A short shelf life and fancy packaging make succulent blackberries expensive to buy. Wild brambles may be free, but their flavour and fruit size don’t compare with a cultivated blackberry.
Vigorous rather than rampant, cultivated blackberries are more civilised than their wild cousins.
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.
Caring for blackberries
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.
For maximum sweetness, let the fruits swell to full ripeness. Gently pull them off the canes and pop them into a shallow dish to avoid crushing them. Watch that the juice doesn’t stain your clothing.
Blackberries bruise very easily and won’t keep fresh for very long. They do, however, freeze well.
Blackberries: preparation and uses
Wash well and remove the hull (stem) before using to make summer-fruit pudding, purées, jam, pies, crumbles and home-made wine.
Blackberries: problem solving
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.
If you’re blackberry plant is not producing new canes, see our Quick Tips video to remedy the problem.
What are hybrid berries?
Usually a cross between raspberries and blackberries, these include loganberries, tayberries, tummelberries and boysenberries. Fruiting is usually earlier than blackberries, but they’re grown in the same way.
Great blackberries to grow
‘Adrienne’ – delicious fruit on strong, thornless stems
‘Black Beauté’ – sweet, fragrant berries with few prickles
‘Loch Maree’ – pretty pink flowers, followed by a good crop of juicy berries. Thorn free and ideal in a big pot
‘Loch Ness’ – vigorous, with high yields of large fruits on long thornless canes
‘Merton Thornless’ – large crops of well-flavoured berries, compact, thornless
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