only one plant is set to fruit. Choosing one of these three varieties is essential before you start planting blackberries in your backyard. We will discuss the main differences of each variety below.
1. Erect Blackberry
Erect blackberry varieties have spikey canes, grow upright, and don’t need support. This type of blackberry produces large, sweet berries, and can survive winter weather, contrary to its counterparts.
Erect blackberry varieties grow fruits on 3 to 4 feet tall canes, making them perfect for small spaces. They can also be planted up against fence lines or along the back row of bed spaces.
2. Semi-erect Blackberry
Semi-erect blackberry varieties come in both thorny and thornless cultivars. This type of blackberry produces more berries than the erect species. Semi-erect fruits are quite large and their flavors vary from tart to sweet. This type of blackberry doesn’t need support, like the erect one.
3. Trailing Blackberry
Trailing blackberry varieties can also come in a thorny or thornless variety. They also have large and sweet fruits, like erect blackberry varieties. However, these varieties need support when growing. Among the three, trailing varieties are the least winter hardy. Trailing blackberry varieties can grow from 20 to 30 feet tall.
If you are someone who loves fruits, having your own orchard in your backyard is definitely a good idea. All you need is a few fruit bearing trees and the knowledge to grow them. To know more about this topic, go ahead and read our guide to backyard orchards.
A Guide to Growing Blackberries in a Backyard
Blackberries are a common sight throughout the United States, whether eaten fresh or used in baked goods, medicines, juices, or preserves. Blackberries are also easy to grow and maintain perennial crops. A single plant can produce an immense harvest for 20 years or more.
Once you’ve decided what variety of blackberry you wish to grow in your backyard, it’s time to get started with the planting time. But, before you start planting, here are a few things you need to know, aside from the varieties discussed above.
Climate and Location
Blackberries prosper in areas where days are warm and nights are cool. When planting blackberries, be sure to pick a sunny area. Although they will also grow in shaded locations, they won’t produce fruits there.
Blackberries belong to the bramble family, and these crops perform well in many soil types. Although, they prefer slightly acidic soil. One of the reasons why you often see blackberries in the wild is because the soil in such locations is rich and has a low pH level. However, growing them in a backyard makes them grow quite effectively without any trouble.
It is also important to have fertile and well-drained soil. To enrich your soil, add mulch or other soil amendments to it. Before planting, make sure your soil is also prepared.
The key to a fruitful harvest is to make sure to have decent drainage since you need to water blackberry plants weekly. Watering them more often would improve the quality of the fruit, but you should not overwater the plant. Well-drained soil is also ideal to have a thriving blackberry plant in your yard.
The ideal time to plant blackberries is in early spring and when the canes are dormant. You can also plant them in late fall, although we recommend delaying it until early spring in very cold areas as low temperatures could kill some varieties of blackberries.
Blackberry cultivars are self-fertile, so you don’t need to plant multiple plants for fruit production. It is also vital to make sure not to plant blackberries where peppers, tomatoes, potatoes, eggplants, or strawberries are growing or have previously grown. These plants are prone to encounter similar problems as blackberries when growing, so avoid planting them near these areas.
How to Plant Blackberries in a Backyard
After learning the necessary things for planting and growing blackberries, it is time to know how to properly plant them. When growing blackberries, it’s ideal to think ahead and prepare the planting site a year before you plant the shrubs. Here are the easy steps for planting blackberries in your backyard.
Step 1: Build a trellis for your blackberry
What you need:
- 2 pieces of 4×4 pressure-treated post with 8’ height
- 9-gauge coated wire
- Staple or gun tucker
If you don’t have a plan to plant blackberries along your fence line, then it is ideal to build a trellis for them. To do so, you need two pieces of 4×4 pressure-treated posts with 8’ height. Dig a 3’ hole and sink the posts deep in the ground. When having more trellis, leave 10’ to 20’ of distance between each one.
After installing the trellis, make two marks on each post — one at 2 ½” off the ground, and the other at 4 ½” off the ground. Once done, attach the 9-gauge coated wire to the post using a staple.
Trellis is important in growing blackberries. During the first growing season, you don’t need to train blackberries to a trellis. Start the trellis training during the second year, where the canes can be tied to the trellis. Using the wire, loosely tie the canes to the trellis as they develop.
The perfect time to start trellis training is before the buds bloom in early spring. Once the canes are tall enough to reach the top wire, tie them horizontally along the wire.
Step 2: Prepare the soil
Blackberries are perennial crops that come back year after year, so it is ideal to prepare your soil correctly. As previously mentioned, blackberries thrive best in fertile and well-drained soil. They also like slightly acidic soil, and the ideal pH level for them is between 5.5 and 7.0.
To prepare your soil, aerate it and add 2” of composted cow manure and 2” of organic soil conditioner on top of the soil. Then, work them 8” to 10” deep. To know the pH level of your soil, you can take a pH soil test. If the pH level is below the recommended level, you can add lime to raise the pH level.
Step 3: Prune the canes of blackberry shrubs
Once the soil is prepared, you can proceed to the next step, which consists of pruning the canes of the blackberry plant. It is ideal to plant blackberry shrubs in early spring, or if you live in warmer climates, in late fall.
