When To Prune Blackberries and Raspberries

LC0143c.GIF When To Prune Blackberries and Raspberries

Blackberries and Raspberries have had their run by the time you’ve made it to the late fall, so it’s time to trim them back in October and early November.  These berries bloom and fruit on new growth, and as a vining plant that can grow to be a tangled mess when left alone any Blackberry and Raspberry bush that you depend on for your own fruit needs to be heavily pruned back to maximize the next year’s crop, and to be trained into shape for next year. The key with fruiting plants is to prune them for growth, and shape them into forms that allow for easy harvesting and lots of air circulation in the warm sumer heat. Your goal is to prune and shape your berry bushes so that you can see and access your fruit when it’s ripe, and minimize the spread of powdery mildews, and warm weather diseases that thrive in moist dark areas on your fruit leaves.

How To Prune:

The best way to set yourself up for success next year is to prune your Blackberries and Raspberries back down to the main canes every fall.  Trace each one of the berry stems back down to where the plant is sprouting from the ground, this is the main cane. Use a pair of bi-pass Fiskars 7936 PowerGear Pruner When To Prune Blackberries and Raspberries shears to make a clean cut, and trim the main cane back to a height of  8-12 inches above the soil line at a 45 degree angle, and remove all of this year’s growth to compost or discard. On the diagram above the proper pruning height is marked as the “first year cane.”

Even if there are no leaves or bud unions on the section of cane that remains after pruning this is the correct height, and will rejuvenate the plant for the following seasons. The canes may also leaf out again from the main cane before going dormant for the winter.

Prepare to shape next years growth on a trellis or up against a fence to support your fresh growth, and secure them into position with twine or string.

Photo Courtesy of: The Department of Primary Industries, Victoria, Canada.

Fruits And Veggies You Can Safely Plant In Your Yard In Early Spring

Rhubarb Fruits And Veggies You Can Safely Plant In Your Yard In Early Spring3712121307 4907200bec m 150x150 Fruits And Veggies You Can Safely Plant In Your Yard In Early SpringAsparagus 150x150 Fruits And Veggies You Can Safely Plant In Your Yard In Early SpringStrawberry 150x150 Fruits And Veggies You Can Safely Plant In Your Yard In Early Spring

A little cold weather won’t bother these toughies!  To get  jump start on your fruit and vegetable garden move young or indoor grown seedlings of Rhubarb, Blackberry, Asparagus, and Strawberry plants outside in March.   These plants can thrive outdoors in the fickle temperatures of early Spring, and be ready for harvest quickly.

Quick Tips:

  • Rhubarb grown in colder climates will be harvest ready in April or May, or in the Fall if planted later.  When grown in the southern areas of the USA or in the Southern Hemisphere it can be grown year round for pies and jellies.
  • Blackberries, and Strawberries will be harvest ready in the June through October window with regular picking.  As with most berries, picking off a few fruits or flower buds before maturation will reduce the competition between the ovaries, and provide you with fewer, but much larger fruit.
  • Asparagus doesn’t take up much room during the planting and harvesting stage, but from mid to late summer when it needs to be allowed to fill out and produce berries, it can be a total garden hog!  Make sure to plant this delicious beast somewhere where its loose fern shape won’t offend your garden scheme, or impede pathways.  Garden centers advise that a three year old plant is the most reliable producer, so don’t  plan on instant gratification with this favorite gourmet veggie.  For long term success, it’s best to leave the plant alone for a few years to allow it to really take to root in your veggie patch.
Photo’s Courtesy of:  cygnus921, Rob Ireton, ^riza^

Expanding Your Arbor Choices: Trellis Blackberries

summer 08 riderwood pix 014 225x300 Expanding Your Arbor Choices: Trellis BlackberriesThis year, I wanted a change!  Instead of planting traditional arbor plants around the trellis’ in my front yard, I wanted something a little more substantial, that would feed both myself, and the songbirds I’m desperately trying to attract to my city home!  As part of my “green journey,”  one of my goals is to use multi-purpose plants to provide food, beauty, and function in my garden, while fitting into the tight space I have allotted to me.  I also want to use native plants as much as possible, to support the local eco-system, and to save myself time and money, by planting plants that are known to be hardy in my location.

When I first moved into my current house, my family brought me a tiny Blackberry plant that was a descendant from the crops of my great-grandparents farm in Maine.  Knowing how hardy the American native Blackberries are in my little section of the East Coast, I was excited that the first addition to my new fruits and veggies patch be a low maintenance plant. Happily burdened with the historical significance of the plant, I made sure it lived through the droughts of last year, and that it provided me with enough berries to top a celebratory Ice cream float!

This year, with all the rain we have been receiving, the plant was growing so fast I could hear it’s progress through open windows, so I decided to do something a little unusual with it.  I placed it in a raised planter with a square framed trellis around it, and taught it to climb up the sides, weaving it through the arched top as well, to provide me with maximum berries, with minimal thorn pricks.  Generally, Blackberries grow on sturdy stems that are covered in thorns from all sides, so harvesting berries from the interior sections of the plant can be tricky.  The stems, left on their own in the wild, will grow in three foot arches, which only means that it is a solid, woodier, and easily shaped trellis plant, than many non-native plants available in garden superstores.  Blackberries need no tying up, or excessive fiddling, to keep it attached to the trellis.

With Trellis Blackberries, I can do three key things:

  1. Provide Food: I can maintain a smaller part of the shrub for my own food harvesting, in a bed raised above the reach of mammals, and protected by netting from  birds,  while leaving the upper portions of the plant on the trellis available for birds.  This attracts the wildlife I want to my yard, providing them with natural food sources that don’t cost me a cent!
  2. Add Beauty: Spring and summer, the plant sends out clusters of small white flowers, that once pollinated, will provide fruit through the late summer. This translates into visual interest around the arbor from spring through summer.  The shrub, also is a hardy one, that provides a solid, and easily maintained green color from early spring, through late fall.  It also will attract pollinators, and songbirds to your yard, which makes gardening all the more enjoyable, and “green,” providing for the local eco-system.  This is a great way to keep your berry bushes neat and tidy too, if you are working with a small yard, or even a balcony garden.
  3. Fulfill A Function: The native Blackberry works well in fulfilling it’s roll as a an arbor plant, providing seasonal greenery, without the care that comes from “training” up other flowering-but-floppy arbor vines.  A trellis provides greater, and easier access to the fruit as well, since the plant is growing on a structure, and not just in a tangle of thorny branches.

I’m happy with what I’ve harvested so far this year, and I’m encouraged to be able to add home grown blackberries to my summer food supply.  Being an outdoorsie person too, I hope that the nutritional benefits of the berries will not only meet my dietary needs, but also fulfill a roll in my overall health, and skin care regimine.

Your Thoughts: Have you tried any new ways to incorporate fruits and veggies into your garden design?