Grow soft fruit Blackberries
Plant breeders have recently done gardeners a great favour by producing thornless varieties of blackberries. Some of them also have attractive flowers or leaves and look great trained against a fence or over an arch.
- Early: ‘Adrienne’ (with pink, double flowers) or ‘Helen’
- Mid-season: compact ‘Loch Ness’
- Late: ‘Oregon Thornless’ with very attractive, finely divided leaves
These varieties are all prickle-free, and should yield up to 10kg of fruit per plant, depending on how much space you can give them.
Expert tips for growing blackberries
Buy young plants with two or three shoots, which will have been cut short for easier handling.
Position in sun for the sweetest fruit, or semi shade. Shelter isn’t too crucial, as blackberries flower relatively late, so chilly spring winds are not a problem.
Support plants by tying them to horizontal wires fixed at intervals of 30cm, supported between stout posts. Alternatively train them over an arch and just cut off shoots that don’t fit the space. ‘Loch Ness’ can be grown up a single pillar.
Plant 3-4m apart against a fence and allow them to spread out. Position 1m apart if they are confined to a pillar or arch.
Caring for blackberry plants
- Feed in spring with sulphate of potash, but only if your soil is sandy or low in nutrients, then mulch with bulky organic material. Water in dry spells, especially when the fruit starts to swell.
- Tie in new shoots as they grow. On wires, the easiest way is to train them straight up, then outwards along the top wire.
- Prune once you’ve picked all the fruit. Cut the old shoots down close to the ground, then untie all the new shoots and retie them in a rough fan shape, using the lower wires, leaving a space in the centre for the next year’s canes.
- If there are very few new canes, keep some of the old ones, just shortening all the sides-shoots back to one bud.
Renovating your blackberry plants
Restore a neglected plant by cutting everything down to ground level in winter. Tie in new shoots as they grow the following year. Dig out any that have spread too far – the tips of blackberry shoots can root where they touch the ground, so can spread in leaps and bounds.
Check the supports, and replace if necessary.
Replace plants that fail to produce strong new shoots, or don’t fruit well after two years’ growth.