Natchez blackberries are very large, averaging a third of an ounce each. (Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service photo by Dr. Larry Stein)
Ag Biz News Column
County Extension Agent—Ag/NR
Blackberries are an excellent fruit plant for the home landscape. The blackberry grows in small areas, bears nice fruit, and even provides some opportunity to market the fruit commercially or in a pick-your-own operation.
Blackberries are a biennial plant. Blackberries have two types of canes: primocanes and floricanes. Primocanes are current season canes while floricanes are the one-year old canes. Floricanes are flower bearing canes which die back after the fruit crop matures. Many cultivated blackberries today are classified as two fruiting types: floricane-bearing or primocane-bearing.
Fruit production of blackberries is directly related to primocane growth and vigor. Primocane-bearing blackberries are capable of producing a small crop of fruit the first year. Floricane-bearing blackberries can bear a crop of 2,000 pounds per acre the second year if the primocane grows well the first year. Good yields on healthy mature blackberries range from 5,000 to 10,000 pounds per acre. Cultivated blackberries are hand harvested and usually sold as pick -your-own or wholesale in 12 –pint flats.
Blackberries grow best in a well-drained sandy soil. Soil pH is also important. Soil pH for blackberries should be in the 4.5 to 7.5 range. Blackberries are a warm season crop. Marketing of the blackberries is common in May and early June. Because blackberries do not continue to ripen after harvest, fruit should be picked every three days to obtain maximum sugar content.
Varieties of blackberries fall into three categories: thorny, thornless, and primocane-bearing. Thorny varieties are generally the most productive and bear larger fruit. Thornless varieties offer the ease of harvest and pruning.
Thorny varieties include ‘Brazos’, ‘Rosborough’, ‘Womack’, ‘Brison’, ‘Kiowa’, ‘Shawnee’, ‘Choctaw’, and ‘Chickasaw’. Thornless varieties include ‘Arapaho’, ‘Navaho’, ‘Ouachita’, ‘Apache’, and ‘Natchez’. Primocane-bearing varieties have not been grown long in Texas and are considered experimental. Primocane-bearing varieties include ‘Prime-Jim’, ‘Prime-Jane’, and ‘Prime-Ark 45’
Blackberries should be planted spaced two to three feet apart in rows eight to twelve feet apart. Many today plant blackberries on a trellis system to keep the fruit from touching the ground. The trellis system also helps facilitate hand picking of the berries and aids in weed control as well around the plants. Blackberries may produce, if managed properly, for 15 years. Best production of blackberry varieties is usually during years 3 through 8, depending on the variety.
The two most common systems are the simple, two -wire/two-level trellis and the two-wire retainer trellis or “supported hedgerow”. In both training systems, primo-canes are tip-pruned at strategic heights to encourage branching and greater bloom distribution on floricanes.
Extension publications on blackberry production are available by contacting our office or online. Site selection, variety selection, irrigation, and marketing are important factors to consider when deciding to grow blackberries commercially or for home use. Blackberries may be an option for those with small acreage that want to have some diversity in their garden.
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