The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Cultivated brambles

BerriesWhen I was a kid, we never cultivated brambles (blackberries and raspberries.)  Instead, we knew spots where big patches grew wild, and we'd go on a pilgrimage to pick by the side of a country road.  With such good wild berry patches, why grow your own?

Lately, I've decided that cultivated brambles do have definite advantages.  The large cultivated berries are quick and easy to pick, and in many cases taste as good or better than the wild berries.  You can grow thornless varieties (particularly of blackberries) to cut down on the scratch factor and everbearing varieties (particularly of red raspberries) that extend the bramble season from early summer through the killing frost.  If you find varieties well suited to your soil and climate, you can also expect much higher production out of cultivated brambles than out of wild canes.

Cultivated blackberry patchAlthough cultivated blackberries and raspberries can be pricey, the frugal homesteader quickly learns that she only needs to buy one plant of each variety.  If the brambles like your garden, they'll grow so fast that you'll be overrun with offshoots to give away by the end of the second year.  (But do be prepared to run through a few varieties before you find one well suited to your garden.)

The only real disadvantage I've found with cultivated brambles is that they take up a good deal of space.  On the other hand, they tend to grow well in awful soil that wouldn't support anything else, and if you prune them ruthlessly (and mow up any shoots that wander out of their row), you can definitely keep brambles under control.  Our patch of blackberries and raspberries is the easiest and most productive part of our fruit garden so far.

Our chickens love a cool sip of clean water from our homemade chicken waterer on a hot day.

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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I subscribe to lawnmower-based pruning, but so far nothing else. My blackberry bush started out heavily pruned, and was producing perhaps a quart or two a year. After several years of mostly unrestrained growth, I estimate I will get 6 gallons from it this summer.

There's something great about a blackberry bush deep enough that berries can hide in the recesses inside it. Those berries turn out largest and sweetest.

Comment by joey Mon Jul 12 12:30:33 2010
Our bush is loaded this year too, despite heavy pruning. I suspect it's just a good year for berries! (It's so hard to disentangle the causes of good and bad seasons, though.)
Comment by anna Mon Jul 12 16:53:28 2010

Hmm, gathering and eating (ok, gorging) wild brambles is one of my fondest childhood memories. :-)

Last summer I found quite a large patch next to the canal close to work. Yum!

Comment by Roland_Smith Mon Jul 12 17:37:30 2010
Mine too! And when I was in the UK for a summer after college, I was so happy to find random blackberries growing in a weedy spot. Reminded me of home. :-)
Comment by anna Mon Jul 12 18:12:55 2010

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