Blackberry Cultivation Guide

Blackberries, along with Blackcurrants, are probably the easiest of all soft fruits to cultivate. They are generally unfussy as to soil and are one of the few fruits that will grow with some shade. Loganberry and Tayberries have similar requirements but try to offer them some sun. Nearly all Blackberries need to be trained along some support. A post and wire system is fine, or you can utilize a wall or fence. Even an east or north wall can support a Blackberry, Tayberry, or Loganberry. Traditional varieties of the former will need a width of asround 8' in which to grow. They are quite pliable and can be trained more ore less as you wish. There are now more compact varieties too. Cultivars such as Loch Ness, Waldo and Loch Tay can be accomodated ina smaller space, or grown as self-supporting which is handy if you don't have room for the climbing version.
Blackberries can also be used as a thorny barrier to keep out intruders or pets. The thorny Himalayan Giant is much the best for this use, a fearsome beast that grows with alacrity and well endowed with thorns - it is nevertheless an extremely heavy yielder and can be very productive indeed.
The Blackberry season begins with the early varieties, like Helen, in July, and goes through to virtually October with the latest, such as Chester. The fruit falls into two types - traditional rounded, and long loganberry-type fruit. The latter, although classed as Blackberries, are actually hybrids of a Blackberry and other closely related species. The rounded 'old fashioned' types have the taste truest to a wild blackberry. If that's what you are after then go for a variety like Ashton Cross. The longe type varieties have a more complex flavour which can be very delicious indeed. Cultivars such as Kotata and Karaka Black are renowned for the richness of their taste. These newer types also tend to yield more heavily, especially by weight because the fruit is larger.
Thorny or Thornless
Depending on the application and your aversion to thorns you will probably have definite idea's as to which you want to grow.
Here is a list of some good thorny types.
Ashton X, John Innes, Kotata, Sylvan, Marion, Bedford Giant, Himalayan Giant, Black Butte.
And some good thornfree varieties.
Black Satin, Helen, Merton Thornless, Smoothstem, Loch Marie, Loch Tay, Waldo, Chester, Loch Ness.
Cultivation notes
Easy to grow in all soils, the biggest and most juicy fruits will come from good soil to which manure and compost has been added. Plant to same depth as lifted at the nursery making sure the roots are well spread out.
Blackberries will tolerate shade well but best results from Loganberries and Hybrids will be achieved in a sunny position. Space 8ft apart down the row, Hybrid berries 6ft apart, immediately after planting cut the canes back to a strong bud 6 to 9 inches above the soil. A mulch of compost after the first year will maintain fertility.

FEEDING. Sulphate of Potash in early Spring at 2oz per plant, this improves the quality of fruit and builds up a hardier plant better able to withstand the cold winds. Avoid the use of Nitrogen unless absolutely essential as this causes soft growth, excessive vigour, and makes the canes more prone to disease.

SUPPORT SYSTEMS. The canes must be kept off the ground for easy picking and to ensure a tidy and easy-to-pick crop. They can be supported against a fence or a wall or in the open garden where a wire fence should be erected. Stout posts should be erected 6 feet out of the ground and 18 inches below, every 10 feet of the row. The end posts should be further supported by buttress posts to give strong support. Treat all untreated wood or posts with Cuprinol before erecting. Three wires should then be attached to the posts at 3 feet, 4 feet and 5 feet from the ground. Use gauge 8 or 10 wire. Twist the wire round the end posts and fix along the length with staples or, better still use straining bolts so that you can tighten the wire.
If planting against a wall, 2 inch square wooden posts should be fixed to the fence or masonry wall to hold the wire straining bolts. Between the end posts, 4 inch wall nails with eyes should be fixed to hold the wires.

Tighten the wires with the straining bolts before driving firm your fixing staples. The use of a wall or fence is ideal where space is limited and has many advantages to comment it. They are easy to net against birds, the wall or fence gives shelter and warmth and more light is reflected. Please remember, however, that the soil against these walls is often dryer and will need more watering.

TRAINING. The canes are lifted up from the ground and trained along your support wires, tying as necessary. They can be spread into a fan, woven through the wires in an up-and-down manner (the one we prefer) or simply tied along each wire to their full length. It is always best when training to leave a small gap on the wires above the growing plant so that as your new canes grow during the fruiting season, these can be loosely tied onto the support system up and above your fruiting canes. This will keep them away from your feet and avoid damage during the harvesting of your crop.

PRUNING. After fruiting or during the following Winter the old canes that have fruited should be cut at ground level. The new canes can then be trained in their place for the following years crop. It is often advisable, especially in the colder areas, to leave the new canes on the ground during the cold Winter months to avoid severe frost or freezing wind damage. These are then trained in during the early Spring just before bud break.

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