Blackberries can either be purchased bare-rooted or containerized. If you have a bare rooted one, shake the packing material off the roots and set the plant in a bucket of water for a few hours. Soaking the plant in water keeps the roots from drying out.
In most cases, the canes of blackberry shrubs have already been cut back at the nursery before you buy them. If the shrubs are not cut back, cut the canes to 6” to 8”. Remember, when pruning the canes in the first season, you will not have a crop for the first year.
However, pruning the canes of blackberry shrubs means you allow the plants to put their energy into developing a strong root system. With this process, the plant will be healthier and more productive in the long run.
Step 4: Plant the blackberry shrubs
After soaking and pruning the shrubs, it’s time to dig a hole and plant them. Dig a hole wide enough to accommodate the roots without crowding the blackberry shrubs. Place the shrubs into the dug hole and make sure the crown of the shrubs is leveled with the surrounding soil.
Fill the hole with about ¾ of soil and water it with about 1 or 2 gallons to help the soil settle and get rid of any air pockets. Then, fill again with soil and tamp down the soil using your hands, and water the plant again. Note that different varieties of blackberry have different spacing requirements:
- Trailing varieties should be spaced 6’ to 8’ apart.
- Erect and semi-erect varieties should be spaced 1’ apart.
Follow the recommended plant label spacing or inquire at your local extension service. Also, make sure to purchase a certified disease-free variety of blackberries that suits your area.
Step 5: Fertilize and water the blackberry shrubs
As you watch and wait for your blackberry plant to bloom, don’t forget to water and fertilize the shrub. Fertilize them twice a year, specifically in the spring and summer, using a balanced 10-10 fertilizer with micronutrients.
To know if the plants need more fertilizer, start looking at their foliage. Blackberry leaves must be dark green. If you notice pale green or yellowing leaves, the plant is lacking nitrogen.
Blackberries are quite drought-tolerant once they are established, but with a steady and sufficient supply of moisture, they can produce more and juicier berries. A sufficient water supply is vital, especially when the harvest season is approaching. Blackberries need to be water once or twice a week during summer.
A drip irrigation system works best with blackberries for it sends the water right at the roots of the plant, where the water is needed. This irrigation system allows the foliage of the blackberry to stay dry. It also reduces the chances of diseases and infestations since wet foliage encourages the formation and spread of diseases.
These days, it’s hard to find someone who does not love avocados. If you are a fan of this fruit, it may be a good idea for you to grow one in your backyard. If you are not sure how to do this, read our guide to growing avocados in your backyard to help you get started.
Blackberry Plant Harvest and Storage Guide
Here is how to harvest and store your blackberries:
- Only pick fully black blackberries. Mature blackberry fruits are plump yet firm, have a deep black color, and can be pulled free from the bush without yanking on them. Remember that berries do not ripen after being picked.
- Once the berries are beginning to ripen, they must be harvested every couple of days.
- Keep the central plug of the blackberry fruit when picking it.
- It is best to harvest the fruit at the cooler time of the day. Once picked, keep the berries in a shaded place and refrigerate them as soon as possible.
- Blackberries are highly perishable fruits and can only last for a few days once harvested, even if you refrigerate them.
- Canning, preserving, or freezing are other ways to store the blackberries to ensure their freshness.
Blackberry Plant Care Guide
Once the shrubs and bushes of your blackberry are established, there’s a little plant care you need to do. Water the blackberry plant regularly. Provide at least an inch of water weekly, depending on the weather conditions. Allow 3 to 4 new canes per plant to grow to the top of the trellis and always keep the area around the blackberry weeds-free.
In the first year of growing a blackberry plant, you will only harvest a small batch of berries and expect a full harvest in the second year. When you see the fruits are ripening, try picking the fruit every three to six days to prevent birds from getting the berries first. Once the berries are harvested, prune the fruiting canes that can no longer produce berries.
Mulching is important too when growing blackberries. This will help conserve the moisture of the soil and prevent weed growth. Make sure to keep a thick layer of mulch around the blackberry plant at all times.
If your blackberry plant is suffering from a disease known as the Raspberry Bushy Dwarf virus, it will have bright yellow leaves and the leaves of the fruiting vines will show a bleached look in the summer. If the leaves of your blackberry plant have faint yellow blotches, it is caused by a disease known as the Blackberry Calico.
Other pests and diseases that could harm your blackberry plant include Raspberry borers, fruit worms, gray mold, and viruses. If you notice early signs of the aforementioned diseases, apply primary aid to your plant, like pruning and removing the infected areas. You may also use organic insecticides to prevent these diseases from showing in your blackberry plant.
When planting and growing blackberries, it is important to know about the different varieties. As different varieties grow best in different states, you must select a variety that’s well-suited for your climate. Blackberries are easy to grow as long as you properly care for the plant.
Growing blackberries will not be as hard as you think with the guide we shared in this article. With the easy steps discussed above, you can grow blackberries and harvest their sweet fruits. To begin, you can plant 2 to 5 shrubs, and then, can add more if you have more space in your yard.