Ray Ridlen: Blackberries easy to grow in backyard

Blackberries take a small amount of time to prune and maintain. Two to four blackberry plants are usually sufficient for a family of four.
By Ray Ridlen Published: January 25, 2014

Growing your own fruit makes it easier to include them in your healthy diet. Blackberries are one of the small fruits easily grown in the backyard. They have the second highest antioxidant level over all fruits and vegetables, are a good source of vitamin C, and high in fiber.

Blackberries take a small amount of time to prune and maintain. Two to four blackberry plants are usually sufficient for a family of four.

Fruit is produced on the blackberry canes the second year after planting. The roots and crowns of the plants are perennial, which means they live from year to year.

The canes of the plant are biennial, which means the canes live for two years. Each spring, new canes, called primocanes, are produced. The next year, these canes produce fruit and are called flora-canes. The flora-canes then die naturally after the summer harvest. Blackberry plants may produce fruit for eight to twelve years.

It is best to plant blackberries in early spring, March and early April, before growth starts. Now is a perfect time to order virus-free plants. Remember that when the ordered plants arrive, do not let the small plants or root cuttings dry out before, during, or after planting in order to improve the success of establishing the blackberries.

Well drained soil, high in organic matter, is best for blackberries. Organic matter such as compost and rotted manure can be added to improve the soil. The plants will not tolerate standing water. Always test the soil in the selected planting site to determine the need for phosphorus and potassium and to check the pH level.

After planting, mulch the plants with 3 inches of straw, grass clippings or other organic material. The organic mulch conserves moisture, reduces weed pressure, keeps the berries clean and maintains the soil temperature at a more uniform level during the summer.

Nitrogen is the main element needed for the first three years of the planting if soil test recommendations were followed before planting. Sixty days after planting, apply 3.5 pounds of a 21-7-14 fertilizer per 100 feet of row 6 inches away from the plants in a band.

In the following years, 3.5 pounds of a 28-7-14 fertilizer per 100 feet of row is applied in February or early March. After three years of growth, test the soil and add more phosphorus and potassium if needed.

Upcoming event

The following workshops will be at the OSU Extension Center, 930 N Portland, and is are free and open to the public.

•  Community Garden Workshop: Tuesday, 1 to 3 p.m. Call 713-1125 to register; space is limited.

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