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Division o Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources Oklahoma State University
Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Fact Sheetsare also available on our website at:
Julia Whitworth
Extension Small Fruits Specialist
Blackberries are among the easiest o all ruits to grow. Fewruits produce more dependably than blackberries. Properlymaintained, irrigated plantings o good varieties may producecrops or 15 years or more. Blackberry ruit has a range odistinctive avors which vary rom sweet to tart. The ruit canbe used resh, rozen, or canned. Well established plants willproduce about 1 quart or more o ruit per linear oot o row.All these eatures make blackberries an attractive crop orhome gardeners.Beore deciding to grow blackberries, several pointsshould be considered:1. site selection2. variety choice3. site preparation4. propagation & planting5. general care, including mulching, ertilizing, pruning,irrigation, training, and pest control6. harvesting
Cultivated blackberries do best on sandy loam soils withadded organic matter. However, they will tolerate a wider rangeo soil types than will most other ruits. Good soil drainageand 2 1/2 to 3 eet o unrestricted rooting area are necessaryor best plant perormance. A site with a slight, north acingslope is preerred to help prevent spring rost injury and toprotect plants rom southwest winds in summer. Additionalwind protection may be necessary, because succulent frstyear canes exposed to strong winds may be blown over andbroken rom the root system.
Variety choice
Blackberries and their hybrids have either an erect,semi-erect, or a trailing growth habit. Semi-erect and trailingblackberries require trellises. Erect blackberries are recom-mended because they require less labor and materials thanblackberries which require trellises. Selection o several va-rieties can extend the harvest season considerably (Figure1).Several good varieties o erect blackberries have beenreleased by researchers in Arkansas. These seem well adaptedto Oklahoma conditions. They include:
—an erect, thornless blackberry. The ruit aremedium sized, frm, and have excellent avor, ripening about2 weeks earlier than Navaho. Arapaho was released in 1993.The ruit avor is superior to semi-erect thornless blackber-ries. Since Arapaho has not been widely planted, its diseaseresistance is not thoroughly tested.
—an erect, thorned blackberry. The ruit arelarge and frm, with excellent avor, ripening in mid-season.Root cuttings are readily successul as a propagation method.A disease control program is recommended.
—an erect, thorned blackberry. The ruit arevery large throughout the season. The avor is slightly betterthan Comanche, but not as good as Cherokee. Cheyenne hassmaller seeds than Cherokee. The ruit ripen in mid-season,slightly earlier than Cherokee. Root cuttings are readily suc-cessul as a propagation method. This variety is moderatelytolerant to anthracnose, but a disease control program isrecommended.
—an erect, thorned blackberry. The ruit aremedium in size and frm, with small seeds. They have betteravor than Cheyenne and Shawnee. Fruit ripen early in theseason, about 9 days beore Cherokee. Root cuttings arereadily successul or propagation. This variety is moderatelyresistant to anthracnose, but is occasionally attacked bypowdery mildew. It is known hardy to -14° F in Arkansas.
—an erect, thornless blackberry. The ruit arelarge and frm, and are less tart than other thornless. Theyripen late in the season, about 12 days ater Cherokee. Thisvariety is moderately resistant to anthracnose, and is knownhardy to -14° F in Arkansas. This is a higher quality blackberry
Figure 1. Relative ripening dates. Actual ripening datesmay vary by as much as two weeks earlier or later, de-pending on the weather.
Blackberry and RaspberryCulture for the Home Garden
Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service 
6215-2Figure 2. One year old plant.
than the semi-erect thornless blackberries which have beenavailable or years. Navaho is susceptible to orange rust anddouble blossom. 
