If you’re disappointed by the availability, freshness or the price of organic blackberries at your favorite grocery store, consider growing your own.
The delicious and nutritious fruit does well in our unique climate, growing outside in a garden, in a raised bed or in a container of five gallons or larger, giving you enough fresh blackberries to eat, freeze and enjoy all year long. Here are a few suggestions from the Clemson Cooperative Extension’s Home & Garden Information Center.
Blackberries are divided into classes by their growth habit and are described as trailing, semi-trailing or erect. The trailing varieties are thorny; the semi-trailing varieties are thornless; and the erect varieties may be thorny or thornless. As a rule, the erect varieties are more cold-hardy than the trailing or semi-trailing varieties. Erect varieties also fruit about one month earlier than other varieties.
The semi-trailing varieties should be planted 6 to 8 feet apart in the row, with rows 10 feet apart. The trailing types are less vigorous and should be planted about 4 feet apart, with rows 6 to 8 feet apart. Erect varieties are usually established by planting root cuttings. Plant these cuttings about 2 feet apart. Plant blackberries in early spring, about 4 to 6 weeks before the last frost. When planting, make sure the crown is about 2 inches below the soil line. Carefully spread the roots. If there is a portion of an old cane attached as a “handle,” prune that back to 6 inches. When planting root cuttings, place the cuttings in a horizontal position and cover 4 to 6 inches deep in sandy soils or 3 to 4 inches deep in clay soils.
Mulch with the material of your choice. Mulch aids in water retention and weed control. Blackberries are quite drought-hardy, but require considerable water during the fruiting period. Apply about 1 inch of water per week by irrigation if rainfall does not meet the need.
Fertilize blackberries in early spring when growth starts and again just after harvest. A complete fertilizer such as 10-10-10 is satisfactory. Apply at the rate of 5 pounds per 100 feet of row. A pint of fertilizer weighs about 1 pound. During the first year or two of growth, apply the fertilizer in a 12-inch circle around the plant. On older plants, broadcast the fertilizer down the row.
Blackberries have crowns that produce biennial shoots (live for 2 years, then die). During the first year of growth the shoots are called primocanes. These primocanes develop flower buds the first year of growth. In the second year the shoots are called floricanes. These floricanes produce flowers that mature into fruit. After fruiting these floricanes die and should be removed. Support trailing and semi-trailing varieties by a trellis or similar structure.
Insect problems on blackberries are minimal. Pests like aphids, Japanese beetles and spider mites can be controlled on an as-needed basis with general pesticides. Crown borers can be a serious pest. Chemical controls are not available. Be sure to pick your ripe berries before other animals get to them.
The berries are ripe and at peak flavor when they begin to lose their glossy shine and turn slightly dull. Trailing and semi-trailing varieties begin to ripen in June here in the Lowcountry. Erect varieties are about two weeks earlier than trailing or semi-trailing varieties. Harvest should cover two to three weeks.
A quick, cheap and healthy snack!
Combine buttermilk with blackberries, honey and a pinch of salt for quick, healthy smoothies.