Almost 20 years ago I saw an ad – probably in Organic Magazine – for thornless blackberries. I was sold immediately.
I didn’t know anything about blackberries except they were delicious. But in spite of my ignorance, the blackberries did just fine and gave us multiple gallons of berries to eat fresh and freeze for winter use for many years.
When we moved to our current residence, I brought a few plants with me.
After I decided I wanted to grow raspberries as one of my main berry crops, I had to find another place on our property for my blackberries. The only place that was far enough away was the front yard!
Since I didn’t want to be without at least 2 fruiting canes for fresh blackberries, they ended up in my perennial bed by the fence. I was a bit hesitant about that since brambles have shallow root systems. Would the other plants competing for nutrients be harmful to them?
That was 10 years ago and I’m still enjoying fresh blackberries every year. Not only that, but the canes fit beautifully into the overall look of the border.
Thornless Blackberries Can be Grown in a Small Space with Little Care
Imagine going out in the morning and picking a handful or two of fresh blackberries for your breakfast. It’s possible even if your yard is small. With a little attention you can keep them going for years and years.
Here’s All You Need to Know to be Successful
Thornless are pain-free and more manageable than ones with thorns. So go for thornless!
Soil and Sun
Pick a spot with well drained soil that gets 6 to 8 hours of direct sun.
First Year Canes (Primocanes)
Blackberry canes produce fruit in their 2nd year of growth. You get just canes the first year after planting. (They’re called primocanes.)
6 Canes Within 12 Inches
If you have room you can allow 6 canes to grow within 12 inches. (I allow 2 or 3 new canes each year. This gives me a total of no more than 6 canes. 3 fruiting (last year’s canes) and 3 growing (this year’s canes). Pull up any others that try to grow within the 12 inches or outside of the 12 inches.
Cut the Primocanes in June or July
In June or July of each year, cut the end off so that the entire length of the remaining cane will not exceed 3 or 4 feet. (This keeps it simple and no trellising will be necessary.)
Cutting the canes stimulates new growth. Side shoots (called laterals) will develop. This is what you want since the side shoots increase the area that produces fruit next year.
Wait until Next Spring to Cut the Side Shoots (Laterals)
The following spring you will trim the side shoots (laterals) to about 18 inches. Larger berries will result from this. (You wait until spring to avoid possible winter damage.)
Last Years Canes Bear Fruit This Year (Floricanes)
Last years canes will be fruiting this year. (They are called floricanes.) Wait until after the fruiting season is over to prune these canes.
They will never fruit again. Cut them off at the root crown.
Use sharp tools for smooth cuts. It causes less stress on the plants that way. It’s important to prune these out right away to help prevent the possibility of disease
Keep Blackberries and Raspberries a Good Distance Apart? (See the Addendum at the end of the post)
If I were just ordering blackberries for the first time, I think my choice would be Arapaho and Ouachita. Arapho is thornless with exceptionally small seeds and large berries. Ouachita is also thornless. It ripens early and has extra sweet berries.
If I only had room for one, it would be hard to choose. I like the idea of small seeds in the Arapho, but I also like the sweetness of Ouachita. Tough call.
Whatever your choice, you’ll be glad you made the decision to plant. They’re a treat you don’t have to be without.
Almost all horticultural advice recommends keeping blackberries and raspberries apart as I mentioned in the post. The supposed reason for that is that if one gets a disease – it will spread to the other.
When we moved to this property 22 years ago it was inconvenient to separate the two, but I did it anyway. I didn’t have a lot of experience with blackberries or raspberries and figured I’d rather be safe than sorry.
Now that I’ve had two decades with both fruits, if I had it to do over — I wouldn’t. I’d plant them where I wanted them.
If they got a disease (which I doubt they would since no one else is growing brambles around here and my garden and property is healthy) I’d deal with it then.
As the years have passed I’ve seen numerous accounts online from gardeners that have planted the two brambles together with great success.
They all agreed that no separation is needed for raspberries and blackberries.
If you have a healthy garden and property (and I do) I don’t see any reason to be concerned. And if a problem did arise, you could always move one or the other.
If you’re unsure and want to follow the conventional advice to keep them hundreds of feet apart that’s ok too.
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