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Planting Blackberries Trees

Planning

  • Choose virus-free plants.
  • Plan a training system to match the growth habit of your variety – either upright or trailing.
  • Plant in early spring in most areas; in mild-winter areas of the South and Pacific Coast, plant in fall or winter.

Preparation

  • Choose a well-drained site in full sun at least 300 feet from any wild blackberries.
  • Construct trellises for trailing varieties before planting.

Planting

  • Plant upright varieties at 3-foot intervals in rows 8 feet apart. Set trailing varieties 5 to 8 feet apart in rows 6 to 10 feet apart.
  • Set plants 1 inch deeper than they were grown in the nursery.

Care

  • Cultivate shallowly; the roots are near the surface.
  • Mulch with a thick layer of shredded bark, wood chips, leaves, or hay.
  • Plants usually don’t require pruning the first year. Prune out fruiting canes as soon as berries are harvested each summer, and select replacement canes for the following year.
  • Fertilize early each spring with 1/2 to 3/4 cup of a complete fertilizer such as 5-10-10 or 8-8-8 per plant. Sprinkle it in a band 12 to 24 inches from canes and hoe it lightly into the soil.
  • To prevent chilling injury in the winter, lay the canes of trailing types on the ground in winter and cover with a thick layer of mulch.

Harvesting

  • Berries should be harvested every 2 to 4 days when ripe.
  • Pick berries in the cool of early morning. Refrigerate berries immediately after harvesting.

Blackberries need full sun. They aren’t fussy about soils, although good drainage is important. If the soil has a good amount of humus, so much the better, but average fertility is all they need. Do not plant blackberries where any other brambles have been growing; diseases can build up over time and one of the easiest ways to avoid problems is to start fresh on a new site. Because wild blackberries and raspberries can harbor diseases and pests, try to keep your garden plants at least 300 feet from any wild relatives. Also avoid planting where any nightshade family members – tomatoes, potatoes, eggplants, peppers – grew in the last 2 years, as they can transmit verticillium wilt to blackberry plants.

Planting Particulars

Plants should be set out in early spring. If you get your plants from a mail-order company, order them at least a month or two before planting time and indicate the week you’d like the plants to arrive. If you can’t plant the day they arrive, keep plants, well wrapped, in a cool place. If they are loose and unpacked, set them temporarily in a shallow trench at the edge of the garden and fill it with soil so the roots don’t dry out. Nursery plants may have a 6- or 8-inch dormant cane extending from the root ball. You can use it as a handle in moving the plants and later as a row marker. Set the plants in the ground 1 inch deeper than they were grown in the nursery, then firm moist soil around the roots.

Plant upright varieties at least 3 feet apart in the row, with 8 feet between rows. For trailing types, allow 5 to 8 feet between plants and 6 to 10 feet between rows. The plants are relatively drought tolerant, but they’ll need a steady supply of water to get them established. In the second and subsequent years, plants need 1 to 2 inches of water per week during fruit development, especially if the weather turns dry and windy, a bit less once the crop is harvested. Drip irrigation is a good watering method for blackberries.