Blackberries need little introduction. A familiar site in many gardens and landscapes across the country, blackberries are friends of mankind. Fresh eating, wine, cobblers, jams, jellies; blackberries are extremely useful, and extremely healthy anti-oxidant rich additions to the diet. Where modern cultivars differ from wild ones is mainly in greater fruit size, higher sugar levels, more berries, longer length of picking season and of course: thornless canes! Newer, better quality thornless varieties from the University of Arkansas and Maryland have taken sweetness, flavor and quality to a higher level than previous old thornless types, which were often more sour.
We focus mostly on early-mid season producing varieties. This is an effective strategy to avoid the new spotted-wing Drosophilla fruit fly, of SWD. These little fruit flies emerge in heavy numbers by August and can infest late-producing berries of any kind. Early-mid season varieties of berries avoid much of the SWD infestation, and so that’s our focus with berries, as well as exceptional fruit quality and general hardiness. It’s one way we here at Peaceful Heritage are ahead of the game and have your back in all your fruit production goals.
Make sure you plant enough blackberries for your needs. One or two plants doesn’t go that far. If you want to freeze or process lots of berries as a family, plant 8-12 vines at a minimum. It will become a treasured family patch paying physical, emotional and spiritual dividends for years and years to come-but only if you take care of it.
Earliest Producing (June): Arapaho, Natchez
Mid Season: Triple Crown, Oauchita
Mid-Late Season: Lochness, Prime Ark Freedom, Chester, Hull
Most Cold Hardy: Chester, Hull, Prime Ark Freedom (when mowed down).
Primocane blackberries are a recent amazing innovation in blackberry growing. Why? Primocane blackberries flower and produce berries on the current year’s “primocane growth”. That means the fresh new shoots that arise that spring will flower and fruit THAT SAME SEASON. This differs from typical “floricane” blackberries that produce fruit only on year-old canes (last year’s “primocanes”). What primocane fruiting means is this: no more pruning! No more winterkill. No more deer browsing and damaging your vines in the winter! Just mow em’ down each autumn after harvest! Grow blackberries where cold, deer or the pruning stopped you before! If you don’t mow them down, you can harvest 2 blackberry crops a year (June and August)!
On Growing Blackberries
Success with blackberries depends on several factors: a good, fertile site with lots of direct sun, good water drainage, annual springtime applications of mulch, compost and/or rotted manure and organic fertilizers, a stout trellis and yearly dormant pruning of canes and summer tipping and removal of spent canes. This assures most years you will have an overflowing abundance of sweet, delicious berries for all your berry needs. Keeping vines pruned is very important and detailed instructions can be found by doing a search for University of Kentucky Growing Blackberries articles, describing all the details you will need to follow. Keep the berries picked to keep insects, fruit flies and fungus under control. Lots of fallen, rotting fruit attracts insects and invites problems. Keep the patch clean of dead canes, well-pruned and mulched. And don’t forget that spring time fertilizer of manure/compost, etc!
On Growing Primoncane Blackberries
With “primocane” blackberries instead of pruning and having to over-winter the canes in order to obtain fruit, you simply let the new shoots arise from the ground, pick all the primocane berries that form that summer in August, and then mow them all down in autumn with a mower, bush hog or scythe! Amazing. This makes disease and wild-life maintenance so much easier and eliminates pruning. They will re-sprout the following spring and fruit again on the primocane shoots. Also, they can be maintained as a primocane/floricane fruiting vine by not mowing them down. Those floricane (1-Year old vines) of Prime Ark varieties will tend to fruit extremely early, around June, for an early harvest. This is of particular interest in areas which have heavy pressure from the Spotted Wing Drosphilla fruit fly (SWD). Yearly applications of compost, organic fertilizers, removing spent canes and pruning will keep your patch in good shape and highly productive for many years to come.
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