If you’re thinking about growing blackberry bushes in your home garden, you’re in for a real treat. Blackberries are incredibly easy to grow, and your efforts are rewarded with a prolific harvest of delicious berries. Discover how to grow blackberry bushes and keep them thriving for years to come.
Blackberries are highly nutritious fruits packed full of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. These healthful, juicy, sweet berries are excellent for eating fresh off the vine, making baked goods and jams, adding a fresh twist to your favorite smoothie or cocktail recipes, or freezing for later use.
As long as you have a planting area that gets full sun and has rich soil with good drainage, it’s pretty straightforward to grow a blackberry bush.
They also thrive in raised beds and containers with proper care. Read on to discover incredible tips and tricks for growing the best blackberries you’ve ever tasted.
Best Tricks for Growing Blackberry Bushes
Before planting blackberry bushes, there are a few key factors to keep in mind. It’s important to understand how blackberry plants grow to give them optimal care. Blackberries grow best in USDA hardiness zone 3-9 and often look like a thorny pricker bush that you would rather avoid.
While the root system is perennial, blackberry canes are biennial. The fruiting canes are vegetative in their first year, and second year canes produce fruit and die off. Yearly pruning is essential to prevent the brambles from getting tough to manage.
There are numerous blackberry varieties to choose from. Generally speaking, blackberry cultivars are classified into three groups: erect, semierect, and trailing.
Erect blackberry types support themselves, and trailing varieties grow best on a trellis. Semierect cultivars won’t climb, but they do require additional support. There are also thorny and thornless blackberry varieties.
You might be wondering, “How tall do blackberry bushes grow?” It depends on the variety. Blackberry bushes tend to get quite large.
Erect blackberries keep a columnar shape while trailing blackberries have a sprawling growth habit. To grow blackberries without the plants falling over, trellising is helpful to contain the spreading brambles. Here are a few ideal kinds of blackberries for home gardeners.
Where to Grow a Blackberry Bush
Selecting a suitable planting site is essential for success. Blackberry bushes grow best in fertile soil with good drainage that’s free from weeds, rocks, and other obstructions.
Blackberries prefer acidic soil pH between 5.5-6.5. Get in touch with your local cooperative extension office for a soil test.
It’s best to plant blackberry canes and bare root plants in late fall, late winter, or early spring while they are still dormant.
Prepare the planting site by applying a generous layer of dark-colored mulch or organic compost to warm the soil. Blackberries thrive in full sun to partial shade, with a minimum of four hours of direct sunlight per day.
Blackberries need plenty of room to spread out—overcrowding results in stunted growth, diminished fruit production, and increased risk of disease problems. Spacing between plants should be at least five to six feet. If desired, plant them in a line to form a hedgerow.
Using blackberry bushes as a perimeter border, particularly the thorny varieties, may help get rid of cats in your yard, as well as other potentially destructive animals. Many people use them as deer resistant flowering shrubs, too.
How to Transplant a Blackberry Bush
Dig a hole that’s roughly twice the size of the plant’s root ball. Place one tablespoon of organic, all-purpose fertilizer in the bottom of the hole, and fill in around the root system with a 50/50 mixture of garden soil and compost.
Afterward, be sure to water them deeply. Use organic matter like bark mulch, grass clippings, leaves, or pine needles to insulate the soil, retain moisture, and suppress weed growth.
Blackberry plants are self-fertile and don’t require another plant to produce fruit. However, having multiple plants helps provide a higher yield of fruit. Different blackberry varieties planted close together may cross-pollinate.
Caring for Blackberry Plants
Keep your blackberries well-watered, especially during periods of dry and hot weather. On average, blackberry plants need about one inch of water per week.
Blackberries are heavy feeders and require regular fertilizing throughout the growing season. Use an all-purpose, organic fertilizer designed for acid-loving plants once in late spring and again in early fall before they go dormant.
If desired, use coffee grounds, eggshells, and wood ash to fertilize the plants when they begin fruiting and flowering. Coffee grounds add nitrogen to the soil, while wood ash and eggshells provide potassium and calcium. They also help to maintain an acidic soil pH.
Pruning is an essential part of blackberry maintenance. Unlike some types of raspberries, which are primocanes and produce fruit on new growth, all blackberries are floricanes. That means that they only grow fruit second year canes.
Prune old canes to the ground in late fall or early winter after they’ve finished fruiting and gone dormant. Refrain from cutting them until the wood has dried out to give the nutrients a chance to return to the root system.
After removing the old canes, train the new canes of trailing varieties up the trellis with wires or loose plant ties.
Erect and semierect blackberry cultivars usually sprout canes from a central crown and root suckering. For the first few growing seasons, prune the canes when they reach four feet tall to encourage branching. Remove unwanted suckers as they sprout and shorten lateral branches as needed.
How to Grow Blackberry Bushes in Containers
To grow a blackberry bush in your container garden, select a compact, thornless variety like Baby Cakes. Choose a pot at least 12 inches deep and wide.
Ensure that there are several drainage holes at the bottom of the container to prevent problems with root rot and fungal diseases.
Container-grown blackberries frequently require more water and fertilizer than in-ground plantings. Fertilize every four to six weeks according to the instructions listed on the product label.
Eventually, the root system will outgrow the pot. Every two to four years, remove the root ball from the container and divide it in half. Use a sharp shovel, and divide the plant in late spring when the weather is mild.
Harvesting and Storing Blackberries
Most blackberry varieties ripen to black, while some produce black and red berries, which is one difference between blackberries and mulberries. Pick fresh berries as soon as they ripen to encourage more vigorous fruit production.
During peak fruiting season, be sure to harvest your blackberries every few days for best results. Most blackberry varieties produce fruit from late June through early September.
Store blackberries in the refrigerator for three or four days, and use them as quickly as possible for the best possible taste and texture.
They’re highly perishable, so canning and freezing large berry harvests is an excellent way to extend their shelf life. Use frozen blackberries within a year.
If you’ve never tried growing blackberry bushes before, know that it’s well worth the effort. Once established, blackberry plants reward you with a generous harvest of delicious fruits year after year.
As long as you have an area with rich soil, ample sunshine, and plenty of room for them to spread out, you’ll have a large blackberry patch within a few years.
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