The secret to a lush, delicious blackberry harvest is the proper care of your blackberry plant. Blackberry plants tend to grow fast and the new growth can overshadow and interfere with blackberry production, so pruning is essential. Proper pruning and the removal of dead canes will help your blackberry plant produce the optimum amount of fruit.
- Each branch that a blackberry plant puts up is called a cane. Blackberries only grow on canes that came up the previous year. Each growing season, a blackberry plant will have existing canes (floricanes) that are developing berries, and new canes (primocanes) that will not bear fruit until the following year. That is why a blackberry plant will not produce fruit in its first year; the first-year canes will not bear fruit until the next growing season.
- During the spring and summer, when the blackberries are ripening on the plant, the new canes that are coming up will grow very fast. These new canes will need to be pruned. Pruning new canes allows the existing canes, the ones bearing the blackberries, to get the sun they need. Pruning also prevents the new canes from being in the way at harvest time. The time to prune your blackberry plants is from the middle to the end of the harvest season. When the new canes get to be about six to eight feet tall, prune them back to about 40 inches. If the new canes are pruned too early, they will send out lateral shoots that will interfere with your blackberry harvesting. After pruning, take the cut canes off and either burn them or take them to a landfill. This is an important step to help prevent the spread of plant disease and pests.
After the Harvest
- After a blackberry cane has produced fruit, it will die. You will need to remove the dead canes when the harvest season is over. Using pruners, cut the dead canes off at ground level and remove them. Take the dead canes off and burn them or take them to a landfill. It is helpful to mulch around the bottom of your blackberry plant to prevent weeds. Your blackberry plant will go dormant at the beginning of the year before showing new leaves and flower buds.
- Always wear gloves and protective clothing when working around your blackberry plants to protect yourself from their thorns. Also, watch out for snakes–they like to hang out around the base of blackberry plants, waiting for the birds that are attracted to the berries.
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