Consider the beautiful blackberry. What does it bring to mind? “Dark”? “Juicy”? An explosion of sweetness when you pop it in your mouth? Do you dream of cobblers bubbling hot from the oven, topped with ice cream? Or a handful of berries sprinkled over your oatmeal?
Blackberries are relatively easy to grow in our region. Still, this is my first year to try them. After all, they grow wild on my land, but my tangle with poison ivy last summer was the kicker. So I decided to plant them in my garden. Before I planted I studied their requirements:
- Blackberries are pretty forgiving. They like sandy loam but tolerate other soils. Still, before planting, get a soil test. Drainage is crucial. Don’t plant them in a frost pocket but instead where they have wind protection.
- You need more than one cultivar to get the best and longest fruiting period. There are erect and trailing varieties. Also those with prickles and without.
- Choose varieties adapted to your area by consulting your local county extension office. Usually it has online instructions about most fruits and vegetables. I’m growing ‘Navaho’ and ‘Arapaho’, both developed with some disease resistance for the Southern states. I always weigh disease resistance first because I don’t spray. ‘Navaho’ won’t perform as well in the far South because it needs some winter chilling. I may choose a third variety and if I do, it will be ‘Apache’ or ‘Ouchita’, other highly rated cultivars for my area.
- Most blackberry plants don’t need any fertilization or pruning in the first year, but they need supplemental water in our region.
If you have any interest in trying something new this spring, I say, “Go for it.” Just be sure to do your research first. It will increase your chances of success.