Soil and water

How to grow your own blackberries

It’s blackberry season, and if you’re lucky enough to live in the countryside or near hedgerows, you could be picking jars of them now to freeze, rather than spending £2 a punnet at the supermarket.

Blackberries are delicious in crumbles, compotes, jams and mousses, or added to cocktails and syrups – and with the recent heavy rains, you don’t want to delay picking them. But if you’re in an urban area, which doesn’t have a supply of brambles for foraging, these delicious fruits are really easy to grow, even if you don’t have a lot of space.

There are compact varieties, thornless types, and various hybrids, including tayberries and loganberries, which are not picky. Here’s what you need to know…

Blackberries can thrive in most situations, including exposed areas, north-facing plots, and clay soils, although the ideal situation is in a sheltered location with well-drained soil. Plant bare root canes in November or December.

If you want to hide an unsightly fence in your garden, choose a modern blackberry variety. Long arching canes can give you up to 25 pounds of fruit per plant and the plant can remain productive for about 20 years. You can tie wire horizontally along the fence and lead the stems of blackberries into it.

If you don’t have a fence or shed to support them, install a post and a galvanized wire fence about 5 feet high, with two or three evenly spaced horizontal wires, spanning about 3 m (10 feet), dragging the rods along the wire with soft twine. You can train a more compact variety against a fence that spans 6 feet (1.8 m).

If you have a small plot, opt for a compact variety such as ‘Loch Tay’, which has short, thornless canes.

May be suitable for vertical planting

Instead of planting an ornamental vine, consider a thornless blackberry such as ‘Oregon Thornless’ or ‘Loch Ness’ to climb over a pergola, which should give you plenty of fruit for those fall pies and won’t scratch you. not when you brush against them. .

Make sure the soil is well weeded before planting and keep it free of weeds while the blackberry canes grow. Add plenty of organic matter to the soil before planting, water the plants regularly in dry weather, and keep the soil moist when the fruits are set. Mulch in the spring with compost or well-rotted manure, then add a general-purpose feed and water it in.

(Alamy/AP)

Visiting birds will take their share of ripening berries, so protect fruit with netting.

Blackberries can be pruned after harvest in summer or fall. Fruit is produced on two-year-old canes (previous season’s growth). Thus, the first year of planting, the canes produce shoots from the ground and take several meters of growth. The following year, side shoots appear on the long stems. These shoots flower and produce fruit in summer, then die back in winter.

Keep this year’s fruiting canes separate from young new canes by tying new canes in a vertical clump in the center, then leading them along the top wire and tying the fruiting canes to the wires below. When all the fruit has been picked, the old canes can be cut down. Then you can lower the new canes, which have grown vertically on the wires below, which will provide next year’s fruit.

Although blackberries are hardy, you may need to remove frost-damaged growth in the spring by cutting off the tips of dead shoots.

(Alamy/AP)

Choose when the fruits are colored and you can gently pry each blackberry away from the stem. If you pick overripe fruit, it will disintegrate in your hand. Harvest them on dry days and freeze them immediately if you want them for later.

Some will be ready at the end of the summer, others in the fall depending on the variety. Good varieties include ‘Véronique’, a thornless type with a semi-erect habit, which is suitable for fanning a 6-foot fence panel and produces fruit in late summer. Plus ‘Black Butte’, a vigorous type, which produces berries twice as large as many blackberries, and ‘Loch Ness’, which has sturdy stems requiring little support and should be ready for picking in late August and September.

Quickly wash the harvested fruits in a colander, put the berries on a baking sheet and put them in the freezer. Once frozen, you can wrap them and put them back in the freezer. They should be good for about six months.

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