Tag: blackberries

Preparing Blackberries for Winter

Do you have a hankering for fresh, homegrown blackberries but aren’t sure if you can grow them in your climate? If you live in USDA zones 5 to 10, the answer is yes.

If you live in the northern reaches of zone 5 you can still grow blackberries, but, you may have to give them a little extra attention at the end of the growing season. Most blackberries produce fruit on canes from the previous season so the name of the game is to keep those canes from dying back in winter.

Frost tender varieties will survive temperatures that get down to 0 to 10 degrees F and the hardy types tolerate about -10 degrees F. If your garden is likely to see colder temperatures, take a few steps at the end of the growing season to protect the canes.

Protecting blackberries in winter is pretty simple. If you are growing a trailing type, remove the canes from their supports and place the canes on the ground. Cover with a heavy layer of mulch. In the early spring, before new growth emerges, lift the canes and reattach them to the trellis. Upright blackberries are more cold tolerant than the trailing types, but you should protect the canes for cold winds with a wind break.

Good to Know: Cold Hardy Blackberry Varieties

You can skip the winter protection if you select blackberries that fruit on the current season’s canes or primocanes as well as the second year canes (floricanes). Look for Prime-Ark™ (developed in my home state of Arkansas), Prime-Jan® and Prime-Jim®. These varieties will grow as far north as zone 4.

Growing Blackberries

Quart baskets of juicy blackberries are beginning to appear at my local farmer’s market and I couldn’t be happier. Whether eaten raw or prepared as a dessert, I just love the flavor of these berries.

I have a few vines growing on a wire trellis attached to the backside of my privacy fence and if I am faster than the birds, I can harvest enough each season for a cobbler or two.

Blackberries are one of the most carefree berries that you can grow. They will tolerate just about any soil and are relatively disease and pest free, although viruses are one common problem to watch out for. To avoid this, purchase certified, virus-free plants from a nursery rather than succumbing to the temptation of transplanting wild vines or pass along seedlings from a generous friend or neighbor.

The best time to plant blackberries is in early spring, although gardeners who live in warm climates can also plant in fall or winter. Choose a location that receives full sun and where you can provide support for the canes.

Blackberries need about 1 to 2 inches of water a week and should be fertilized in spring with an all-purpose blend.

Don’t be disappointed if you don’t see any fruit in the first year because it usually takes 2 years for a plant to produce. Now, once you have harvested berries from a cane, it is important to cut it back because it will not fruit again. Pruning will direct the plants energy toward new growth, which will bring you berries next year.

In areas that experience cold winters, simply place the canes on the ground and cover with a heavy layer of mulch. This will be sufficient cold weather protection. In the early spring, before new growth emerges, lift the canes and reattach them to your support.

Once the fruit is ready to harvest, blackberries should be picked every 2 to 4 days and if you collect them in the early morning, they will store longer. They will keep in the refrigerator for about 1 week.

Good to Know: Hybrid Blackberry Varieties

One of the greatest joys of summer is the abundance of locally grown fresh produce available for us to eat, like blackberries. And if you are looking for a variety of blackberry that produces super large fruit you need to investigate a series developed by the University of Arkansas. Varieties in the series are called Kiowa, Cheyenne, Choctaw, and Navajo.

These new strains allow small farms to produce berries for a longer period because each variety ripens at a different time – Choctaw starts in late May, and Navajo finishes off in early August.

Another benefit is that they were developed to have a longer life on the vine and to stay fresher longer in the market after picking.

Now, according to my taste buds the greatest quality of these berries is their bigger size and sweeter flavor.

To learn more about growing blackberries, check out the video below!

Run Away Blackberry Vines

I have very sandy soil with a steep cliff at the back of my yard. It is covered with blackberries that come up and cover the rest of the back yard. Is there an organic way to get rid of them?

I have very sandy soil with a steep cliff at the back of my yard. It is covered with blackberries that come up and cover the rest of the back yard. Is there an organic way to get rid of them?

Having had to deal with a run-away blackberry situation at my own farm, I can attest to the fact that they can be extremely difficult to eradicate as their tenacious roots seem to travel everywhere. To exert some control over the situation without using dangerous chemical herbicides requires persistence.

The standard method of organically removing unwanted vegetation is hand pulling or weeding. While this can be labor intensive, it often gives the quickest, most long-term results. A long, thick pair of leather gloves and a helper may make this a less daunting project. After removing as much vegetation as possible cover the area with thick (6 mm) black landscape plastic until the next planting season. This will help eliminate any remaining roots that may have been left in the soil. Make sure that any new shoots that pop up in the weeks that follow the purge are immediately pulled along with their roots.

Two other options are flame weeders or organic herbicidal soaps. This is an admittedly less physical task than hand pulling, but one that requires constant vigilance and perseverance. These controls only kill the vegetative top growth of perennial plants and do not address the roots, so a one time application is not completely effective. Their effectiveness comes from continued use to destroy any signs of vegetation throughout the season thus weakening the roots and eventually killing the plant.

In a situation such as yours with unwanted vegetation moving in from an area that is wild, you may find a combination of these methods necessary to keep your yard under control.