Choosing, planting, and training brambles
are only two potentially complicated parts of growing blackberries and
raspberries --- variety selection and pruning. Otherwise, care is
simply a matter of annual fertilizing, mulching, and (most important)
eating all those fruits.
Choosing your brambles
As I mentioned
previously, blackberries and black raspberries do better
in the south while red raspberries like areas with cooler
summers. Over large parts of the United States, you can easily
grow all three types of brambles, but your life will be a bit easier if
you begin your experiment with ones that are well suited to your
Once you decide which
type of brambles you want to grow, your next step
is to settle on which additional characteristics you're looking
Thornless blackberries are easier to work with, but I've noticed
they don't seem to be as cold hardy as the thorny varieties, so
northerners should bear with thorns.
Among raspberries, you'll need to decide whether you're interested in a
spring or everbearing variety --- unlike with strawberries, I have had
very good luck with everbearing raspberries and recommend them highly.
Bramble plants tend to
be more expensive than strawberries, often
costing several dollars apiece, but you don't need to start with
many. In my garden, one everbearing raspberry plant became a
clump large enough to provide lots of fruit that fall, and by the next
spring I was able to transplant yet more new raspberries to fill up a
whole row. The third spring, I gave away gobs of raspberry
and by the fourth year after planting all of my friends stopped
answering the phone when raspberry-planting season came around.
So --- choose your variety wisely, but don't be concerned about
Planting and training brambles
raspberries have a tendency to try to take over the
world, so plan ahead when selecting their location. I find it
helpful to plant brambles in mulched rows about eighteen inches wide,
then mow anything that tries to grow beyond the mulch boundary.
Unlike most other garden plants, brambles can handle tough clay soil
and even some degree of waterlogging, so feel free to put them in that
spot where nothing else will grow.
you're turning lawn or weeds into a berry patch, lay down a thick
kill mulch and plant your brambles into holes in the cardboard.
The best time to plant is in early spring, which means you'll probably
be putting in dormant, bare-rooted stock. The young brambles will
have a dead-looking cane poking up out of the roots --- the cane is
indeed dead, but the plant will send up a new cane once warm weather
rolls around. Mulch the patch well, preferably with something a
bit more carbon-rich than you used for your strawberries. (See
Homesteader: July for more information on types of mulch, or
just use well-rotted wood chips.)
Brambles don't need an extremely sturdy trellis, but it is helpful to
find a way to tie the plants so they don't bend down over the
path. I use light-weight metal fence posts about five feet apart
with two strands of thin wire running between them. Twist ties
are a simple way of attaching canes to the wire temporarily --- you'll
need to be able to unhook them when you prune out dead canes next
week's lunchtime series is exerpted from Weekend
which is available for 99 cents from Amazon's kindle store. The
also includes a primer on choosing and caring for a backyard flock of
chickens, information on buying in bulk, and tips for creating your own
apprenticeship. If you enjoy the book, please consider leaving me
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