Blackberries-Rubus fructicosus are extremely tolerant of site and soil conditions. They are especially unusual in that they will produce a reasonable crop of berries even when grown in deep shade. Delicious both cooked or eaten fresh, they are bursting with flavour and excellent for your health,report http://www.gardenaction.co.uk.
Blackberry canes are not widely grown, because previously they were readily available growing wild amongst hedgerows. But these hedgerows are disappearing fast and it now makes sense to grow them in your garden or allotment.
Blackberries will grow reasonably well in almost all soils and even in deep shade. Remember though, that blackberry plants may well last for 15 years or so, so do try and start them off in the best possible conditions available.
As far as soil is concerned, they will produce of their absolute best on a medium, well-drained soil which contains plenty of organic matter. They like the soil to hold a good supply of water, especially when the fruits are developing in summer. The worst soil for a blackberry is light chalky soil - lots of well rotted compost will help to improve these conditions.
Thorny varieties of blackberry are the strongest growing, so choose these if the soil conditions are not ideal - 'Himalaya Giant' is the best variety to grow where the site or soil conditions are not ideal. Good fruits will still be produced and the poor conditions will reduce the excessive vigour of this variety.
Positioning of blackberry canes is a personal matter dependant on your garden. The best berries will be produced when they are in full sun. However, where space is at a premium, a blackberry cane will produce good crops even when grown in deep shade - none of the other common fruits will survive in these conditions.
Blackberries produce their flowers very late in the season so frost will never be a problem. Low lying land or frost pockets are quite suitable for blackberries.
Soil Preparation: Two or three weeks before planting, dig the soil over and incorporate as much organic matter as possible. The aim is make the soil able to retain the moisture which will see the blackberries through the summer with little or no need for watering.
Blackberry Cane: The best month to plant blackberry canes is mid-October - the soil is still warmish, but there is also sufficient moisture in the soil to keep the newly planted canes happy.
If you miss mid-October , don't worry, any time up to mid-March is OK as long as the soil is not frozen or water-logged.
Plantation: First decide how far apart to plant the canes. This varies considerably depending on the variety being planted. The strong growers such as Himalaya Giant and Bedford Giant should be planted about 4m (13ft) apart. Medium strength growers such as John Innes, Merton Thornless and Parsley-Leaved need to be planted about 2.5m (8ft) apart. The less vigorous growers, such as Merton Early need about 1.2m (4ft) between plants. Ask your garden centre for advice if in doubt.
When planting the canes, keep the crown of the roots level with the soil surface. This normally means digging a broad hole about 12cm (5in) deep. Spread the roots out into the hole and cover them in crumbly soil, firming it down with your hand. When planted. water well to provide moisture in the initial stages of growth. Cut the plants back to a good bud about 30cm (12in) high.
Immediately after planting (before if you want), trim the canes to a length of 25cm (10in). It's tempting to leave the canes longer, hoping they will produce fruit next year, but this does not pay off in the long run.
Supporting and Pruning Blackberries : Many complicated articles have been written on how to train and support blackberries. In fact, blackberries have only three main needs that make support and training important - light, circulating air and removal of last year's fruiting stems.
As far as pruning is concerned, it's simple. As soon as the blackberries have been picked, cut the stems which have produced berries this year to ground level. Don't prune any stems which have not produced fruit this year, they will be the ones which produce blackberries next year. With thorny, strong growing varieties a good pair of gardening gloves (strong trousers and shirt as well, if you have them!) are essential. If you have the time, during mid-April have a good look at the new stems and cut back maybe 25% of those which are growing very vigorously.
Supporting blackberries is not essential with the stronger growing varieties, although all blackberries appreciate a modicum of support. The idea behind supporting them is to permit a free circulation of air within the plant, thus helping prevent disease in general.
The best way to do this is to put wooden posts into the ground every 2m (6ft) and run wires between them at 70cm (2ft) heights up to 2m (6ft) high. As the new stems grow, tie some of them into the wires. The result will be that some stems will be unsupported and form a natural arch over the ground, whereas others will be tied to the supports and grow slightly higher. This will result in less congestion at the centre, promoting greater circulation of air and exposing much of the plant to the sun. If you have the time to support all the stems, so much the better.
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