Although blackberries that are picked in the wild have a great deal to offer, there are advantages to be gained from growing cultivated forms. The first is that they are conveniently at hand. Second, the fruit is usually much larger and often sweeter. Then there is the fact that you can get thornless varieties, which makes picking much easier. A disadvantage, however, is that you do need quite a bit of space to grow them successfully, although they do not need to be a free-standing crop. They can, for example, be grown along a boundary fence, which may well be a good use of space as well as acting as a deterrent to intruders.
Cultivated blackberries are derived from their wild relatives; the hybrid berries are crosses between various Rubus species, often involving blackberries and raspberries in their parentage. Each of these berries, including loganberries, boysenberries and
tayberries, has a distinctive flavour and is grown in the same manner as blackberries.
They come into fruit from late summer onwards and are, therefore, available later than most other soft fruit, which is another advantage. Like most fruit, blackberries and hybrid berries are best eaten straight from the garden, but they can also be used in a wide range of dessert dishes and sauces.
Blackberries are usually grown on post and wire supports, the wires being placed at 38cm/15in intervals up to about 1.8m/6ft. The thornless varieties are not as vigorous and take up less space. In a really large garden, blackberries could be left to grow free, like their wild cousins, but this is not recommended because cultivated varieties are often much more vigorous than wild forms.
Blackberries prefer a sunny spot, but will grow in a modicum of partial shade. The soil should be well prepared, with plenty of added humus. Plant the canes in late winter or early spring, placing them 3.5–4.5m/ 12–15ft apart (thornless varieties can be closer together), and immediately shorten them to a bud about 23–30cm/9–12in above ground. Do not plant deeply; the soil should only just cover the roots, which should be spread out in the planting hole. Mulch with manure in the spring and water in dry weather. They can be increased by bending down a vigorous shoot and planting its tip to form a layer. A new plant will quickly form and can be severed from the parent.
Pruning and training
In autumn cut out all the old fruiting stems and tie in the new growth. There are several methods of training blackberries and hybrid berries. One is to tie in all of one year’s growth to one side, several canes to each wire, and the new growth to the other side. Another is to tie the fruiting growth along the wires, allowing the new growth to grow up the middle. A more formal and higher yielding method is to create a fan, with the shoots tied in a radiating pattern from the base, again leaving the centre free for new growth.
Pick as fruit becomes ripe, without any stalks.
Fresh blackberries last a day or so but can be frozen, bottled or used in preserves.
Pests and diseases
Blackberries are prone to the same
problems as raspberries.
- ‘Ashton Cross’
- ‘Bedford Giant’ – early
- ‘Himalayan Giant’
- ‘John Innes’
- ‘Loch Ness’
- ‘Merton Early’
- ‘Merton Thornless’
- ‘Oregon Thornless’