A deciduous shrub, the blackberry plant (Rubus spp.) belongs to the family, Rosaceae. Cultivars grow erect in a bush habit or with trailing canes. A perennial plant, its root system can successfully live for many years as long as it receives adequate water and nutrients. The canes of the plant are biennial and die back after fruiting occurs. Each year at the base of the old canes, the blackberry plant produces new canes that will flower and fruit in abundance.
The blackberry plant requires a nutrient, mineral rich soil that is well draining. The plant does not tolerate a water-logged root system and will quickly die. Avoid planting blackberry plants in areas that contain heavy clay or sandy soils. Both soil types lack the needed nutrients that the plant requires to thrive. Adding organic compost or aged manure to a location can help increase its fertility prior to planting. The planting location must have full sunlight in order for the blackberry plant to thrive.
Crop Rotation Significance
Avoid planting blackberry plants in a location where other blackberry plants or crops were previously planted. The location often lacks minerals and nutrients that the blackberry plant will need to survive. Ideally, the planting location should have not had anything planted within it for the past three years prior to planting, according to Oregon State University. Fungus and other diseases can also live on in the soil if the site was previously used for crops.
The planting locations should be prepared two years prior to planting the first blackberry bush. A soil pH of 5.6 to 6.2 is ideal. You may need to add limestone to the soil prior to planting the blackberries to increase its pH. A cover crop such as rye, buckwheat, oats or millet can add nutrients to the soil if it is plowed under the dirt prior to planting the blackberry plants. The soil will benefit from having a general purpose 10-10-10 added to the soil a week prior to planting the blackberry plants at a rate of 25 pounds per 1,000 square feet of garden space.
Fertilize the blackberry plant each spring prior to the plant producing flowers so the shrub has adequate nutrients to produce a large harvest of berries. As soon as the ground can be cultivated, spread a general purpose 10-20-10 fertilizer at a rate of v10 pounds per 100 feet of blackberry row. In the fall apply an additional fertilizer application to help stimulate the following year's cane production, according to the Oklahoma State University.
Prevent weeds around the blackberry plants to help conserve the soil nutrients and minerals. Weeds consume excessive amounts that can benefit the blackberry plant in producing an ample crop. Applying several inches of mulch around the base of the blackberry plants will keep weeds at bay and help the soil retain much needed moisture during periods of drought. Applying organic mulch such as pine bark or compost can also help add nutrients to the soil as it decomposes.