Anybody cultivate blackberries here?

Let me preface by saying I know they’re classified as a noxious weed here in Australia, I’m not intending to propagate them, and I promise to remove and destroy any seedlings that appear in my garden. :slight_smile:

Moved to a new house a couple of months ago which has a magnificent blackberry thicket in the backyard. February of course is the time for picking the little bombs of goodness, and the grandkids and I have been picking and eating and freezing them like crazy.

I want to know when and how to cut them back after fruiting is over. Do I wait until winter and full dormancy, or can I cut them back straight away?

Do I cut the fruiting canes, or prune back the new ones that have sprung up all over the place? They currently cover an area of app 4m x 1m…can I continue to keep them in this space without reducing their fruiting capacity over time?

Thanks in anticipation.

According to Sunset’s Western Garden Book (and your bushes may not follow this) the canes grow for two years. The first year is devoted to growth and the second to fruiting. So, if you want to pick any fruit next year, don’t cut the new growth this year.


Thanks Sandra! Means I can cut back all the gnarly, nasty ones at least! :wink:

Some trimming of the first-year growth (primocanes) is recommended to keep them within bounds (i.e. prune to four feet in height and trim back side shoots when they reach 18 inches in length). The fruiting canes (floricanes) can be cut back to near soil level after fruiting is over.

There are varieties that produce fruit late in the season on first year growth, so those are handled differently, cutting them back completely after the season is over.

I’ve been lazy about pruning my berry patch, so I’ll have some gnarly old canes to remove this spring after (if) the snow melts.

If you want to grow new plants (for example, if you notice that one vine produces larger or more abundant fruits than the others - which is quite common, as blackberries are very variable), bury the tip of a branch in a pot of soil, then sink this pot into the ground.

The buried tip will root and new shoots will arise from it - it can then be dug up and cut away from the parent plant.

I’ve only ever done this with dewberries*, because blackberries are hugely abundant in the wild here in the UK.

*Dewberries are a close relative of blackberries - the fruit is similar, but has a conspicuous blue waxy bloom and a slightly different flavour.

Ugh. ‘Kudzu of the North.’

I like blackberries as much as anyone. Blackberry pie, blackberry jam, fresh blackberries… But I don’t want them in my yard!

Here’s a story I heard on the local public radio station that explains how this invasive species got here. (You can listen to the short broadcast on the site.) One man trained his blackberries for a fairy-land effect:

I grew up on a 1-acre plot that the prior owner had planted in blackberries and bamboo. Until you’ve spent 10 summers or so battling these invading hordes, you have no idea how stupid it is to try to cultivate either one.

We had three stands of bamboo in the back yard when I was growing up in San Diego. One had 4-inch diameter stalks, and the others were an inch or so in diameter. These were the kind that didn’t spread, so they were no problem. I understand that some cultivars do spread nastily though.

Gad, yes. From one decorative stand near a fish pond, what I believe was “yellow bamboo” - hard, up to about one inch stalks - would send runners through the lawn and pop up punji-stake sprouts 50 to 100 feet away. Besides mowing, we had to walk around the yard and whack these points with a large-face hammer. We finally dug out the last of it about 15 years in.

The blackberries were a slow tsunami from two points that had to be hacked, mowed and beaten back several times a summer. The patch in the middle of the yard was finally eradicated, and the rear patch was walled off with a wooden fence… it became the adjacent school’s problem. It’s still there and You Can See It From Space.

My mother in particular acquired lifetime scars from both of them.

Love my blackberry patch. Transplanted them from elsewhere in the garden into a large, lovely, stone, raised bed. Pretty easy to keep contained and I love the berries!

In a colder climate, for a few years, is one thing. A couple of long warmer summers after 10-15 years and you might revise your opinion…

Weird. They’re just not a problem in their native range.

Many things aren’t. But plant them in the warm, fertile California Central valley with a 250-day growing year and you’d better be one of Tony Stark’s close friends.

There are abundant brambly thickets of blackberries all over our WI woodlands. Blehckberries would best describe their sour bitter fruit best left for the birds.

We had wild blackberries growing when I lived in SE Texas. They never got all that rambunctious (the heat and humidity probably discouraged them). We had nice crops.

I like pie.

Jackmannii, I had high hopes of collecting blackberries for pies. Whether it was just a bad year from drought, or they’re too wildly overgrown to produce nice berries … DH & I both kept trying berries and spitting them out. They were small, bitter, mostly seeds and core.

Maybe they were a poor variety - though I’ve never tasted bad wild blackberries.

Maybe they weren’t blackberries at all. :eek:

It’s a very small window between sour/bitter and plump little bliss bombs. Even though a blackberry might look totally black (with no red bits), it all comes down to how they pull off the stem.

If there’s any resistance, leave them on the bush for another day or two. A truly ripe blackberry will virtually fall into your fingers when you attempt to pull it off.

And I’ve never tasted a bad wild blackberry either. Seems here the harsher the conditions the better the berry. Mind you, after years of extermination programs, it’s hard to find them in the wild anymore.

Instead the supermarkets charge $6 a PUNNET, the bastids.

So I have about 3kg collected and frozen now…pie making starts tomorrow! :slight_smile:

Drought will do that - the plant still produces seeds, but puts nothing into the fruit meat, so it’s chewy and bitter.

They might have been overripe raspberries, too, but I’d bet on the former. Saw/tasted it many times in dry summers. (Then there was the long, wet summer in which the blackberry crop peaked just as the Bing cherry trees ripened… oooo my gooooddd…)

Jackmannii, " Maybe they weren’t blackberries at all" I did have the same thought when finding them so bitter, but after viewing many identification photos, I’m still believing they’re blackberries.

Kambuckta, Lucky lucky you having all those delicious blackberries. The best blackberries I’ve ever eaten were thumbsized, sweet, juicy blackberries from Seattle WA.

Amateur Barbarian, Lucky you also!