Nothing says summer like freshly picked berries. Most gardeners tend to gravitate toward strawberries or blueberries as their first fruits to grow, but you don’t want to miss out on thoroughly understanding how to plant blackberries.
Blackberry plants are extremely easy to develop. Even when you don’t plant them yourself, you’re likely to find wild ones growing along roadsides or the edge of wooded areas.
Planting blackberry bushes is a fun way to add some sweet fruits to your home garden and raised beds instead of the same vegetables year after year. Growing any new plant requires learning as much information as possible about it, like how far apart to plant blackberry bushes and blackberry plant spacing.
Types of Blackberry Plants
The most important thing to know before tackling blackberry planting is the four different types of blackberry fruiting plants. Don’t be confused by berries that look like blackberries. Make sure you are dealing with the right berry plant, as there is a difference between dewberry and blackberry as well as raspberry plants.
There are erect thorny blackberries, erect thornless blackberries, and trailing thornless blackberries. There is a fourth variety of semierect blackberries, but these are often less sweet and produced later in the growing season.
Erect blackberries are blackberry bushes that support themselves, and the trailing kind has long canes that require trellising. All blackberry plants are considered perennials, meaning the roots survive year after year.
The part of the plant that grows above the ground is a biennial, meaning that they grow vegetation for the first year and then bear fruit the second year. After this, the plant dies.
However, blackberry plants send up new canes every year to replace the old canes that die. It sounds a little complicated, but it makes an excellent fruit harvest. The first-year canes are called primocanes. Second-year canes are called floricanes or fruiting canes.
There are several different blackberry varieties to choose from. Always go for disease-resistant ones if the option is available at your local nursery or garden center. Some popular erect thornless cultivars are Navaho and Arapaho.
Erect thorny types include Cherokee, Shawnee, Cheyenne, and Brazos. A popular trailing type is the Olallie. The less-popular, semierect blackberry cultivar is called Black Satin. Once you decide on a cultivar, it’s time to start learning how to plant blackberries.
It won’t be long before you become excited about growing them again the following year. Planting blackberries is a fun hobby for gardeners of all ages and experience levels. Even if this is your first time planting anything, you’ll be happy to know that your chances of success are high.
How to Plant Blackberries
Blackberries are also called Rubus occidentalis. You might also hear these fruits referred to as brambles. Are black raspberry and blackberry the same plant? No, they are different but both are easy to grow. Planting blackberry bushes isn’t something to shy away from.
The process is almost effortless and immensely rewarding. They are hardy in USDA hardiness zones four through seven. Thanks to the cooperative extension program by the USDA, it is easy to find all the information required for planting blackberry seeds to maturity.
Planting Blackberry Bushes
Once you’ve got the first step of choosing a cultivar out of the way, it’s time to start planting your seeds. Grow raspberries from seeds in a similar way.
It is always wise to prepare the planting site in the early spring or the year prior, around late summer or late fall if possible, just like the best way to plant a blueberry bush. This timing allows you to stay on top of your tasks and focus on fruit production.
Do not plant blackberries near pepper, eggplants, potatoes, tomatoes, or strawberries. Refrain from planting them anywhere these plants have been over the past three years as well.
These fruits and veggies are prone to similar problems as blackberries, and it is easiest to avoid pests and diseases by keeping these foods apart.
The best way to plant blackberries is to select a site that receives full sun for them to bear fruit as soon as possible. The soil must have good drainage.
Always add organic matter to your soil to enrich it and help the different varieties of blackberries produce fruit easier. Test that the soil pH is between 5.5 and 6.5. Weed the chosen area and then dig a large hole to fit the bare root system comfortably.
How Far Apart to Plant Blackberry Bushes
Knowing how far apart to plant blackberry bushes depends on the growth habit. Spacing for erect cultivars should be two to three feet. Semi-erect cultivars require five to six feet of space. Trailing cultivars need four to six feet of spacing.
Ensure that the trailing varieties also have a trellis for their suckers to attach to and climb after you transplant blackberry bushes in the yard or garden. When planting the bushes during the blackberries growing season, pat down the soil to remove any air pockets surrounding the root system and water them thoroughly.
Caring for Blackberry Bushes
There isn’t a lot of care required once you finish transplanting blackberry bushes and they are in the ground. Water each plant regularly. They require an inch of water every week, and you may have to water more or less depending on the weather conditions.
Add mulch to the ground to help it hold onto moisture. Only expect a small batch of fruit during the first and second years of life.
Fertilize the new plants every time new growth appears. Pruning blackberries at the tips of the bushes should occur in the spring and another time in the fall after you harvest them. Keep an eye out for typical garden pests like raspberry borers and fruit worms.
Harvesting and Using Blackberries
Watch the berries ripen and only pick the fully black, plump, and slightly firm ones. The best time to pick blackberries can vary, so be sure to watch out for these visual markers. Pull the berries from the stem when ready since they don’t ripen after they are picked.
Continue to pick the berries every couple of days. Try harvesting during the cooler parts of the day and refrigerate them as soon as possible or cook with them right away.
Add the food ingredients to a saucepan and heat them over medium heat. Bring the fresh berry mix to a boil and stir occasionally while they boil for about two minutes.
Remove the boiling blackberry syrup from the heat and allow it to cool before serving it over pancakes or chicken and waffles. Store unused syrup in an airtight container for up to two weeks in the fridge.
We aren’t sure why more people don’t choose to grow blackberries in home gardens. They come back every year and don’t demand too much from their caretakers once planted. The berries are also easy to store for long periods and an easy way to add something sweet to dishes of all kinds.
If learning how to plant blackberries has made breakfasts more exciting in your house, share these tips for planting blackberry bushes on Facebook and Pinterest.