Blackberries and raspberries are closely related and have similar growing requirements, but blackberries are larger and more vigorous, and some varieties are less hardy. Blackberries come in two fairly distinct forms—erect and trailing—and have a number of different names.
The ordinary blackberry is a stiff-caned, fairly hardy plant that can stand by itself if properly pruned. The trailing kind, generally called dewberries, are tender and grown mainly in the South. Trailing plants from the Pacific Coast are sold under their variety names—for example, 'Boysen' and 'Logan'—and are not referred to as dewberries. These varieties will freeze in the East and the North without winter protection.
Blackberries like a light, well-drained soil with a high moisture-holding capacity. Do not plant them where tomatoes, potatoes, or eggplants have grown previously, since the site may be infected with verticillium wilt and the berries cannot grow there.
Plant in early spring a month before the last frost. Set plants 4 to 6 feet apart in rows 6 to 9 feet apart. Before planting, clip canes to 6-inch stubs and plant at the depth they grew in the nursery. As soon as new growth begins, cut any stubs that do not sprout and burn them to protect plants from anthracnose, a fungal leaf-spot disease that can infect bramble plants. It is a problem in moist, warm climates, especially in the South.
Several inches of mulch will help keep soil moist, prevent weed growth, and help prevent suckers. Mulches such as fresh straw or sawdust use up nitrogen in the soil and you must supply extra nitrogen, but in general, don't fertilize too heavily or you'll get lush plant growth at the expense of a fruit crop.
The stiff-caned berries need no support, but can be confined between two wires to save space. Trailing blackberries should be cut to the ground after fruiting and the clippings destroyed to reduce the chances of spreading disease. New growth that sprouts during the last part of summer will fruit the following year.
If you disturb or cut roots of blackberries they will sucker badly. If you want more plants, chop off pieces of root beside the parent plants and set them in the new planting site like seed. If you don't want more plants, mulch the planting instead of cultivating for weed control. Blackberries can be more invasive than any other cultivated plant and, if abandoned, can quickly grow out of control.
Blackberries are subject to many pests and diseases. Save yourself trouble by buying certified plants and keeping them away from any wild plants. Some varieties resist a few diseases. Spray for blackberry mite and don't worry too much about the rest.
Either dewberries or erect blackberries can be planted in much of the South. In colder parts of the South, choose only the erect blackberry or be prepared to offer winter protection by burying canes under 2 inches of soil after the first frost, and then digging them out just as buds begin to swell.
Erect blackberries are not recommended for the very coldest northern regions of the country but may succeed if you bundle up the canes in straw and burlap for the winter. 'Alfred' This plant produces large, firm berries early. Locally available. Good for the North. Origin: Michigan.
- Bailey' The fruit is large, medium firm, and of good quality. The bush is reliably productive. Good for the North and parts of the Pacific Northwest. Origin: New York. 'Black Satin' These vigorous, thornless vines are semi-erect, producing heavy crops of large, elongated, dark berries equally good for fresh eating or for cooking. Ripening time coincides with 'Eldorado'. Good for the South. Origin: Maryland.
- Brainerd' This large, high-quality fruit is excellent for processing. The plant is productive, vigorous, and hardy. Locally available. Good for the South. Origin: Georgia. 'Brazos' This is a popular variety in Texas, Arkansas, and Louisiana. The large fruit matures early and bears over a long period. The plant is vigorous and resistant to disease. Locally available. Good for the South. Origin: Texas. 'Cherokee' This vigorous upright plant produces moderately thorny canes. Heavy crops of good-quality, medium-sized berries come in midseason. Widely available. Good for the South. Origin: Arkansas. 'Comanche' The plant is similar to 'Cherokee' but the very large berries are better for eating fresh (also good for cooking). The crop ripens two weeks earlier than 'Cherokee'. Widely available. Good for the South. Origin: Arkansas. 'Darrow' The berries are large and irregular, with firm flesh. They ripen over a very long season, sometimes into fall. The bush is hardy and reliable. Grows wherever the cold is not too intense. Origin: New York.
- Ebony King' The large fruit is glossy black, sweet, and tangy. It ripens early and resists orange rust. Widely available. Good for the South, North, and Pacific Northwest. Origin: Michigan.
- Eldorado' This very hardy and productive old variety resembles 'Ebony King' and is totally immune to orange rust. Good for the South and North. Origin: Ohio. 'Flint' This blackberry-needs only moderate winter chill. The berries are fairly large in clusters of 8 to 15, and the plant is highly resistant to leaf spot and anthracnose. Locally available. Good for the South. Origin: Georgia. 'Hendrick' The fruit is large, medium firm, and tart. The bush is productive. Locally available. Good for the North. Origin: New York. 'Humble' This low-chill Texas variety has large, somewhat soft berries and comparatively few thorns. Locally available. Good for the South. Origin: Texas.
