Blackberries can be a great crop for the home garden or for a commercial farmer. Many different types of blackberry plants are available, so researching before planting may lead to more success. This article gives a few tips for managing blackberry plants.
In addition to being planted in the full sun and having good internal drainage, thinking about plant location with regards to winter injury is also important. It is very common for blackberries to start blooming before the danger of frost is over. Plantings on slopes or top of slopes will allow cold air to drain away from the plants on cold nights. Blackberries planted on a southern slope may bloom earlier than those planted on a northern slope. It is best that the plants bloom as late as possible, but some years will be different on the northern slope. The main thing is to avoid low-lying areas if possible. Cold air settles in low areas, so those are the plantings that will be affected most by cold injury during bloom. Trees growing around the field can hold in the cold temperatures. A grower might be able to do something about some of these issues, but freezing temperatures during blooming is always a concern.
The blackberry cultivars can be erect, semi-erect, or trailing. The trailing and semi-erect plants would require a trellis, and the erect plants may or may not need a trellis. A common management practice is plant both trailing or erect plants on a trellis. The next step is to decide between thorny or thornless plants. This seems like an easy decision, as most would choose the thornless plants. However, the thorny plants offer an aggressive growth habit, more disease resistance, and therefore can be very productive. Cultivars are available with large fruit on both thorny and thornless plants, and early or later ripening cultivars are available as well.
Popular thorny, erect cultivars include:
Popular thornless, erect cultivars include:
There can be a big difference in the fruit size and production of some of these cultivars. It may depend on the use of the berry as to what cultivar to choose. There are some relatively new types of blackberries available called primocane fruiting blackberries. If you have any questions on blackberry production, please call the local Extension office.