Growing Blackberries:
How to Grow Blackberries Organically

Growing blackberries is a great way to get natural fiber and vitamin C into your diet, and a well-tended blackberry plant will give you a summer’s worth of berries for jams, pies and juices. Plus they’re easy to grow for gardeners of all levels...

Growing Blackberries (rubus fruticosus): Plant Snapshot

Growing Blackberries
  • Recommended Varieties:
    • Thornless blackberries:
      • Arapaho - earliest ripening
      • Navaho - excellent flavor
      • Ouachita - stores well
    • Thorny blackberries
      • Brazos - slightly sour variety
      • Cheyenne - sweet mid-season ripener
      • Shawnee - very high yielder
  • Group with crops from: rosaceae: raspberry, plum family
  • Low winter temperatures that damage fruit plants:
    • Blackberry (erect) -20F (-28C)
    • Blackberry (trailing thornless) -5F (-20C)
  • Time until plant bears fruit after planting: 18 months when grown from bare root canes
  • Approximate yield per plant:
    • Blackberry (erect) 20qt (19 liters) per 50 ft (15m) row
    • Blackberry (trailing thornless) 2 to 5 qt (1.5 to 5 liters) per 50ft (15m) row
  • Life of plant:
    • Blackberry (erect) 5 to 12 years
    • Blackberry (trailing) 8 to 10 years
  • Companion plants:
    • Companions: n/a
    • Avoid: n/a

Before you continue reading below, check out the following overview pages if you haven't done so already. They contain important general instructions that apply to most types of fruit trees...

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Planting Blackberries

Where to Find Planting Supplies...

The following resources offer effective, healthy and/or well-rounded options. Click the links to go there now...

Blackberries are easily grown from one-year old bareroot plants. These need planting when they’re dormant during mid or late winter. Avoid times when the ground is waterlogged or frozen.

Most varieties will need some trellising or training in order to support the weight of the plant’s fruit, and you’ll need to plan this at the planting stage. If you’ve chosen an erect blackberry, this can be planted near a fence. If you don’t want to train them you’ll need to prune the tips regularly.

For trailing varieties, create a simple two-wire trellis. Use two wooden six-foot (1.8m) fence posts spaced at about 8 to 10 feet (2.5-3m) apart. Use two wires to join the posts running at 2 feet (.6m) and 4 feet (1.2m) from the ground.

Make sure the planting area is weed free, then dig a shallow hole that is just deep enough to hold the roots. Spread them out horizontally and cover with soil, then firm the soil around the plant’s base.

Mulch with well rotted organic garden manure after planting.

Snapshot: Planting Blackberries

  • Easiest to grow from: one year old bare root canes
  • Planting timeframe range (varies by climate): From late fall to early spring
  • Preferred soil pH (see soil pH tester for more information): 5.0 to 7.5
  • Spacing in rows: about 100 to 150 inches (2.5 to 4m) apart
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Caring for & Pruning Blackberry Plants

Where to Find Growing & Plant Care Supplies...

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Blackberries are biennial and produce fruit on the previous years’ canes; Each spring and summer the plant will grow new canes that will not produce any fruit that season. These are called “primocanes”. The following year, as they continue to flower and fruit they are called “floricanes”. The floricanes will die after fruit production to be replaced by that year’s primocanes next season.

As the primocanes grow on trailing varieties, tie them into the wire supports. If you’ve chosen an erect variety, prune the tips so they do not grow higher than four feet (1.2m). This will prevent them from bending and snapping from the weight of the fruit.

Blackberries will need regular, weekly watering from mid spring to early fall, especially if rainfall is low. If there is winter drought it is also worth watering your blackberries every few weeks so that existing primocanes aren’t damaged.

Give the area surrounding the plant a mulch of well-rotted organic manure each spring.

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Harvesting Blackberries

Blackberries are ready for harvest from mid to late summer. They won’t ripen after they’re harvested, so pick your blackberries every three days to get the highest-quality fruit.

Unlike raspberries, when you pick your blackberry the central plug will come off too. Pick by hand when they begin to lose their shine and appear slightly dull. They should come off the plant easily.

Snapshot: Picking Blackberries

  • Time to harvest: mid to late summer
  • Yield per plant/tree:
    • Blackberry (erect) 20qt (19 liters) per 50 ft (15m) row
    • Blackberry (trailing thornless) 2 to 5 qt (1.5 to 5 liters) per 50ft (15m) row
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Storing Blackberries and Freezing Blackberries

Blackberries need careful handling since bruised fruit is more likely to deteriorate quickly. Store them in the refrigerator immediately after picking and they’ll last for a couple of days.

For longer-term storage (up to 8 months), rinse quickly without allowing the fruit to stand in water, then lay them out as a single layer to dry. Next put them in a freezer bag and freeze.

Snapshot: Storing Blackberries & Freezing Blackberries

  • Storage temperature:
    • Refrigerator: 32 to 36F (0 to 2C)
    • Freezer: -5 F (-20C)
  • Storage life (refrigerator): 1 to 2 days
  • Storage life (frozen): 6 to 8 months
  • Storage humidity: 90-95%
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Blackberry Plant Pests & Diseases

Birds love to feed on ripening blackberries. To protect them you can cover with a fine gardening mesh as the blackberries start to ripen.

The planting location of blackberries is the most significant factor for keeping them disease free. Blackberries should always be in full sun with no shade through the day. If they’re planted on wet sites, they will attract fungi and infection.

Keep a continual eye out for signs of infection on leaves and canes and remove them right away.

The following pests and diseases have been known to affect the success of growing Blackberry Plant. For more information about preventing and controlling them, see Organic Garden Pest Control.

Pests

  • Aphids
  • Japanese Beetle
  • Orange tortrix
  • Raspberry crown borer
  • Red-necked cane borer
  • Spider mites
  • Strawberry weevil

Common Diseases

  • Anthracnose
  • Bortytis fruit Rot
  • Bushy Dwarf Virus
  • Cane Blight
  • Crown Gall
  • Downy Mildew
  • Late Leaf Rust
  • Orange Rust
  • Spur Blight
  • Verticilium Wilt
  • Viruses
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