Blackberry Pruning Advice Please

This March I planted erect, thornless Arapahoe, Osage, Ponca. Yesterday I put in a two wire T post trellis- 30 in and 60 inches. ( I don’t have enough space for a V trellis)

See photo: I’ve done no pruning so far, probably a mistake, right? 6 or 7 canes going every direction, 4 or 5 canes reach the 30 inch wire. Other bushes no canes reach 30 inches yet.

I planned to train them to T shape on the wires, like grape vines but now have too many shoots for that. I do not want berries down low, where most of the growth is now…

Is it too late to prune the low growth out?
Do I need to train all major canes vertical (to carry fruit load) or does fan shape work?

I know I need to drive out laterals with tip pruning- but not before the canes reach wire height, right?

BB pruning a whole new world. Many thanks for ideas.


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My illini and ouachitaw blackberries are on a simple 2 wire trellis… between post… with top wire around 4.5 to 5 ft.

When the pcanes grow past that top wire… i tip prune… and tie them to the top wire good.

They put out some nice laterals after that… and i can still reach all the berries easily when they fruit.


Do you keep only a certain number of main canes or leave them all? Fan shape ok? In other words not all canes need to be absolutely vertical?

Do you get rid of growth down low to keep berries off ground and help air circulation?

What do you tie up with- twine?

Do you train some to low wire and others to high wire?

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For a first-year caneberry planting, your plants look good. Do not prune anything that is so short. The green foliage is helping the root system. Each cane can be tied up at any angle. 30" is a bit low for horizontal training, as that would put fruit at knee level. Next year should result in new and hopefully larger primocanes that will be a better indicator of growth, and the year after that will see a significant crop. I use macrame for ties as it is easy to knot and unknot and lasts for several years.


Many thanks. Good reminder that I need to build vigor this year more than ideal training form. Next year I’ll start training primocanes earlier.

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I should be back home in a hour or so… will send a picture of my illini when i can. They are 20 years+ mature.

That bed is 24 ft long… and I have 7 crowns planted in there… over 20 years+ these illini have not strayed much. I usually keep 20-24 of the best pcanes that come up and take out any that are weak or short.

My top wire (actually a nylon rope) is around 4.5 ft tall.

When they get a little taller than the top wire… i tip prune them and they will send out some long fruiting laterals which will be loaded with berries next year.

My illini mostly bush out in the top half and mostly in the very top section… in the bottom half not a lot happens lateral growth wise… but ouachitaw are a little different they will send out some long latterals from bottom to top.

I like to use an all organic compostable tie… like this jute twine. When you have to take out the spent floricanes… you can just cut it and let it drop to the bed… and let it compost in place.

I first tie to my wire with several wraps tightly to secure the location… then a couple of looser wraps around the cane.

Hope this helps @hambone

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I had some of the same questions. Some of mine are transplanted.

The biggest growth is on Osage a new plant. I cut back a few small canes but left the rest

Should I prune the tip of each one? They are about 4 feet tall.

Only bed I have right now for berries. Blueberries to the front.

The growing season for caneberries this year is winding down. I doubt that the Rosdonald plants will grow out of bounds this year. Tip-prune next year’s new canes if they are more vigorous.

Thanks for the suggestion

Many thanks. I like that nylon rope vs aluminum wire. Easy for a tie slip sideways on a metal wire. Nice setup and beautiful row.

Do you need to burn the end of nylon rope to stop it from fraying?

Sounds like you leave about 3 canes per bush.

Do the canes stiffen up by year two so they can support the crop load or does the trellis need to support a lot of weight?

@hambone… yes the trellis is definately needed to keep the canes upright and managable (mowing around that bed) especially when loaded with fruit. But really all year… with wind and storms they would just be in a mess without the support.

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There are a few popular techniques depending on what you want to accomplish.

Technique 1 - Do not tip prune. With this you will need 4 or 5 foot spacing. Lay the canes horizontally on the first wire, and more laterals form when the cane is laying horizontally than vertically. When it is long enough then move it to the top wire and again keep it going horizontally.

Technique 2- Tip at 4 feet which is early in the season, then tip laterals at 2 feet, then tip the laterals from the laterals again at 2 feet until they go into dormancy.

Technique 3- Primocane Suppression. Dr Arlie Powell.