—an erect, thorned blackberry. The ruit arelarge and o medium frmness, ripening about 5 days aterCherokee. They have better avor than Comanche and equalto Cheyenne, but less avor than Cherokee. The seeds aremedium in size. This cultivar has more years o good yieldsthan many cultivars. Propagation by root cuttings is readily suc-cessul. This variety is moderately tolerant to anthracnose.Raspberries are grown in many o the northern states,but are not recommended or Oklahoma. Buds oten breakduring warm periods in January and February. This makes theplants very susceptible to cold damage later in the season.Only moderately low temperatures may cause the death oentire canes. Blackberries do not usually begin growth asearly as raspberries, and so are ar more dependable or ruitproduction.Raspberries are not heat tolerant. I they are planted inthe state, they should be sited in at least 50 percent shade.Fruit quality and yield will not be nearly as good as they are inthe northern parts o the United States. Raspberries stressedby excessive heat will be weak and susceptible to inectionby many organisms. However, raspberries may be hard tokill once they are established, and can become nuisances.Their culture is similar to trellised blackberries.
There are several blackberry-raspberry hybrids on the mar-ket. The hybrids have trailing habits and must be trellised.In order to prevent excessive winter injury, avoid placingcanes up on the trellis until late winter or early spring. Thesehybrids include: 
—the berries are large, strongly avored,sot, and medium to late maturing. When disease ree plantsare used, Boysenberries may produce well or 4 to 6 years.One selection is thornless, the other has very small thorns. 
—dewberries ripen early in the season, justahead o several o the true blackberries. The berries aremedium-large, medium-frm, and o good avor. Plants aremoderately vigorous and productive. Dewberries are some-what more winter hardy than Boysenberries. 
—the berries are dark wine colored, large,sweet, and sot when ripe. They are not as avorul as Boy-senberries. The plants have small thorns, and are vigorousand moderately productive. Youngberries ripen somewhatearlier than Boysenberries. 
—this is a red raspberry that is said to be heattolerant. However, this plant has not been very successul inOklahoma. It is not recommended or planting here.
Site preparation
A soil test is needed to determine the need or ertilizer andpH adjustment each year. The soil should be deeply cultivated,and organic matter such as compost should be incorporatedinto the rows. I the soil needs additional drainage, the rowareas should be built up into raised beds. The beds shouldbe rom 6 to 10 inches high and 2 to 3 eet wide. Little or noertilizer is needed the frst year. The soil pH should be 6.0to 7.0. Add lime or sulur as needed to adjust the pH into theoptimum range.
Propagation and Planting
Arapaho, Navaho, Choctaw, and Shawnee are patentedvarieties, and may not be legally propagated or sale or oryour own use. Non-patented blackberries may be propagatedreely. Ask your plant supplier i you are in doubt.Erect growing varieties are usually propagated with suck-ers or root cuttings, while the trailing varieties are propagatedby means o tip layers. Both the time o propagation and thetime o planting are inuenced by the habit o growth. 
Erect Blackberries
—most nurseries produce plantsrom root cuttings. The root cuttings, 2 to 3 inches long and1/8 inch diameter or larger, are planted in the early spring(March). The rows o cuttings should be rom 1/2 to 1 inchdeep, with cuttings 3 to 6 inches apart in the row. Plants willbe ready or transplanting into the permanent row during theollowing winter.Another method or increasing erect blackberries is romnaturally occurring sucker plants. One year old suckers aredug rom established rows and set into new permanent rows(Figure 2). More sucker plants can be produced by tillingnear existing plants, which breaks the roots and results ingeneration o new plants rom these “cuttings.”Planting may be done at any time during the dormantseason, but most planting is done during February or earlyMarch. Space plants 3 to 4 eet apart in rows that are 6 to 8eet apart. Plants should be set at the same depth at whichthey grew in the nursery row. Unless rain is likely, water thenewly set plants. 
Trailing blackberries and semi-erect blackberries
donot usually produce suckers or develop rom root cuttings.An easy, successul method o propagation is by means otip layers (Figure 3). To tip-layer blackberries, place the tipend o the cane into the soil about 2 inches deep and cover itwith soil. This should be done in September or October. Rootswill develop during the late all and winter. Dig the rooted tipsduring February or early March. Cut the tips rom the originalcanes, leaving a 3 or 4 inch section o the cane attached to it.One established plant may produce rom 10 to 20 tip-layeredplants each year. The small amount o the cane cut o withthe newly rooted layer will not noticeably aect the yield othe remaining cane. Space the new plants the same as youwould erect blackberries.
