As a child I recall harvesting blackberries with my sisters and cousins along an abandoned railroad track. We had a few scary moments when we unsettled snakes (in reality those snakes were probably moving as fast as possible, trying to get away from all of our noise and feet). And we would return home with scratches all over our arms and hands, but with buckets full of juicy berries for mom to make into jelly and delicious cobblers.
Last year, my husband and I decided to add a thornless blackberry variety to a raised bed in our garden. Little did I realize how this particular plant would be so vigorous and send out so many canes for next year. Our raised bed wasn’t small, but it wasn’t overly large either.
So in August of last year, I began to read in Extension publications the process of propagating blackberries. Tip layering was the overall favored method, but in my raised bed, I didn’t want to unsettle my lasagna layering. The whole purpose of lasagna layering is to prevent upsetting the soil and allowing nice earthworms and other microbes to enrich the soil.
We decided to just “tip root” the berry canes. I rounded up 1 gallon black pots and filled them with potting soil. The black pots had been rinsed with a little bleach and water to make sure that they were clean. The leaves at the tips of the canes were curled and red, but I pulled the leaves off and planted one blackberry tip into each pot.
During August and September I kept the pots watered, but not saturated, and attached to the original plant. In early October, I cut the cane about 1 foot above the pot and left all of the pots in place until January. At that time, I moved all of the new plants into their home by planting and heavy mulching. The roots were nice and thick in the bottom of each pot. The experience makes me wonder if I can duplicate this same propagation process with other plants.
When spring rolled around, I was anxious to see if the new plants were thriving. Yes, all of the plants had taken off and were setting out new flowers. Some were more vigorous than others, but I was pleased to see new leaves and flowers on all plants. The bees were loving the spray of new flowers and that alone made the process worth the effort.
If you have a friend or neighbor who has thornless blackberries, visit with them about tip rooting and sharing their good fortune. We have enjoyed expanding our blackberry raised bed and look forward to finding new varieties to try in the future.
Esther Coco Boe lives in Louisiana, where she works to enhance pollinator habitats, plants herbs in her home garden, grows heirloom tomatoes, and exposes children to gardening. Connect with Esther on Facebook, and read all of her MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.
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