How to Grow Blackberries
Growing different sorts of plants is one thing that makes most people happy, especially those who are nature lovers. Aside from the fact that it adds color to the environment, it also takes away boredom from your daily routine. One of the easiest fruits to grow and cultivate is blackberry. Just like raspberry, you need to gear up for an ample harvest once the fruit is ripe. Another good thing about blackberries is that they are perennials. They endure for a long time and the strength of their roots mean they’ll live year after year.
Would you like to start growing blackberries on your garden? If so, then this article is a very good read for you. Here we will talk about planting and growing blackberries, the different types of blackberries, the health benefits they give, and all the other essential points you need to remember about the fruit.
As far as plant support is concerned, there are two types of blackberries: erect blackberries and trailing blackberries. The former is the type of bushes that can support themselves. On the other hand, the latter have long canes that needs to be trellised to provide assistance to the plant as it grows.
- Erect Blackberries
Erect blackberries, also called upright blackberries, is said to be the best variety for blackberry growers who are novices. This type of blackberry grow vertically and they are able to stand on their own without so much need for any extra support. Erect blackberry is a perfect variety for you if you are leaning towards planting or growing blackberry plants in containers and pots or if you would like to add a sense of appeal into your home garden.
Two of the most common cane blackberries that can grow without the need for any support are named Arapaho and Black Satin. They are best-known to be thornless blackberries and are impervious to several types of diseases. Another blackberry plant that belongs to the thornless family and is described as sturdy and fruitful is Chester.
Thornless blackberries grow in the three forms namely erect, semi-erect, or trailing plants. Among the three, the only type that doesn’t require a treillage is the semi-erect plant. Erect thornless blackberries create their canes from their roots and crowns, while both trailing and semi-erect plants develop canes from the plants’ crowns. Most thornless blackberries may grow on semi-erect canes. These canes grow up to 20 feet long and curve their way up if left uncared-for. They are also known to grow best with alittle support.
- Trailing Blackberries
Trailing blackberry is an indigenous perennial, low-level trailing bush. Its trailing or rising stalk is equipped with tiny, lean, strung-out spines. This type of blackberry plant produces both male and female flowers that grow in two separate plants that are either white or pink with extended petals.
This type of blackberry originated from the northwest and like many otherberry-bearing plants, they also bear sweet berries. Trailing blackberries are fine-textured, thin, and their stems are cylindrical that have tiny thorns and a trail along the ground.
Thorned blackberries grow only in either two forms, trailing or erect. Trailing blackberries bring forth long and knotted canes which demand heavy reinforcement and regular trimming. On the other hand, erect blackberries grow vertically, stiff canes that require a piece of trellising.
Blackberries are considered to be one of the easiest fruit crops to grow. With proper cultivation methods coupled with good maintenance, blackberries are expected to be productive up to 15 years. Below are the things to consider in planting them:
Like many other plants, blackberries need adequate sunlight in order to flourish. You need to select a location where the berries are directly exposed to the sun as they are known to produce prolifically in an open space that receives at least 6-8 hours of sunlight each day.
Blackberries are best grown using loamy soils added with organic content such as compost. Many gardeners opt to plant cover crops such as sundangrass one year ahead before actually plating blackberries since cover crops inhibit weed development, as well as forestall weeds from spreading in the area. Make sure to also read our post on rototilling.
Each type of blackberry plant requires about 2.5 – 3 feet of loose soil rooting in order to develop into a healthy and productive plant. However, cuttings of the various types of blackberries may vary. For example, cuttings of erect blackberries should be positioned 2-4 feet apart in certain rows, while both semi-erect and trailing varieties should have about 4-10 feet of space between each plant to give enough room for their very extended canes.
BEST TIME TO PLANT
The planting season for blackberries varies from one country to another, primarily due to the differences in environmental condition. In the US, the best time to plant is during late fall but can go as long as early spring in exceedingly frigid regions since low temperatures could potentially kill some hybrids, which is why you’ll need to know about frost dates. Depending on the variety, they may also be planted during springtime or summertime just like the potted blackberry.
Since there are two kinds of blackberry plants, it is all-important to select a variety that is appropriate to your local climate and plant them at the perfect time of the year, then you’re off to a good start. Add to that, always remember to protect or cover their canes when the temperature drops below 28 degrees Fahrenheit so as to avoid damaging the fruit.
GROWING IN CONTAINERS
There are places where blackberries grow just about everywhere to the point of taking over a property if left unmanaged. Because they grow so easily in any green space, some people find it effective to grow blackberries in containers to keep their growth from getting out of hand. Below are the steps on how to grow blackberries in containers:
- First of all, you need to select the appropriate variety for container growing. While it is true that any type of blackberry can grow in a pot, the thornless ones are best suited for small spaces and patios such as Triple Crown, Chester, and Natchez. There are also erect blackberries that do not necessarily require trellising and may be grown in containers, as well. Ouachita, Arapaho, and Kiowa are among this variety of erect berries.
