It may seem odd to talk about intentionally growing this often aggressive and painful plant. But maybe you are someone who believes that the fruit is worth the pain. There are also varieties of blackberry which grow great fruit and are thorn-free. Either way, growing your own blackberries assures that you’ll have an easy source of this fruit close to home. Just be sure you’re prepared for the work that comes with cultivating these vines!
Choosing a Site for Growing Blackberries
Blackberries produce best in full sun, but can tolerate partial shade. Blackberries can grow in just about any type of soil as long as it is well-drained. If the soil drains slowly or is too wet, adding organic matter will help reduce the chance of root rot. Blackberries would prefer to have the pH between 5.5 and 7.5. If your pH is below 5.5, add lime.
Dig a shallow hole large enough to accommodate the roots of starts. Prune off any damaged root parts. Spread the root mass and set the plant in the ground at the same soil level as it was in the nursery pot. Cover the roots and press the soil down firmly to remove air pockets. If you have soil low in fertility, add a well balanced all purpose fertilizer to the hole. Space plants 4-10 feet apart in a row. It is wise to trellis all blackberries. A simple trellis system 6’ tall of wire supports strung between posts is preferred.
How to Care for Blackberries
Each spring, add a well balanced fertilizer to the soil. Control weeds between the plants but cultivate no deeper than 1-2 inches to prevent root damage. You may apply mulch once plants become established. Sawdust (not cedar), compost, or bark mulch can be applied in a three inch layer over the row.
Pruning should be done in winter or early spring. Blackberries bear fruit on canes that grew the previous season. The canes that produced fruit last year should be pruned away. The new canes can be tied to on a trellis or a fence. This will allow better air circulation and higher quality berries.
When to Harvest Blackberries
Berries should be harvested every 3 to 6 days depending on weather and cultivation. When ripe, berries come right off the vine. To extend shelf life, pick berries when they are dry and refrigerate as soon as possible.