Teach me about growing blackberries

When I was younger I had the luxury of living near some incredible wild blackberry patches. We would get gallons of them and take them home to my mom who would make the tastiest blackberry cobbler you could ever eat. Those days are long gone but I still get the craving for good blackberry cobbler with a big scoop of vanilla ice cream on top.

I just started my little mini orchard this spring with a handful of fruit trees. I have a couple of blueberry bushes but i wouldn’t mind having some blackberries as well. I prefer blackberries to raspberries. I know that some blackberries are primacane and some are floracane and I vaguely understand how they differ. But I really don’t know where to get started as far as growing them at home.

Do commercial blackberry varieties have the same tendency as wild blackberries to grow like weeds and spread all over the place? I’m like to prevent them from creating a big thorny mess that takes over a big portion of my yard. Can they be grown in pots? Do they trellised?

Would you recommend primacane or floracane blackberries for the backyard grower that doesn’t want the “bramble mess” that often is associated with berries?

Also, what would be the best recommended varieties for 6A that are sweet, large, and productive?


This is my first year of a crop on my blackberries. I have a small yard and they are near the pool wall, so I cannot have running plants and a mess of blackberries, I feel you on that issue. Thus they (2 plants, one Navaho, one Arapaho) are in separate but adjacent buried bottomless containers (one is an old tote, one is a 20 inch pot). I built a t-post and have twine to give them some support, but the ones I have are fairly upright. I always plant my buried containers so that the plant’s root flare is a few inches above grade. I like the extra drainage grade that gives it.

I finally have 2 (!) berries that have turned black; tons of them red and some still green. I hope to have a taste by next week. Time to net them.

I can’t say much on varieties as these are my first two grown here at home. My niece has Apache which gave her huge berries last year; not the sweetest fresh but they cooked well and were good with some peanut butter. I’m hoping my two are more out-of-hand eating, but we shall see soon.

Thanks Regina. Once your plants are established and growing well how many berries can you expect from a single potted plant? I’m trying to gauge how many plants i’d like to buy.

I’d say for even these young (2 years old) plants I have about 2+, maybe 3 quarts ripening now. Arapaho has 3 4-ft canes producing right now and has room to expand to ultimately to 5 or 6; Navaho has only 1 (also 4ft) and I will limit it to 2 or 3 since its in the 20 inch round pot.

I wonder if about half a quart per four foot high cane is about right? So if you potted and grew three canes, about a quart and a half per pot? Depends on your light too. If you kept to two canes per pot it may keep it more open and then about a quart each, if the math works that way in real life.

I’ve planted one each of Triple Crown, Osage and Navaho. This is the first year for all of them, so no fruit, but they are growing vigorously and I’m glad I left 5 feet between them since it looks like they can use the room.

Navaho and Osage are early and Triple Crown comes a little later, but is still reasonably early. Triple Crown definitely should have larger berries than the other 2, with Navaho probably being the smallest, but still a good bit bigger than wild ones. My selections where based on reviews, sweetness and the fact that they come early enough to avoid most of the Spotted Wing Drosophila season, although that may be getting a bit earlier each year from what I’ve heard locally. From what Bob and some others said, Triple Crown’s later season may be effected by SWD at which point I’ll just cut out the remaining unripe berries and trash them since I have no interest in cultivating maggots. They all have reasonably vertical growth and shouldn’t spread too quickly unless I allow them to tip root. My plants are in mostly dappled light with a few short bursts of straight sun (more so in early spring and fall), so it is hard to say how they’ll do and how sweet they’ll get without more sun, which is one of the reasons I’m testing several varieties.

The plan is to figure out which of these three grow and taste best, then pull the others and have about 5 of the preferred variety so I have enough to make it worthwhile for a few cobblers, jam or just enough to have a family of 4 enjoy them on ice cream for desert.

I also have a tiny Siskiyou (trailing) and Black Magic (only available from Gurney’s) (semi-trailing I think), but they are tiny and in pots at this point. I expect it will be at least 2 years before I get anything from either one of these. Also, the Siskiyou would need protection, so that will be a consideration as well.

Hi! This is my third year growing blackberries. I picked them in the ‘wild’ as child and loved the taste. I have had Triple Crown (died) and only have five Ouachita. You have to let it really ripen, to sweeten up. This time of year the canes go wild and are loaded with flowers and green berries. They will start ripening the end of July. I cut them back to three feet every spring, fertilize, remulch, every year and that is all I do. I might give them a spray of Monterey Fungi Fighter should I see any mold. Depends upon how much rain and fog we get. Other than that they are easy to grow. Picking them is great fun as they are the size of quarters or larger! Be warned they have huge seeds which you want to remove before making jam. If you do not its like eating jam with nuts!

