Blackberry plants are easy to prune and train, and many varieties are prolific fruit bearers — yet many novice gardeners are intimidated by them. Instead of growing blackberries in their own backyards, these folks pay a premium for fruit at the farmers market and grocery store.
Gurney’s Seed demystifies the process of growing blackberries in this easy-to-follow video, “How to Prune and Care for Blackberry Plants in Early Spring.” As the host explains, the best time for pruning blackberries is late winter, when the plants are bare and it’s easy to distinguish the healthy purple canes from the brown (dead) ones. If there’s any doubt about the viability of a brown cane, you should lightly scrape the surface to see if there’s any green beneath — indicating that the cane is still alive and should not be pruned back to the crown.
After cutting away the dead canes, turn your attention to the tips of the healthy ones where the blackberry bushes are already exhibiting buds. Each bud on a cane is capable of sending out a fruiting shoot later in the season. Some varieties — such as ‘Triple Crown’ thornless blackberries — can bear as much as 15 to 20 pounds of fruit per bush. The canes must be supported to bear such a heavy load of fruit. You can tie them to a fence or to a couple of parallel wires that you've strung between posts especially for this purpose. As you secure the canes to the wire support, remember to distribute them so that sunlight can reach all parts of the growing cane.
These simple steps will help guarantee the health of your blackberry plants during the growing season, and lead to enjoyment of pounds of delicious fruit that you've grown yourself. Be sure to watch the video for a demonstration of these blackberry growing tips by a gardening expert from Gurney’s Seed.
Rebecca Martin is an Associate Editor at MOTHER EARTH NEWS magazine, where her beats include DIY and Green Transportation. She's an avid cyclist and has never met a vegetable she didn't like. You can find her on Google+.