General Care
The crowns and root systems o blackberries live or manyyears. However, new canes arise rom the crown each year
6215-3Figure 3. Tip layering.Figure 4. Pruning erect canes.
and live or only two years. During the frst year, the canesgrow to their ull height. The second season, these canes bearruit and die. During their frst growing season ater planting,erect blackberry plants oten produce prostrate to semi-erectcanes. Erect canes will be produced in the ollowing years. 
Blackberries should be permanently mulchedwith about 4 inches o organic material such as pine bark orwheat straw. This mulch will help control weeds, conserve soiland moisture, and prevent winter injury to crowns. Mulchingalso promotes growth o the extensive fbrous blackberry rootsystem. Since the need to cultivate or weed control is reducedby the mulch, ewer blackberry roots are broken, producingewer unwanted sucker plants between the rows.Permanent mulch should be replenished each all aterthe frst killing rost. Blackberry-raspberry hybrids and rasp-berries are not usually as winter hardy as blackberries, andmay need extra winter mulch to protect the owering canes.Trailing blackberry varieties and erect varieties in their frst yearo growth may also be protected in this way. Allow the canesto remain on the ground, and cover them with some grassor straw mulch 4 to 6 inches deep. Let this temporary mulchremain until buds on the canes begin growth in late winter orearly spring. Then remove it and put the canes on a trellis, ineeded, as described below.
Ater the frst year, apply ertilizer to the black-berry plants at bloom time to stimulate plant growth, increaseberry size, and boost total production. A second applicationo ertilizer should be made ollowing ruit harvest to stimulatevigorous cane growth or next season’s production. Use a totalo about 10 pounds o a complete ertilizer such as 10-20-10or 5 pounds o ammonium nitrate per 100 eet o row. Applyone-hal o the ertilizer at bloom time, and one-hal soon aterruit harvest.
First-year plants are allowed to produce asmuch growth as possible without pruning or training to a trel-lis. Established plants grow new canes while the old canesare ruiting. During the summer, prune o the last ew incheso new canes, leaving them 3 to 3.5 eet tall. This is called“tipping.” Tipping orces the cane to develop lateral shootsrom buds near the top portion o the cane. Fruit producedthe ollowing year rom pruned canes will be at a convenientheight or harvest. The ruits will be larger, cleaner, and obetter quality than i canes are not pruned, because most othe ruit will be arther rom the soil.While tipping the new canes, cut o old canes that havefnished ruiting. Make the pruning cuts near the crown othe plant, and remove the old canes rom the feld. This willdecrease the likelihood o disease problems in the blackberryplants later.New canes that have produced lateral branches atersummer pruning should be pruned again in late winter (Febru-ary or early March) to simpliy harvesting and increase berrysize. Shorten lateral branches to about 12 inches in length.Some new canes may need to be completely removed duringthe winter so that ruit harvest will be easier the next year.This thinning will also increase air circulation, discouragingdisease growth. Leave 3 to 5 canes per linear oot o row onerect blackberries (Figure 4). Leave 8 to 15 canes o 4 to 8eet in length on trailing varieties. I there are dead caneswhich ruited but were not removed during the previous sum-mer, these should be removed at this time. A ew dead canesmay be let in very windy areas, to provide internal support orthe plant and help keep new canes rom breaking o. Deadcanes may harbor diseases and red-necked cane borers, sothis practice should be used with caution.Trailing blackberries and semi-erect blackberries need atrellis or support. The trellis may be shaped like an “F” (Figure5) or “T” (Figure 6). Additional, lower wires and crossbars maybe added to the “T” to make a “V” trellis, which is easier totrain the growing canes onto.The “F” trellis is especially useul in northern Oklahoma,because it allows the primocanes, or current season’s growthwhich has not yet owered, to be mulched during the winter.This mulch can help prevent early budbreak and winter injuryto buds. During the winter, the primocanes become oricanes,
Sept. - Oct. Feb. - Mar.Beore Ater

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