Bumper blackberry harvest

Posted: Monday 1 September 2014
by Adam Pasco

Apart from tasting delicious - particularly in a crumble - one of the main reasons I love blackberries so much is that they just keep on coming.

Apart from tasting delicious - particularly in a crumble - one of the main reasons I love blackberries so much is that they just keep on coming.

Unlike summer raspberries and some other cane fruits that only produce ripe fruits for a short period, blackberries flower and fruit for months on end. They give me regular pickings from mid-July right into September. I particularly enjoy popping out before breakfast to pick a few ripe fruits to garnish my bowl of cornflakes. Delicious!

I’m a fan of thornless varieties of soft fruit, so have planted ‘Adrienne’ and ‘Loch Ness’ as a screen in front of my greenhouse. Wires spaced about 30cm apart run from stout posts at either end of a row, for new canes to be tied to as the fruits develop. The top one is as high as I can reach. These are vigorous varieties, with canes growing 5-6m in a season, so must be tied in to tame growth and keep them under control.

Once plants have established, at any one time you’ll have two types of cane growing together: new canes growing up this year, alongside last year’s canes that are now carrying fruit. This can create quite a tangle, so it’s important to develop a training system that works for you. I always train new canes up behind the current fruiting ones, so they don’t get in the way. Once fruiting has finished later in September all canes that have carried fruit can be pruned away at soil level, and new canes brought to the front.

Despite having a garden full of birds, I’ve not found it necessary to net my blackberries. Perhaps the mixture of flowers and unripe fruits among ripening ones proves less attractive, but for whatever reason there are always plenty to pick. Yes I do see birds eating some fruit, but they don’t strip canes bare as they would un-netted raspberries.

Like many cane fruits, most blackberries produce canes one year that carry fruits the next. However, I’ve read about a variety called ‘Reuben’ that is the first primocane blackberry. This means that they carry fruits on the current year’s canes. Fruits are said to be twice as large as other garden varieties and very sweet - so worth considering if you’re looking to buy one to grow. Reuben does produce thorns, but one review said these fall off as the canes mature.

If you’re not lucky enough to have blackberries in your garden then do get out and look for wild blackberries (brambles). I’ve seen some fabulous plants dripping with fruit on walks round my area in the East Midlands, so hopefully there are some near you too. But take a walking stick or umbrella with you to hook onto high canes so you can pull these thorny brutes closer for easy picking!

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