Blackberry Bushes (Rubus spp.)
Botanically classified as brambles, Blackberry bushes are a super-easy, super-healthy backyard fruit to grow. As a member of the Rose plant family, Blackberry bushes can take varied forms. They may be thorny or thornless, and they may be trailing or upright. The brambles are covered in white or pale-pink flower clusters, from which the berries develop.
The obvious reason for growing Blackberry bushes is for the sweet fruit they produce. But did you know that Blackberry flowers attract butterflies, such as the Zebra Swallowtail? Although the flowers are not showy enough for Blackberries to be grown purely as ornamental plants, they’re very attractive to many butterfly species.
Because blackberries don’t “hold well” after they’re picked, you may not have seen them at your local grocery store. This is the perfect reason to grow them in your own garden! Eat them fresh for snacking, and make blackberry jam, jelly or preserves for your kitchen cupboard or as homemade gifts for your family and friends.
- Blackberry bushes produce best when they receive at least 6-8 hours of sun each day.
- Slightly acidic soil – with a pH of 6.0-6.5 – is optimal for growing Blackberries. Hint: Have a soil test performed to determine which, and how much, of a soil amendment (such as dolomitic lime) may be necessary to adjust the pH.
- If the site you’ve chosen doesn’t drain well, you can grow Blackberries in raised beds or berms that are at least 6 to 10 inches above the natural soil level.
- Use a 3”-4” layer of mulch around plants to conserve moisture and keep weeds at bay.
- The first year after planting, fertilize each Blackberry plant with 2 ounces of 10-10-10 (or an organic equivalent) in April and again in July.
- If you’re growing trailing Blackberries, support them by tying the canes to a trellis.
- Avoid growing Blackberry bushes on the same site where you’ve grown tomatoes, peppers, potatoes or eggplants in recent years to minimize transmitted diseases.
- Typically, you only need to plant one Blackberry bush to get fruit, but plants often produce more berries if you plant more than one.
- Water. Blackberry bushes are reliably drought-hardy, once established. In periods of high heat or drought, water deeply once a week, particularly during the fruiting season.
- Fertilizer. Because different soils have different fertility levels, perform a soil test each year and follow the recommendations for applying fertilizer in late winter and again in early summer to maximize your berry harvest.
- Pruning. You won’t need to do any pruning during the year you plant your new Blackberry bushes. In subsequent years, immediately after harvest, prune out the canes that produced fruit. In the dormant season, cut back the other canes by one-third to one-half their length.
- Harvesting. Blackberries are juiciest in the morning, after the dew has thoroughly dried from the plants.