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What do you find is the best way to cull out the seeds, Mrs. G?

Triple Crown will sucker too. A lot as a matter of fact. One plant can be huge needing 8 feet of width.

I do it two ways. one with a food mill, and another with a fine strainer.

In Michigan zone 6a I have had Triple Crown, and many other dieback to the crown. Thus producing no berries.
Last winter I protected them and I have hundreds and hundreds of berries. These plants are prolific.
The best cultivars for taste that i have experience with are Triple Crown, Navaho, Siskiyou, Marion, Boysen, Wyeberry, Columbia Star, and Newberry. All can die in zone 6a without protection. Not every year, but some years.
All are exceptional IMHO. I would try Triple Crown and Navaho, these are upright and thornless. Can be grown without a trellis, but a trellis makes it easier and you can try other types, like trailing types. I find a trellis helpful for all cultivars as when they are fully loaded the branches can bend and make it to the ground even on upright types. Most branches on upright types are fine though. At least so far for me. This year is the first year my triple crown has hundreds of berries, not fully ripe yet. It does have support in places. They are on top and on the other side of this plant too.

You can see laterals run right to the ground on this plant, a Chester, much like TC an upright thornless. Berries are not as good as TC. This plant is prolific to say the least! The other side has more berries than this side.

Ass you can see these plants become massive in size. These are 3rd leaf plants.

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A tip I got from Olpea who is a professional grower: Starting when they are 18" tall be pinching off the tips to slow their growth and increase lateral shoots. As they get taller, use pruners if needed to keep them between 4 and 5 feet tall. This will keep your yard looking decent and will keep your bush more easy to net. Birds will wipe you out if not netted. Also, the tall gangly canes are more likely to break off at the ground. I like my bush much better this year. I was ready to tear it out and put a pear tree there.

I prefer my raspberry bush by far. It is the annual type and red (Caroline). So not the flavor you are yearning for, just a general mention.

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Foodmill :gift_heart:

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Impressive berries Drew.

Thanks Mrs. G. and Drew - I see two votes for food mill. Never had to de-seed before. Another thing to fit in the kitchen!

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Thanks MrsG, I bought the foodmill you had, and it works good for small jobs. Other food mills might be in order if you had a lot of fruit to process. But the one we use is simple, works, well, and is easy to use, clean and put away.Not many parts, it’s nice! I never used it for berries, but I’m going to try it today.

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I use the Eurodib. It’s easy to use and only has 3 parts. It’s good for small jobs. And you can do big jobs but the multi-piece counter mounted food mill can whip through fruit very fast. It may be a better choice if you plan on doing pounds of fruit. I use it to remove skin, and seeds from tomatoes. Works fantastic! I’m gong to try it with berries today.

Neat. I guess the small screen size will determine how it does with berries? Raspberries have those teeny seeds, like mulberries.

That Eurodib looks nice. Durable.

You want multiple screens with your food mill. At least three (two will do). The OXO Food mill that I have works great is about $49.00 and lasts for years Use the finest screen that comes with it. The new hybrid berries are not only larger, so are their seeds!

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The Eurodib comes with 3 screens also. As the photo shows. I find I use that food mill the most. It’s just so easy.

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Well for me I would still take the summer crop. Primocane fruiting blackberries have 2 crops. Just taking the primocane crop would make it neater, although yield may be poor.

I use a knockoff of the Victorio Food Strainer that I bought from Gurneys a couple years ago for 75%off.I just did a round of Blackberries and Raspberries.The only problem so far,is that it gets a little hard to turn the crank,when running the batch through again,but otherwise,I like it.
I also have a Chinois type,that is not used much.May be more difficult to clean the screen. Brady

Yes mine clogs quickly and it has to be cleaned. it takes longer. A strainer is the fastest, but my mill puts through more of the pulp and no seeds. I just used it, I think i will use it for this from now on as almost all the pulp is making it into the pot. The stuff looks jelled already! I’m making wild black and wild red jam today. A family favorite. I find mixing the blacks and reds gives a cherry like flavor, superb! Getting the ratio right is key. About 1 part red to 5 black.

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