Blackberries are delicious
Growing blackberries is rewarding, although it can take a few years until they start producing heavily. The taste is sublime when they’re ripe on the bush. They honestly taste like candy, and you won’t experience this taste unless you grow or pick them fresh. Grocery stores often harvest berries under ripe so they last longer on the store shelves.
Blackberries are a perennial plants that will keep producing year after year
This post will cover
- Blackberry types and blackberry varieties
- Planting blackberries
- Care in the first 1-2 years
- Pruning blackberries
There are a couple of ways of growing blackberries
- In neat tiny rows that you prune down every season
- Wild and crazy and not pruned
Blackberries do benefit from being pruned because you need new canes for continuous good fruit development. That being said, I’ve also seen huge blackberry bushes that were never pruned and had huge yields (along with thorns!).
Choosing a blackberry type
- Trailing varieties require a trellis, and are less cold hardy than erect varieties.
- Erect varieties grow upwards and can be left as a large bush without pruning on the edges of your garden landscaping.
- Thornless are semi-erect without the prickly stems
Before choosing your blackberry varieties you’ll need to figure out where you’ll plant them. You’ll also need to check if the variety is self-pollinating or if they need another variety for cross-pollination. This means that the plant might flower but produce no fruit if the pollination doesn’t happen.
We’re growing our blackberry bushes against a chain link fence in our permaculture food forest. Although we’ll still prune them back in the fall, we’ll also let them grow a little wild to create a bush fence to deter the elk that live in the area.
You can also grow blackberries in large containers
But make sure the plants don’t dry out and choose a dwarf variety like Babycakes (pictured below).
Popular blackberry varieties
Blackberry Fruiting Chart from Indiana Berry
|Variety||Fruting Season||Flavor||Berry Size||Growth Habit||Zones|
|Prime Ark 45||*||Very Good||M-L||Erect||4-7|
|Prime Ark Freedom||*||Excellent||VL||Erect||TBD|
Fruiting Season – 1 being the earliest and 4 being the latest
Fruit Size – S=Small | M=Medium | L=Large | VL=Very Large
What do blackberries need?
Full sun is best but they can handle partial shade. 6-8 hours of sunshine is best. They relatively easy going but they do need well drained soil and won’t do well in clay. Amend your soil for better drainage if you have clay. Blackberries like a soil a pH that is slightly acidic, somewhere between 5.5 and 7.0. Growing flowers that pollinators love close to your blackberries can increase pollination rates by attracting more bees to the area. Mulching helps to suppress weeds. Reformation acres has some great tips for mulching berries.
First year tips
When planting your berry bushes the crown should be right at soil level, with the roots just under the surface. Water well the first year for good root development. Prune back in the fall and apply a fertilizer the following spring.
Blackberry pruning tips
- Depending on the variety, stake or trellis-train your blackberry plants to keep them more compact and upright.
- Pruning may vary depending on the blackberry variety you plant. Most berry bushes bear only once on 2-year-old canes. After the canes have produced fruit, you should prune them back to the ground to leave room for the stronger, 1-year-old canes.
- Some pruning should be done every spring to keep the plants from becoming tangled and to improve their ability to bear. Prune trailing blackberries in the spring for good growth habits. Prune each main cane back to 3-4’. Then cut back side branches to about 12”, leaving five or six buds on each. Erect and semi-erect varieties should be tipped or cut back to 3-4’ in midsummer. This forces lateral branches to emerge from buds below this point.
- Later in the fall, after they are dormant, cut back the laterals to 16-18”. Fruit will be borne on these laterals the following summer (after which, the canes should then be removed to make room for next season’s growth).
Learn more about pruning blackberries. Learn Blackberry diseases and why blackberries might not set fruit.
My name is Isis Loran, creator of the Family Food Garden. I’ve been gardening for over 10 years now and push the limits of our zone 5 climates. I love growing heirlooms & experimenting with hundreds of varieties, season extending, crunchy homesteading and permaculture.