@krismoriah Excellent info, thanks. I think I’m too late this year for primocane suppression, but am drawn to that method in future once my plants get more vigorous.

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@krismoriah Have you (or anyone else) tried the primocane suppression method of Dr. Powell? I would instead call it Big T, Little T method, more explanatory.

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Basically his method is like a grape cordon. His method is nice for U-pick where people dont have to do easter egg hunts to find berries…its all business…long strings of easy to pick berries (which is good for the thorny varieties). I am not OCD enough to do his method on all of my rows… it does take a fair amount of work…but it is nice and clean and simple.

My method is mostly hedge style. I make two rows of wires and T-posts 2 feet apart and as long as they stay between those wires and support themselves… all i do is tip and tie. I choose this method due to less work for myself… and i love the beauty of the plant itself.

Nobody talks about this…but the whole life goal of a cane fruit is to multiply itself. The tips are tender and succulent and in nature they are begging to be eaten. As soon as a deer or herbivore eats the tip then it starts its business of shooting out laterals…which increase its chances of multiplying itself. Its whole goal in life is to tip root itself and produce a bunch of berries that will hopefully be eaten and then it will multiply itself. If a cane doesnt get tipped early in life it will grow 10 feet so that it will itself touch the ground and multiply.

So in summary- Year 1- the canes goal is to touch the ground… if it doesnt then the next year it produces an abundance of berries… to increase its chances of survival.

Year 2- the more laterals from each cane the more berries. Laterals are formed either by tipping… or the cane being horizontal. If the cane with tip attached lies horizontal its instinct is to force laterals vertically for survival.

Other things not talked about- removal of dead canes and leaves. The obsessive gardener will remove canes as soon as they are spent. By doing so you remove the leaves that will fall in dormancy and you remove a nice cane full of carbohydrates that will feed the crown and roots up until deep dormancy. This is another built in mechanism by the plant to ensure its survival and health. If you do this then you inherit the job of adding mulch and fertilizer to ensure next years health.

Another point not talked about… low lying branches and leaves and small spindly canes. This again is by design. These are for ground dwelling herbivores to eat and poop near the plant. Again for its own health.

In cultivation we remove all of these survival mechanisms for our own benefit… just remember that you inherit the job of nature if you remove these.


Quite an artful response. I’m super interested in the topic but also enjoy reading your writing style. :full_moon_with_face:

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Really helpful. Making notes.

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I skipped around in the above video and my impression was : WAY TOO MUCH TYING.
Attaching laterals every two feet is plenty. Is that green tape biodegradable?

I remove florocanes soon after harvest as it makes post-growing season October training of primocanes and their laterals much easier. Blackberries in this region are semi-evergreen and only lose leaves below waist-high; maintaining both old and new growth creates a jungle.

There is plenty of pruning-style leeway when dealing with caneberries of normal vigor and yield. Pruning and training for an orderly row allows for closer-spaced rows and reduced harvest time and control of SWD fruitflies (easy removal of fallen fruit is a factor).

I have 30 feet of row, 5 varieties in that 30 feet, and prune off a lot of green and red phase berry clusters to keep my total harvest under 100 pounds. That is all I can deal with for fresh eating, giveaway, processing and freezing.


I like your idea of crop thinning to what you can use and give away. I started doing that on apples.

Yes Dr. Powell is a little OCD… but again there are so many different ways to cultivate… If you are on a certain FB group the moderator does not tip or trim any canes… some canes of his are 20+ feet. His rationale is the most gallons per plant… as he sells at Farmers Markets and claims to sell to wine companies etc etc. So his goal is maximum yield per plant… He wraps the canes and trains them horizontally then goes down a wire then brings it back up until the season is over.

As for the plant ties… Dr Powell ties by hand… but alot of commercial growers use a tape gun… no its not biodegradable… so its extra work.

I use mostly baling twine myself… im a cheapskate. I have started using some leftover romex 12/2 … you just split the shield and there are 3 nice wires in there that seem to last forever… bend nicely and you can leave them on the wire when you are done for next time.

I think im up to 40 or so varieties. So i choose my lazy double row of wires to not have to tie and train as much. It costs a little extra for the posts and wire but its less labor hours for me… plus i like the look of the hedge.

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