Abundant in hedgerows, the blackberry is a tasty fruit to be enjoyed in late summer and autumn each year. But did you know you can grow blackberries in your garden without ending up with a giant mat of brambles?
Delicious and nutritious, the health benefits of blackberries are another reason to grow your own. There are full of vitamin C and other antioxidants that help to keep you healthy.
It’s often thought that blackberry bushes will take over a garden, and although they do grow vigorously, with a little care and maintenance you can enjoy growing your own blackberries without your garden becoming a bramble patch.
There are modern varieties of blackberry that work well in smaller gardens, such as Loch Ness.
Blackberry varieties Reuben and Apache are prized for large sized, sweet fruits, and are delicious in desserts and good for jam making.
Planting Blackberry Canes
Bare rooted canes should be planted any time in the winter, the dormant season. Plants that have been grown in containers can be planted between the spring and autumn. A sunny position works best, as the fruits tend to be of better size and taste. They will grow in most types of well-drained soil.
Each cane should be spaced about six feet apart. In smaller gardens, just one blackberry cane will produce a decent amount of fruit.
Blackberry canes need good support. A frame with supporting wires will help to train the stems, making the fruit much easier to harvest.
Caring for Blackberry Canes
Apply a good layer of mulch each year, and add a handful of organic fertiliser to the soil in spring to help the plant get a good start to the growing season.
Pruning Blackberry Canes
Aside from the variety Reuben, most other blackberry varieties produce fruit on the stems that grew in the previous year.
The canes for the following year will grow from the base of the plant, and they should be supported together to prevent them from growing wild and straggly. One way to do this is to bunch the new growing canes together and train them away from the older, fruit bearing canes.
Cut old canes back to ground level in the winter. The bunch of new canes can then be spread out across the frame, ready for the new season. Any side shoots that have grown from the main stems will benefit by being cut to about two inches. This will encourage more flowers and fruit to be produced.
Once your plants are fruiting, cover them with a net to stop the birds from eating all of your fruit.
Harvesting and Storing Blackberries
Blackberries fruit from late summer until autumn, and are delicious eaten fresh or made into desserts, jams and preserves.
Blackberries can be kept for months frozen. Spread a layer of blackberries on a baking tray and freeze. Do the same with any excess that you harvest. They can then be put into a freezer bag, frozen as individual berries that you can use whenever you want to.