- Choose your container / pot. It is ideal to use containers that are 5 gallons or even bigger to provide space for an additional 6 inches of soil. The roots of blackberries normally spread out rather than digging deep in the ground, so it doesn’t matter if your container is shallow so as long as you have enough space for the plant to develop canes.
- Choosing a good soil to add to the container is also important. You don’t just use any kind of soil for this matter, instead use a potting soil, also known as potting compost, or a topsoil blend.
CARING FOR BLACKBERRIES IN CONTAINERS/POTS
When you decide to grow blackberries in pots / containers, keep in mind that these plants require more water that those that are directly planted in the garden. In most cases, you may need to water the plants daily or when you notice that the top inch of the soil has become dry. Add to that, you may use a well-balanced fertilizer to encourage fruiting.
WHY DO PEOPLE GROW THEM IN POTS?
Some gardeners grow blackberries in containers or pots mainly because of the limited space in their garden, while others have no choice because they live in apartments or houses with just a little balcony or porch enough for growing plants in a pot. Oh, it’s not actually a sad thing, rather it is exciting because you get to carry your pot with you whenever you decide to move to another location.
Another good reason for growing blackberries in containers is the convenience of harvesting. You just simply position the pot right outside your balcony, porch, or even on your backdoor, and then you wouldn’t even need to take your slippers on to handpick the fruits.
HOW TO TAKE CARE OF BLACKBERRY PLANTS
You just don’t grow plants and wait for them to bear fruit. They, too, need to be taken care of just like any other living thing in our environment. If proper techniques are followed, your plants will surely bear a good amount of fruits for you to enjoy.
- Mulching is one of the many methods used by most gardeners in preserving soil moisture, improving fertility of the soil, as well as in fending off weeds. Since blackberries call for a good amount of soil moisture, it is essential to keep a thick layer of mulch around your flourishing blackberry plants.
- Inspect you garden daily. Pull as many weeds and grasses as possible in order to avoid competition between them and to ensure optimal growth conditions for the blackberry plant giving it plentiful access to nutrients in the soil.
- Water your blackberries. For the first 3 weeks, you should only water them during daytime. You only need to increase the frequency of watering them 2-3 weeks after planting since the top of the soil is considerably moist until its third week.
- Note: After the first 3 weeks, you still need to water them during the day. Consequently, give them water of about 1-2 inches deep per week during the growing season and then around 4 inches deep weekly during the reaping season. Blackberries are shallow-rooted; therefore, moisture needs to be above-ground.
Pruning involves the selective detachment of certain parts of a plant, such as dead or overgrown branches, buds, or roots in order to increase fruitfulness and growth of the desired parts of the plant. Pruning your blackberries will not only keep them in good condition, but also increase the amount of fruit grown.
Most people get confused as to the perfect timing for pruning. Actually, there are two different types of pruning and each of them should be performed at different times of the year, one in early spring and the other one in late summer.
In the early spring, all you need to do is tip pruning by simply cutting off the tips of the blackberry canes. This will result in branching out of your plants and in turn will create more wood for your fruit to grow from. You may use a sharp, clean set of pruning scissors and cut the canes to approximately 24 inches.
In the late summer, blackberries are generally done with fruiting by this time. Take note that blackberries only bear fruit on canes that are two years of age, so once a certain cane has bore its fruits, it will no longer produce berries once again. If you decide to cut these canes off, the blackberry plant is then triggered to produce another set of first year canes which will then produce fruit the following year. You may use a clean and sharp pair of pruning scissors to break off these canes at ground level.
BENEFITS OF BLACKBERRIES
Blackberries are loaded with carbohydrates, specifically fiber. This type of carbohydrate boosts optimal function of your digestive tract, yet little to no calories are added to your diet. A cupful of fresh blackberries carries around 60 calories. About 90 percent of those calories come from carbohydrates. This amount of fresh blackberries holds a little less than 14 grams of carbohydrates, measuring up to 55 calories from carbohydrates, since carbohydrates contain 4 calories per gram.
- Good Source of Antioxidants
Ingesting foods that are rich in antioxidants may aid in lowering the risk of acquiring infections, as well as other forms of cancer, since they are substances that protect your cells from the adverse effects brought about by free radicals that are caused by excessive exposure to different chemicals, radiation, smoking, and even pollution. Damages caused by free radicals to your body are said to be closely connected to the biological process of aging and other heart and cancer conditions.
When we talk about cancer, a particular polyphenol called anthocyanin is found in high concentrations in blackberries. This substance is considered as the first-string weapon in fighting cancer-causing cells. Generally, blackberries even fight cell mutation beforehand so that it prevents cancer formation in the first place.
