There are two types of blackberries-erect, and trailing (dew berries). When properly pruned the erect varieties don't usually need to be trellised, but trailing varieties must be trellised. Construct a trellis of posts spaced 10 to 15 feet apart, with wires attached at 3 and 5 foot heights. The plants are then attached to these wires with soft string.
Set blackberry plants at the same depth as they were grown at the nursery. Space erect varieties 5 feet apart in a row, and trailing types 6 feet apart. Allow 10 feet between rows for working and picking. After planting erect varieties, cut them back to a height of 30 to 36 inches. The lateral shoots should also be tipped back to a length of 18 to 20 inches. After the canes have borne fruit they will never bear again and should be removed. Suckers which develop between the rows should be pulled up, not cut out. Cutting off a sucker does not delay its regrowth much. After removing the fruited canes at harvest time, thin the other plants so that there is only one plant for every 10 inches in a row.
One of the most important advances in the blackberry industry was the development of thornless varieties, which need to be trellised. New shoots are tied to the wires with soft string as they grow. Pruning is fairly simple since you keep only 4 to 8 canes per plant. All weak canes and suckers are removed.
Thornless: Black Satin, Dirksen, Hull.
Most gardeners don't leave blackberries on the vine long enough to develop properly. When harvested too early the berries are sour. Ripe fruit lose their shiny color and start to turn a dull black. As with raspberries, fruit should be picked in the morning for better quality.
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This page was last updated on November 16, 2002