Growing blackberries through the year
Vigorous rather than rampant, cultivated blackberries are more civilised than their wild cousins. Tie the canes as they grow on to a system of wires against a wall or fence.
Although fairly unfussy, given full sun and well-drained soil with garden compost added, blackberries will reward you with bumper crops.
Buy bare-root plants – called stools – in winter. Soak before planting. Bury each stool up to the old soil mark and firm it in. Water in well. Spacing is usually 1.5m but depends on the vigour of the cultivar – check this with the nursery.
Tending the crop
Blackberries fruit on two-year-old canes. When you tie them in, keep new growth separate from the older fruiting canes to prevent any fungal diseases spreading from older foliage.
In the first spring, when new canes emerge from the base of the stool, cut back any old wood to soil level. Tie in the new canes as they grow.
The second summer you could be tying in numerous canes. Flowers then fruits will follow. Keep well watered during this time.
After fruiting, cut fruited (ie, two-year-old) canes down to soil level. Cover the cut ends with compost so they rot down quickly. Tie in the next lot of canes when they appear in spring.
Every few years in late winter, spread a thick layer of well-rotted garden compost or farmyard manure over the root area. If you notice a decline in the vigour of the canes, feed with pelleted chicken manure.
Preparation and uses
If you don’t have a cage to protect the fruit from hungry birds, wait until the flowers have been pollinated, then drape some fleece over the plants.
Take care that the growing tips of the canes don’t touch the ground or they will quickly take root. If suckers are thrown up from the stool below soil level, pull them off or they will weaken the plant.