Planting blackberries and raspberries in your garden is a wonderful way to enjoy fresh and delicious fruit straight from the vine. These berries are relatively easy to grow, and with the right planting and care, you can enjoy a bountiful harvest year after year. Whether you're a seasoned gardener or a beginner, this guide will provide you with the essential information you need to successfully plant, grow, and maintain your blackberry and raspberry plants. From choosing the right location and soil to providing support, watering, and pruning, we'll walk you through each step of the process to help you achieve a thriving berry patch. So grab your gardening gloves and let's get started!
Selecting a planting site: To get the most out of your raspberry & blackberry planting, choose your size carefully. Raspberries & blackberries prefer full sunlight & grow best in well-drained, sandy loam soil rich in organic matter. Avoid low areas that remain wet late into the spring, but select a site with access to a water supply. Irrigation is important for good plant growth during dry periods & can improve fruit size & yield. Do not plant raspberries where tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, or eggplant have been grown for the past four years, because crops carry a root rot called Verticillium that can also attack raspberries. Destroy all wild raspberry & blackberry plants within a distance of 600 feet of your planting site if possible, to reduce the possibility that virus diseases might be spread to your plantings.
Preparing the soil: The best soil for raspberries
& blackberries are deep, well-drained soil that has a pH of 6.0 to 6.5. Organic matter such as peat moss, compost or aged manure can be added to enrich less desirable soils. These materials also make the soil loose, allowing rain & roots to penetrate deeper. Raspberries are poor competitors. It is best to destroy all perennial weeds before planting & to keep the site weed-free.
Planting: Raspberries & blackberries should be planted as early in the spring as possible. Prune the canes to within six inches of the ground at planting time for best results. The most common planting system for raspberries is in a single row in which individual plants are set 24 to 30 inches apart in the row, with rows 6 to 10 feet apart. Place plants in holes 5 to 6 inches deep, fill the holes with soil & press firmly. Keep the soil moist. Generally, two complete growing seasons are required before the plants grow large enough to produce an appreciable amount of fruit. Plant blackberry canes in single rows 4 to 6 feet apart. Leave 8 to 10 feet between rows. Cultural practices are the same as for raspberries. Blackberries can also be planted using the hill system. A sturdy post is set next to each plant four feet apart in the row.
A wire can be run along with all the posts, about 4 ½ feet above the ground. If you do not wish to use a wire, canes of each plant can simply be tied to the post next to them.
Fertilizing: After planting, two pounds of 10-10-10 fertilizer (or equivalent) per 100 feet of the row can be applied after growth increases the risk of winter injury. The following years use 10lbs of 10-10-10 or equivalent per 100 feet of the row in early spring before growth begins.
Maintenance: Keep the planting completely free from weeds with shallow cultivation & hand pulling as necessary. Make sure the plants receive one to two inches of water a week for the best growth. Mulch can be used to reduce weed problems within the plant rows & also to help retain soil moisture & add valuable organic matter. Spread wood chips, bark, pine needles, or rotted leaf mulch over the plant rows, & maintain it at a depth of 3 to 4 inches. All raspberries & blackberries should be grown with some sort of trellis.
This will improve fruit quality, make harvesting easier, & reduce disease problems.
The diagram below is an example of a T trellis which is most commonly used.
Pruning blackberries: Blackberries require very little pruning or training during the planting year. In early spring, prune the tips of the blackberry canes, this will help promote branching. To tip prune simply cut the canes back to about 24 inches. If the canes are shorter than 24 inches simply prune off the top inch or so of each cane. After harvest, remove the canes that produce fruit. These two-year-old canes will die by the end of the growing season. In late winter or early spring, when plants are dormant, thin the new canes to one strong cane every 5 inches in a row. Prune lateral branches on these canes to 12 to 18 inches long.
Pruning raspberries: Pruning is a vital part of maintaining a healthy raspberry plant. This practice greatly inhibits the spread of raspberry disease & improves fruit quality & yield. During the summer months, regularly remove all new canes that emerge outside the desired plant row width of 12 to 18 inches. This improves light penetration & air circulation for the canes in the middle row that will fruit next year. Also, remove any canes that show obvious signs of insect or disease injury. In the late winter or early spring, before buds break, remove all of the old canes that fruited the previous year. These have grey, peeling bark & branches (they are dead & won’t fruit again). Again, remove canes that have emerged outside the desired 12-18 inch row width. Maintaining this narrow row width will assure adequate light penetration & air circulation to promote healthy cane growth & reduce disease problems. Only the most vigorous canes, those with the greatest height & basal diameter, should be left in the row. Continue thinning until only 4 to 5 canes per foot of row length remain. Remove all of the plant waste from the area. Plant waste can harbour diseases & insects that may attack healthy canes.
The above image shows a raspberry plant before & after pruning & thinning.
Heritage raspberries are pruned much the same except that they will fruit in the fall on one-year-old canes. The fruit will appear on the top foot or so of the cane, & it is common practice to remove the portion of the cane that is fruited after harvest. Leaving the rest of the cane to produce next summer’s crop.
Scott's Nursery have some different verities of raspberry and blackberry plants to choose from!
Boyne: Early to mid, winter hardy with strong canes, high yield, medium-size berries, medium-dark, tender & juicy, medium-sweet. Good frozen & fresh. Zone 3
Fall Gold: Late. Medium-sized, round, golden-yellow berries. Sweet & juicy flavour that is less tart than red berries. Soft & tender texture. Zone 4
Heritage: Mid-season. Medium to large, firm & juicy berries. Highly prized for its juicy & sweet flavour. Zone 4
Killarney: Early to mid, fruit is a firm, sweet, deep red, excellent flavour. Zone 4
Nova: Mid-season, canes sturdy & winter hardy, slightly spined. Medium-sized berry, medium red, firm, mild flavour. Zone 4
Raspberry Shortcake: Early season. Sweet, juicy, red berries that are about the size of a quarter. Zone 4
Royalty: Late, large-sized berries, vigorous winter hardy canes, medium-firm, picked from red to dusky purple. Sweet, high quality & excellent for jelly. Zone 4
Black Satin: Mid-late. Large, firm & glossy black berries. Sweet & juicy flavour. Great for cooking, jams & jellies. Zone 5
Bushel & Berry Baby Cakes: Mid-season. Medium-sized, dark purple berries. High yield. Thornless bush. Tender, juicy & sweet berries. Zone 4