Many of the hybrid varieties have been around for a century or more, and tend to be less rampant than the blackberry and far easier to control. Many are a cross between blackberries and raspberries such as the Loganberry and Tayberry.
Blackberries are less fussy than raspberries about location, they can tolerate partial shade, and are not fussy on the type of soil. They are hardy, but tips can be damaged by a hard frost.
Always buy your blackberries from a reputable garden centre or mail order company as they are susceptible to viruses, and it is important to start with disease free plants. The best time to plant is in late autumn or early winter (and at this time of year are usually supplied as bare rooted plants), although pot grown plants can be planted at any time of year.
The commonest way to grow blackberries is to use a post and wire support system as in the image above.
To plant dig a trench about 18in square and 3in deep – there is no need to plant blackberries too deep, the roots are shallow and tend to stay fairly close to the surface. Cover the roots with soil and firm gently with your foot.
After planting prune each cane to a bud about 1ft above soil level and water regularly until established, and they will fruit the following year.
The commonest way to grow blackberries is to train them using the roping method on a post and wire system. This is easy, straightforward and low maintenance.
- In year one train the fruit to one side of the support, in year two these will fruit, then train the new canes to the opposite side of the support
- Once fruited prune the canes that have fruited to ground level and then train new growth to the now empty support.
- Keep alternating this process each year.
Feeding and Mulching
Add a layer of well-rotted manure or compost in March. This will help keep the weeds down and keep the soil cool and moist.
You should also keep the area weed free, but be careful not to use the hoe too much, as blackberries have shallow roots and you can really damage the roots, it is far better to weed blackberries by hand.
In July-September dig a hole about 6in deep, cut about 1ft of the tip of a healthy shoot, and bury this in the ground where you wish the new plant to grow.
There are now a huge number of varieties available, so pick the one that suits your requirements. Some things to look out for are:
- Size and flavour of fruit. Some of the giant blackberries are fantastic, and some are huge, alternatively you may prefer the more sour loganberry that is better for cooking (and making wine)
- Vigour – Ideally look for a variety with a moderate vigour. If the plant is too rampant it will need more attention.
- Thornless varieties – I chose a very thorny variety for my allotment and I grow them next to the chain link fence, and it is a most effective natural barbed wire and keeps the vandals out, however if you are growing them in a a graden with children you may want to choose a thornless variety – makes picking easy too.