- Jerseyblack' This vigorous, semitrailing plant is notably rust resistant. It produces a midseason crop of large fruit that is similar to 'Eldorado' in appearance and flavor. Good for the South. Origin: New Jersey.
- Ranger' This large, firm berry is best when fully ripe. It is especially recommended for Virginia and similar climates. Origin: Maryland. 'Raven' This large berry is of high quality fresh or processed. The plant is erect, vigorous, and productive but rather tender. Origin: Maryland.
- Smoothstem' The berries ripen late and are rather soft. Production is quite heavy in large clusters. The plant is thornless and hardy from Maryland southward. Origin: Maryland.
- Thornfree' The medium to large fruit is tart and good. The semi-erect canes reach 8 feet, with up to 30 berries on each fruiting twig. The plant is rather tender. Widely available. Origin: Maryland. 'Williams' The medium-sized fruit ripens in late June and is very good fresh. The bush is semi-erect, vigorous, and thorny. It resists most cane and leaf diseases. Locally available. Good for the South. Origin: North Carolina.
All of these berries are tender and need protection from cold. 'Aurora' This very early fruit is large, firm, and of excellent flavor. The canes are most productive on the bottom 5 feet, so they do well planted close together and cut back heavily. Locally available. Origin: Oregon.
- Boysen' ('Nectar') A Pacific Coast variety with large and aromatic fruit produced over a long season, this plant is vigorous and fairly thorny. In California this variety provides an early crop from May 20 to June 20, depending on the area, and a second crop may extend the harvest through August. Also good for the South and Pacific Northwest. Origin: California. 'Carolina' This dewberry is vigorous and productive with very large fruits. It resists leaf spot diseases. Locally available. Good for the South. Origin: North Carolina.
- Cascade' Fresh or preserved, the flavor of this berry is unsurpassed. The plant is productive but tender. Good in milder parts of the Pacific Northwest. Origin: Oregon. 'Early June' The large, round fruit has excellent flavor and is acid enough for jam, jelly, and pies. These dewberries ripen in early June. The plant is semithornless and somewhat resistant to an-thracnose and leaf spot. Locally available. Good for the South. Origin: Georgia. 'Flordagrand' The large fruit is very soft and tart, good for cooking and preserves. It ripens very early. Canes are evergreen. This dewberry must be planted with 'Oklawaha' for pollination. Locally available. Good for the South. Origin: Florida. 'Lavaca' This plant is a seedling of 'Boysen' that is hardier than the parent and more resistant to disease. The fruit is firmer and less acid. Locally available. Good for the South. Origin: Unknown. 'Lucretia' This hardy old favorite is a vigorous and pro ductive dewberry with very large, long, soft fruits that ripen early. It needs winter protection in the North. Origin: North Carolina. 'Marion' The fruit of this midseason variety is medium to large, long, good quality, and excellent in flavor. The plants send out a few vigorous canes that are up to 20 feet long and very thorny. Good in milder parts of the Pacific Northwest, Origin: Oregon. 'Oklawaha' This dewberry resembles 'Flordagrand' and should be planted with it for pollination. Locally available. Good for the South. 'Olallie' This is the prime California variety, with large, firm, high-quality berries that are shiny black, firm, and sweet. The canes are thorny and very productive. The plant has a low-chill requirement and resists verticillium wilt and mildew. It is especially good for Southern California. Origin: Oregon. 'Thornless Boysen' This summer-bearing Pacific Coast berry is flavorful with a fine aroma, and grows on tender plants that must be trained. Bury the canes for the winter in colder climates. Widely available. Origin: California. 'Thornless Evergreen' A top commercial berry in Oregon, this variety produces large, firm, sweet fruit. Plants are vigorous and produce heavily but are very tender. Pinching canes at 24 inches encourages more canes and laterals. Canes sometimes revert to a thorny type. Origin: Oregon. 'Thornless Logan' This large, reddish, tangy Pacific Coast berry is good for jam, pies, and a syrup base for drinks. Bury the canes in winter in colder climates. A thorny form, 'Logan', is not grown as widely. 'Thornless Logan' can revert to the thorny type. Origin: California. 'Young' This large, purplish black dewberry of excellent flavor is easy to pick. The plant, produces few long canes. Anthracnose is a serious threat. Good for the South. Origin: Louisiana.
Keep birds away from berries with plastic netting.
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