“My blackberries have gone crazy! I got a lot of good fruit but the vines are all over the place and some are rooting! When’s the best time to cut them, and how do I do it?” — R.L., Jonesborough
I have blackberries as well. Thornless, and delicious, and mine are running crazy too. You’ll need to clip this out and save it for later, because no matter how shabby they look, it’s best to wait until winter or early spring. (Did I hear a groan?)
Just a few simple tips will keep you and me enjoying our berries for a long time.
Old canes all need to be removed. Those’re the canes that had berries on them this year. They’ll be obvious, because the color is dark brown.
New canes will be light brown or red. Using long loppers cut the old canes out at the ground and pull them out of the mess. Remove any dead or diseased canes too. When that’s done, take a look at what’s left, noting the strongest ones.
We want to leave five to seven — three to the right, three to the left, and one in the center. Everything else gets cut to the ground as well.
If you don’t already have it, you’ll need to put up a simple form of a guide or trellis. My berries are on a section of woven wire fencing, so I’ll weave the canes into the fence or tie them to the fence in a fan-shape. Zip ties, panty hose strips or trellis wire can be used. The intention is to have a semblance of order and to have easy access to the fruit.
Never bunch the canes. Good sunlight and air circulation is essential to the health of the plant. The canes that remain need to be pruned to about 4 feet. If they have secondary limbs, prune them to about 18 inches.
Do you have any volunteers that have taken root? Can they be directed into the row or should they be removed? If removing be sure to get the entire root and repot or wrap them in wet newspaper until they can be planted. If you don’t want more, share them with friends or sell them.
Mulch the plants with straw or pine straw or any good organic matter. What’s needed is insulation from drying out, and from the cold. It also breaks down and feeds the hungry soil. I believe all plants do much better with some type of organic mulch.
What about irrigation? I haven’t, but if I did it would be some type of drip irrigation. So far the plants have thrived with thick mulch protecting the moisture. I hesitate to irrigate with “city water” because I think it does more harm than good.
If we’re not having a drought, I usually let my established plants get a bit water-stressed — if the weather is predicting rain soon.
Are raspberries different? Maybe a little. The root is perennial, but the canes biennial – dying after the second growing season. If you’re particular, you’ll have to know which canes produce when.
Another kicker is that there are summer-bearing and fall-bearing canes. Summer-bearers grow leaves and canes the first year and fruit the second. The most efficient way to prune these is to cut all canes to the ground after harvest, then in the spring cut back all but the strongest five to seven canes when they get 8 inches to 10 inches high.
Fall-bearers – or ever-bearing – produce fruit twice. The first season it’s at the top of the cane, and the second season, it’s at the bottom half of the cane. For best yields, in the spring remove the canes that produced fruit the previous summer. Leave enough of the brand new canes to produce a late first-summer crop. Feel free to remove as many as is necessary to control the size of the plant.
If I were growing raspberries, I’d cut them to the ground in the spring and just have the one harvest. I might be losing a few berries, but I would keep what I had left of my mind!
There are many varieties of bramble-fruit available, so shop with your own needs — and available time for tending — in mind.
That way, you can enjoy the harvest.