How to Grow Blackberries
Who doesn’t love blackberries? Those early- to mid-summer berries are sweet (but not too), plentiful, and easy to grow. If you haven’t grown blackberries before and feel a little intimidated with starting, stop right there. You can do this, and you will be amazed and delighted at how easy and rewarding it is.
Choose Your Berry
Blackberry plants are all the same, right? No, not really. Aside from different cultivars, there are different types of blackberry plants—and one isn’t better than another; it simply depends upon what’s most important to you. Here are some to consider:
- Thornless blackberries: No thorns, no poking, no pain! Great varieties include ‘Arapaho’ and ‘Navaho’.
- Bare root blackberries: Bare root plants are shipped dormant without any soil, and transplant very well. If you miss the window of time that bare root blackberries are available, potted blackberries will do just fine if planted with care.
- Erect blackberries: While many blackberry plants have a vining habit, you can also opt for erect or bush-type plants that require no trellising. Try ‘Cherokee,’ ‘Black Satin,’ ‘Brazos,’ or ‘Cheyenne.’
- Primocane blackberries: It usually takes about three years from planting to have a full crop of blackberries, but with primocanes, you can have production on first- and second-year canes. Some primocanes (also called everbearing) can have a second harvest late in the season.
USDA Hardiness Zones: 5–9
Sun: Full sun
Water: 1”–2” per week
Soil: Fertile, well-drained with an acidic pH
Planting Time: Early spring or late fall (exception: if you live in a colder area, wait til early spring)
Harvest Time: Summer (early-, mid-, and late-season varieties are available)
Fertilizing: Use an all-purpose balanced fertilizer in early spring
A note on trellises: Most types of blackberry plants appreciate or even require a sturdy trellis because the plant becomes very heavy with its fruit. You may even find that the erect varieties benefit from a little added support! Consider a 2-wire system with wire strung 3 and 5 feet from the ground. As canes emerge in the spring, gently distribute them along the wires, forming a fan pattern.
A note about pruning: Although there’s a little more to it, the basic gist of blackberry pruning is that you want to prune after your blackberry plant has finished fruiting for the season. You’ll remove the old fruiting canes completely to make room for the new growth—blackberries will not produce fruit on the old canes.
How to Plant
The planting technique is easy, but depends upon what kind of plant you are starting with—potted blackberry plants or bare root plants—and we’ve got steps for each! For either type, though, plant multiple plants at least 3–4’ apart to allow for lateral growth, and plan to install your trellis at planting time if you will need one.
- Dig a hole as deep as the soil in the container the blackberry came in.
- Gently remove blackberry plant from its container and loosen the roots.
- Place plant in the hole and fill in with soil around the roots, gently tamping.
- Thoroughly water new planting.
Bare Root Blackberries:
- Plant bare root blackberry plants as soon as possible after receiving them.
- Remove from packaging, and carefully prune off any damaged roots.
- Soak the roots in a bucket of water for up to 2 hours before planting.
- Dig a trench or a hole 2”–4” deep, and gently spread the roots out, then cover with soil. The top of the cane or the plug will be visible above the soil.
- Thoroughly water the new planting.
How to Harvest
Once your blackberries begin to ripen, the fun is now beginning! You’ll need to harvest them often (every couple of days), and only harvest when they are fully ripe because they will not continue to ripen after you pick them.
As with many other types of fruits and veggies, harvest them earlier in the day when it’s cooler, then plan to refrigerate them as soon as possible. They are highly perishable and will only last a few days after harvesting—which will not likely be an issue. They’re so delicious that the only problem will be having enough on hand for all of your snacking, baking, and preserving!
- Katie Elzer-Peters