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Blackberries: Plant Louisiana’s Native Treat

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Did you know blackberries are native to Louisiana? Many commercial varieties are well adapted to the growing conditions here. They can be grown in the home garden with few or no pesticides.

Basically, there are two types of Blackberries: the erect type and the trailing type. The distinction between the two is their growth habit. Erect blackberries have arched- self supporting canes. Trailing blackberries have canes that are not self-supporting and must be tied or trellised. If you want to avoid trellising, plant the erect variety.

A recommended thorn-less variety is the Arapaho. It is the earliest ripening erect thorn-less variety.

Berries can be grown in almost any soil type if good drainage is provided. Blackberry plants are harmed by water standing around their roots, even in winter. Accessibility to water for irrigation is an important factor to consider when choosing a planting site, since blackberries require large amounts of water during the growing and ripening season.

Soils where tomatoes, peanuts, sweet potatoes, roses, watermelon, cucumber, or pumpkin have been grown recently should be examined for soil borne diseases and nematodes before planting blackberries.

A well prepared plant bed is essential. All annual and perennial weeds should be killed before planting. This can be done with herbicides. Plant blackberries in hedge fashion on rows about 6 ft. apart.

On newly established blackberry plantings, apply a complete fertilizer such as 8-8-8, 10-20-10 or 13-13-13 as a side dressing in early spring. Applications of fertilizers relatively high in phosphorous the first 2 years after planting should be beneficial. Fertilizer should be placed about 10 inches to the side.

Blackberries usually require no pruning the year they are planted. Blackberry plants send up new shoots from crowns or buds formed on the roots in the spring. These canes are biennial and live for 2 years. They grow through 1 season, then produce a crop of fruit the second year.

Several diseases can attack blackberry plants, affecting canes, leaves, fruit or roots. Awareness of the symptoms of the major disease and the control is important for successful culture.
Here are the common diseases: Anthracnose (fungus); Leaf Spots (fungus); Orange Rust (fungus); Cane and Leaf Rust (fungus); Rosette (fungus); Crown Gall (fungus); Fruit Rots (fungus).
A combination of sanitation and spraying is necessary to control blackberry disease.
Cut off all diseased canes at the soil line just after harvest and burn them. Only disease-free plants should be planted. Inspect first. Don’t plant near wild brambles. Control weeds and grasses around the plants to facilitate good air circulation and rapid drying conditions. This makes conditions less favorable for disease development. If your plant does succumb to a diseases, see us for help!

Some insects can also attack the blackberry. To grow successfully, control the pests. The most important insects attacking the blackberry are the aphid, spider mites, stink bugs, cane borers, grubs, and strawberry weevils. We can help you if your plant is under attack.

Harvesting blackberries need to be done as early as possible in the morning when the day is cooler. Fruit harvested when temperatures are high spoil more quickly than fruit harvested at lower temperatures.
Berries should be picked firm-ripe, handled carefully and stored in a cool place as quickly as possible. Handle them with care to prevent bruising and crushing. The quality deteriorated when they are held at 75 degrees or above for more than 24 hours. They can be stored for 4-5 days in a refrigerator.

Article adapted from LSU Ag Center
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