Growing Blackberries

Latest Update 6th August 2016.

Blackberry
  • Blackberries are not indigenous to Australia, and the wild feral forms we see in our hedgerows are noxious weed and were declared a weed of national significance in 1999.
  • Blackberry hybrids often thorn-less like mine and with seeds which are not viable are not declared noxious.    
  • Blackberries grow their canes from a crown, and fruit on second year old canes.
  • I bought my Blackberry plant many years ago, and it had been forgotten and abused for quite a long time.
  • It kept emerging from strange places, and I would remove it because I didn't really have time to cultivate it in those days.
  • In the end I searched my garden and rescued all the reasonably healthy plants and disposed of the weaklings.
  • I have now been growing blackberry vines on trellises since 2010, and I have been marvelously well rewarded.
  • This variety is prolific, pest and disease resistant, and the fruit is delicious.
  • Despite their drought tolerance and all round hardiness, I have not found them to be especially invasive. 
Details.
  • Variety:                                                     Unknown thornless with non viable seeds. 
  • Family Group:                                            Rosaceae.
  • Garden bed type:                                       Drip line irrigated bed.
  • Recommended soil pH:                               5.5 - 6.5.
  • Plant Spacings:                                         1250mm.
  • Good Companions:                                    Tansy.
  • Climate:                                                    Warm Temperate.
  • Geographic Hemisphere:                            Southern.
Nutrition.
  • This food is very low in Saturated Fat, Cholesterol and Sodium. 
  • It is also a good source of Vitamin E (Alpha Tocopherol), Folate, Magnesium, Potassium and Copper, and a very good source of Dietary Fiber, Vitamin C, Vitamin K and Manganese.
  • More from nutrition data.self.com.
Notes.
Growing Conditions.
  • Full sun in cooler months. 
  • Minimise soil disturbances to maintain a natural soil structure.
  • Keep shaded in the summer (December to February) with 21% shadecloth/exclusion netting. 
  • Do not allow the soil to dry out.
Feed the Soil.
  • Remove mulch and dead leaves from the previous year in September and dispose of them in your compost heap.
  • Remove any unwanted suckers, and dispose of them in the compost heap after shredding them.
  • Apply a 60mm top dressing of home made compost and cover with fresh straw mulch.
Growing Instructions.
  • Propagating thornless blackberries is easy. They can be propagated by cuttings (root and stem), suckers, and tip layering. 
  • Suckers are one of the easiest ways to root new blackberry plants.  They can be removed from the parent plant once they have developed a healthy root system, and replanted elsewhere. 
  • Tip layering is another easy method.  It can be started in late summer/early autumn by bending young shoots over to the ground and covering them with a few centimetres of soil. They are left to root through winter and by spring they should be strong enough to cut from the parent and replanted elsewhere.
  • Blackberries need to be supported on a trellis, and I grow 3 plants, each with a star picket support.
  • They are set 1250mm apart and I use 4 wires threaded through the star pickets anchored to the raised bed sleepers at each end of the row to provide support for the fruiting canes.
  • New canes are trained loosely along the trellis wires each year.  At the end of the year old canes that have borne fruit are removed, and new ones that have grown from shoots are rearranged so they cover all the supporting wires equally. They are tied down securely so they don't sag under the weight of fruit.
  • Blackberries are sprayed with aerated compost tea every month when all thye edible plants are sprayed.
Harvesting and storage.
  • Harvest the Blackberries in March.  
  • Harvest when ripe, and use immediately, or store in freezer bags in your freezer. 
  • They make great jam especially with rhubarb and are wonderful in blackberry and apple pies.
Organic Pest Control. 
    • Blackberries should be protected against slugs and snails using self adhesive copper tape bonded around the base of your raised garden bed.
    • If these molluscs get into your bed as eggs laid in your compost, kill them with organically approved iron based snail pellets as soon as you discover them.  You should only need to use a small number of pellets.
  • Caterpillars.
    • At the first sign of caterpillar damage, spray the crop thoroughly with Bacillus thuringiensis (Dipel in Australia)  This natural soil dwelling bacterium once ingested by the caterpillars produces toxins which paralyse the caterpillar's digestive system causing it to stop feeding.  It dies within a few days.
  • Greenhouse whitefly.
    • Aerated compost tea strengthens the plants foliage against whitefly damage.  
    • Control any infestations by spray your crop thoroughly with organic horticultural oil (Eco-oil in Australia).
    • Spray again in a few days to ensure second generation whitefly do not survive.
  • Aphids (greenfly).
    • Use the same method as described above for whitefly.
  • General:
    • Regular applications of aerated compost tea boost the natural defences of plants by colonising the leaf surfaces with beneficial microbes.  They defend the plant against airborne pests and diseases.
    • Similarly, proper soil preparation including regular applications of home made compost boosts the community of beneficial microbes, which defend the plants roots against plant pathogens.
    • Exclusion netting stops birds stealing and damaging blackberies, and takes the edge off hot sunshine with a 20% shade factor.