One very good example of how anthocyanin works is in the case of the human lung cancer. An extract of fresh blackberry has been proven to exhibit tumor-preventive effects. By blocking the high levels of oxidative stress that causes the proliferation of cancer cells, tumor growth is slowed down. While it is true that the real cause of cancer is complex in nature and varies from one person to another, the mutation of healthy cells and DNA is the probable cause of the growth of the disease; therefore, consuming foods rich in antioxidants would help suppress the mutation.
- Promote Mental Health
Due to the substantial amount of various nutrients found in blackberries, they are considered to be a very good agent in promoting improved and peak mental health. As you may know, this fruit is among the top brain foods as it increases mental operation by enhancing motor skills and promoting short-term memory retention.
Antioxidants found in blackberries alter how brain neurons interact with one another. This action helps trim down brain inflammation that is the reason for cognitive and motor issues related to aging in the first place.
- Source of Vitamin K
Vitamin K is the primary component helping the prevention of the formation of blood clots. Low levels of this vitamin is likely to cause someone to experience irrepressible bleeding. Unlike any other vitamins, vitamin K is not particularly used as a dietary supplement. Add to that, vitamin K is also an element in preventing and combating several cancer types such as liver, prostate, stomach, and colon cancers.
Since blackberries are rich in vitamin K, making it a daily habit to include blackberries on your diet would help reduce the risk of cardiovascular problems. With the help of vitamin K, the hardening of the arterial blood vessels are prevented or at least slowed down since calcium build-up is prevented.
- Source of Vitamin C
Humans cannot synthesize vitamin C; therefore, it is important to eat foods that contain vitamin C in order to maintain a healthy diet. Aside from its antioxidant properties, vitamin C plays a vital role in protein synthesis and is also essential in the production of collagen and certain neurotransmitters which are all important in most body functions, specifically would healing.
Another very important benefit from vitamin C is it keeps skin healthy and strong through collagen production. Because of the presence of collagen, dry skin is prevented and untimely aging of the skin is prevented. Furthermore, the nutrients found in blackberries have an antiviral effect on infections that affect the skin such as herpes virus which is a primary cause of cold sores.
- Regulate Menstrual Health
Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) is a very popular problem experienced by most women and the struggle is indeed so real that some need to take certain pain relievers in order to relieve themselves from cramping pains. According to studies, adding blackberries to your diet is one solution to reduce the painful symptoms of PMS. The presence of vitamin K helps regulate hormone function and thereby potentially reducing the pains experienced during PMS.
THINGS TO DO WITH THEM
There so much you can do after picking blackberries fresh from the bushes. Some of them include the following:
- Eat them fresh and warm right after a great harvest.
- Did you know that a basket full of blackberries could be a wonderful gift to your friend or loved one, especially when they are handpicked? Since many people don’t have the luxury of time to go out and pick blackberries on their own, then it would definitely surprise someone to receive a gift such as this.
- Save them for future consumption through flash freezing.
- You can make blackberry jam or even a smoothie out of the frozen blackberries.
- Freshly squeezed juice from blackberries is a great indulgence, as well. Who wouldn’t want that? Just add honey or sugar to it and it’ll definitely give you a taste of heaven.
- Make a cake or a dozen of cupcakes flavored with blackberries. You may check out Pinterest on different baking methods using them.
- Making blackberry toppings for your cereal, yogurt, oatmeal, or cake is also a great way to make use of blackberries. However, you must remember that frozen blackberries will be a lot juicier compared to fresh berries, so there would be some color bleed here. This may not be an issue if you’ll use them as toppings for your cereal or oatmeal, but it may be more of a concern if you will use them to decorate your baked cake. A good advise would be to rinse and pat them dry in order to somehow minimize the color bleed.
Whether you grow your own blackberries in your backyard or stock them up when they are on sale, freezing them is the easiest way to save them for future consumption. Flash freezing is the best way to freeze them because instead of freezing them in one large clump, this method freezes them one by one. You may use the simple steps below in freezing blackberries:
- To start with the procedure, make sure that the stems and leaves are removed, and that the fruits are cleaned with cool running water. Also, it is advisable to use fresh and ripe blackberries because you may not have good results in the future if you use overripe blackberries.
- On a large baking pan with parchment paper or any other cellulose-based papers, spread the cleaned berries in a single layer. Cover the baking pan loosely with a plastic wrap and then place the pan inside your freezer.
- Let the berries stay inside the freezer overnight. Once frozen, you should be able to remove them from the parchment paper easily.
- Transfer the frozen blackberries into your desired Ziploc bags and label the bags properly with the date and contents. Put them back inside the freezer.
Note: Flash frozen blackberries should last for a year in the freezer if they are properly stored and frozen. You can do this by sealing the frozen bags properly to keep air and moisture away from the inside.
- An alternative way of saving blackberries for future consumption is by simply cleaning the fruits and letting them air dry on paper towels. Once dry, place the berries in Ziploc freezer bags, still with the proper labels. They should be kept well that way but unlike flash freezing, they may freeze in large clumps. You may use this method if you don’t have enough space in your freezer for the baking pan to stay overnight.