By Josie Borlongan, Garden Guides Contributor
Blackberries (singular, blackberry) belong to genus Rubus, subgenus Eubatus. They are oftentimes called brambles. Blackberries are perennial plants that are native throughout the temperate Northern Hemisphere.
The fruits of cultivated blackberries are borne on canes in late summer. Blackberries are aggregate fruits that are composed of many smaller fruits called drupes. The blackberry fruits are very dark purple in color, the skin is smooth and fragile.
Blackberries are red and hard when they are immature and turn black and shiny when they ripen.
Before planting blackberries, the ground should be well prepared and fertilized since they do not bear well on poor soils. Remove weeds from the soil for they tend to compete with nutrients.
Blackberries need a sunny or partially shaded location. Do not plant them in exposed sites.
Blackberries are self-fertile and may be grown singly.
Choosing a Variety
Buy blackberries from specialty nurseries and ensure to choose healthy, virus-free stock.
Brazos, Cherokee, Cheyenne and Comanche.
Late; Chester, Darrow, Dirksen, Hull and Olallie.
Plant during the late fall unless the weather is severe, in which case blackberries can be planted in late winter or early spring. Some hybrids may be killed when the weather is very cold so seek advice from your local nurseries.
Plant blackberries shallowly, spreading out the roots well and firming the soil at the base of the plants. Give enough space around 12 to 15 feet (4 to 5 m) apart for vigorous cultivars and 8 to 10 feet (2.5 to 3 cm) apart for less ones. Shorten the canes to at least 9 inches (922 cm) after planting.
Provide support for canes by putting horizontal wire sets around 12 inch (30 cm) intervals along the walls and fences. Add a post sunk into the ground to protect the canes.
Mulch your blackberry planting soils with well-rotted manure in spring. Apply this on either side of the row, taking care not to bury the canes. As an alternative to manures, you can spread a dressing (mixture of nitrogen and potassium) over the whole area at least two feet (60 cm) on either side of the row and then mulch with compost or leaf mold to conserve moisture.
Remove weeds and water the plants regularly and thoroughly. Remove any suckers over nine inches from the main row.
Watch out for pests and diseases such as those caused by raspberry borers, fruit worms, gray mold and viruses.
After bearing, cut out the fruiting canes at ground level. Remove weak and damaged canes and tie those that have grown during the current season. In spring, cut back the tip of each cane if it shows any sign of die back due to the cold winter weather.
Harvesting and Storage
Pick blackberry fruits regularly, keeping the central plugs within the picked fruits. Canning, preserving or freezing are the common methods of storing blackberries.