Blackberries, a native North American bramble fruit, grow easily in much of the Midwest. Blackberry canes make an excellent choice for the home garden because they do not require staking or cross-pollinating and they produce large amounts of fruit in a small space. You can choose from numerous cultivars, including thornless blackberries, to suite your specific Midwestern climate and space needs. Some blackberries, such as Darrow, survive better in cold winters. The blackberry produces fruit on second year canes.
Decide on the location where you want to grow blackberries. The site should receive full sun to partial shade and have well-drained soil. Blackberries need some winter protection, especially in the northern areas of the Midwest. Choose a sheltered location or an elevated site.
Prepare the bed the autumn before planting. Remove any weeds or plants from the selected site. Spread a 3-inch layer of compost over the bed. Dig or till the compost in to a depth of at least 8 inches. Apply a 3- to 4-inch layer of mulch over the bed.
Purchase bare root blackberries from local garden centers or mail order companies in early spring. Choose a variety suitable to the specific winter climate of your area of the Midwest. Ideally, you want to purchase dormant, certified disease-free roots.
Soak the bare roots in water while preparing the hole. Dig a hole deep and wide enough for you to spread the roots, spacing the holes 3 to 10 feet depending on the variety. Place the blackberry in the hole. Keep the corn slightly above the soil level and fill the hole halfway with the removed dirt. Water thoroughly until the dirt settles. Fill the hole the rest of the way.
Spread a 3- to 4-inch layer of mulch around the blackberry plant. This will prevent weeds while conserving moisture and warmth. Keep the mulch approximately 3 inches away from the stems of the plant. Mulching materials to choose from include straw, leaves and wood products.
Apply fertilizer two weeks after planting and again one month after planting. Fertilize established plants in early spring. You can test the soil pH to know what specific fertilizer to use. Blackberries prefer a soil pH around 6.0. Alternately, use a 10-10-10 balanced fertilizer. Follow manufacturer's directions for appropriate application.
Water blackberries when it rains less than 1 inch per week. The Midwest tends to have long dry spells during the summer. You must give supplemental watering during dry periods because blackberries roots remain in the top 12 inches of soil.
Prune old or weak canes during dormancy. Remove enough canes to leave six canes per plant. You can prune the tips before erect blackberries reach 4 feet high to encourage production.
Harvest blackberries as they ripen during the summer. The fruits do not ripen all at once, so harvest regularly.