Choosing Cultivars

You can tell the difference between raspberries and blackberries when you pick the fruit. When you pick a blackberry, the white core (receptacle) comes off with the fruit. When you pick a raspberry, the core remains attached to the plant, leaving a hollow center in the fruit.

Blackberries can be either thorny or thornless. Raspberries can be red, black, purple, or yellow. Some red and yellow raspberries are called fall-bearing (or sometimes everbearing). They produce fruit in the fall on primocanes (first-year canes) and in the summer on floricanes (second-year canes).

Blackberries and red raspberries produce many suckers and spread laterally. Black raspberries and purple raspberries generally stay confined to the area of the original planting hole.

There are many bramble cultivars for home gardening (see Table 4). For an updated list of nurseries, see www.hort.cornell.edu/nursery. Choose culti-vars that can withstand the winter temperatures in your area. Also consider productivity, use, season of ripening, and fruit quality when making your selections. If your location is prone to early fall frosts, fall-bearing cultivars may not be a good choice.

In general, raspberries produce crops reliably only in USDA Hardiness Zone 5 and warmer regions up to Zone 7. The plants will survive in colder regions. But in most winters the aboveground canes (which produce the flowers and fruit) will be damaged, reducing that year's crop sometimes to zero.

The intimidating thorns on blackberries discourage most people from growing them. Thornless blackberry cultivars may seem like a good alternative, but they have limitations as well. They are susceptible to rodent damage, are only marginally hardy in most of the Northeast, and need to be planted in protected areas.

Keys for Success

Choose a sunny site with well-drained soil. Brambles need lots of moisture, but they will not tolerate soggy soil. Do not plant brambles in a site where strawberries or plants in the tomato family (including potatoes, peppers, and eggplants) have been grown.

Prepare the soil at least a year before planting, particularly if pH and nutrient levels need to be adjusted. Get weeds under control before planting.

Trellis the plants for easier management and harvesting and to keep the fruit from coming in contact with the ground and rotting.

Be prepared for annual or even twice-a-year pruning. With most types of brambles, you'll need to thin the plants to get a good harvest of high-quality fruit.

Table 4. Bramble cultivars that consistently perform well in the Northeast

Attributes

Table 4. Bramble cultivars that consistently perform well in the Northeast

Attributes

Fruit

Fruit

Fruit

Cultivar

Season

Hardiness

Productivity

Size

Firmness

Quality

Summer-bearing reds

Prelude

1

3

1

1

2

2

Reveille

1

3

3

1

1

3

Killarney

1

3

2

2

2

2

Canby*

2

2

3

3

3

3

Festival*

2

3

3

2

2

1

Titan

4

2

3

3

2

1

Encore

5

3

2

3

3

2

Summer-bearing yellow

Amber

4

1

1

2

1

3

Summer-bearing blacks

Allen

2

2

3

3

3

2

Bristol

2

1

2

2

3

3

Alleghany

2

2

1

2

3

1

Jewel

2

2

2

2

3

2

Huron

3

2

1

2

3

1

Summer-bearing purples

Brandywine

4

3

2

2

2

1

Royalty

4

2

3

3

2

3

Fall-bearing reds

Heritage

7

3

3

2

3

3

Autumn Bliss6

3

2

2

2

2

Fall-bearing yellows

Kiwigold

7

3

2

2

1

3

Fallgold

7

3

1

2

2

3

Goldie

7

3

2

2

1

Note: Season: 1 (early) to 7 (late fall), Attributes: 1 (poor) to 3 (good)

* Nearly thornless

Note: Season: 1 (early) to 7 (late fall), Attributes: 1 (poor) to 3 (good)

The thornless cultivars Black Satin and Thornfree are damaged around -5 to -10 degrees F (meaning they may sustain damage in the colder areas of USDA Hardiness Zone 6 and colder). Triple Crown, Chester, and Hull suffer cold injury at temperatures of -10 to -15 degrees F (meaning they may sustain damage in Zone 5 and colder). But because they are high yielding, you still can expect a blackberry crop even if they sustain some winter damage. In many cases, fluctuating spring temperatures cause more damage than midwinter low temperatures.

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