Deciduous Shrub, Zones 3 - 8
Deciduous Shrub, Zones 5 - 9
Hardiness varies, most adapted to Zones 8 - 9
** Hybrids between raspberry and blackberry are Boysenberry (also Tayberry, Olallieberry, Loganberry, Wineberry), but we're only going to talk about Boysenberries in this article.
Brambles grow from perennial roots that produce thorny biennial canes. Both raspberries and blackberries, are considered a real gourmet treat, not because they are hard to grow, but because they don't ship well.
You will enjoy bramble-type berries much more if you grow them at home, not only because they will taste better, but because any left over fresh berries you have can be made into jam, pies, or frozen for future use. They are such versatile fruit.
Raspberries come in two fruiting types. Summer Bearing and Everbearing.
These varieties carry one crop of berries on the over-wintering canes during the summer months. Plants begin fruiting in the early summer, and the season lasts approximately 4-5 weeks.
Everbearing (Fall Bearing)
These varieties produce two crops; the largest is borne in the late summer or early fall on the tips of canes that grew throughout the summer. A second crop is then carried lower on those same canes early the next summer.
Raspberries come in several types: red, gold, black and purple.
Red and yellow varieties known as everbearing, or fall-bearing, produce two crops on the same canes, one in the fall of the first year, the second in the summer of the next year.
After fruiting in the second year, the canes die and need to be pruned out. This is very important, and we'll get into more detail in a minute.
Blackberries come in 2 main types: Erect and Trailing.
The erect type has canes that can reach 5 feet (1.5 m) tall, are four-sided, and can stand without support. They are also a bit hardier than the trailing types in colder weather.
The trailing type has canes that can reach 15 feet (4.5 m) in length and which trail over the ground unless supported.
Try and choose plants that are one-year old dormant plants with lots of roots. Brambles are self-fertile, so you can plant just one cultivar and get fruit.
Try also to choose virus-free plants because virus infection is the number one disease problem for brambles.
Brambles do best in well-drained fertile soil in full sun with plenty of air movement. If your area is very windy, provide the vines with a windbreak to reduce canes breaking and thorn damage.
They do well with a rich, slightly acid soil with a pH of 6 to 6.5.
Plant brambles in the spring or fall, during the dormant season. If you do choose to plant in the fall, make sure you mulch liberally, to prevent frost from heaving the plants out of the soil.
Also, try and avoid planting brambles where you have previously grown tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, or eggplants, which may have tainted the soil with verticillium wilt.
This is a disease that brambles are quite susceptible to, and while you can try and buy disease resistant varieties, it's better to start your plants off in the most ideal environment you can, and that's clean soil.
Spacing is important because it will give you enough room to walk and work between the rows:
- Raspberries are usually planted 1.5 to 3 feet (.5 - 1 m) apart in rows that are 7 to 8 feet (2 - 2.4 m) apart.
- Blackberries and hybrid boysenberries are usually planted 3 to 6 feet (1 - 1.8 m) apart in rows that are 8 to 10 feet (2.4 - 3 m) apart.
When planting, choose a site in full sun because in the shade they won't bear as much fruit, and they will be more susceptible to mildew. In addition, all brambles do well in raised beds or individual raised hills so you may want to consider this option if it works for you.
For bountiful berries, prepare your soil with lots of compost and 2 weeks before planting work in some alfalfa meal, about 10 to 20 pounds (4.5 to 9 kg) per 1,000 square feet (93 square meters). Alfalfa meal can be found at any feed store.
Extra Tip: On planting day, soak the brambles' roots in compost tea for 20 minutes, and before setting the plants in the ground, dust the roots of each plant with a mix of bonemeal, and kelp.
Planting In A Container
Brambles can be planted in containers, but you will have to provide a stake or some form of trellis for them to grow upon. They can be grown along a wall or in raised beds, so there are many different opportunities for you to provide a structure for them.
In very cold areas, container-grown berries need extra protection in the winter since their roots are less protected than they would be in the ground. Pile large garbage bags filled with leaves around the container to provide extra insulation.
Brambles need a steady supply of water throughout the growing season. Drip irrigation is great for brambles because it gives the plants moisture without getting the foliage wet and risking disease.
Brambles are shallow rooted plants and do benefit greatly from a thick layer of organic mulch to help keep the roots moist and cool.
Fertilize with 10 to 15 pounds (4.5 - 6.8 kg) of compost per 10 feet (3 m) of row in the late winter. Black raspberries are especially heavy feeders, so you may want to give them a little extra.
Some brambles, like erect-type blackberries, will grow fine without trellising, but for the most part, brambles that are supported do better. Trellising makes it easier for you to harvest the fruit, and it exposes the canes to better air circulation and sunlight, decreasing disease.
The basic trellis for brambles consists of one or more wires stretched between posts set in the ground. It can be as simple as a single wire 4 to 5 feet (1.2 - 1.5 m) off the ground. Then just tie the canes up after pruning, or as they grow.
There are many different ways to trellis, and some get very complicated, but all you need is a simple trellis as mentioned here. I like to keep it simple, but by all means, do what suits you best.
Brambles are perennials, but their canes live for only 2 growing seasons. Each individual cane dies after bearing its summer crop of berries.
After the first year, the patch will have a mix of fruiting canes and juvenile canes, so pruning brambles involves selectively pruning the plants to remove the canes that have borne fruit and are going to die.
After the original canes bear fruit, cut them to the ground. Then select the best 5 to 12 new canes and train these up. They will bear fruit next summer. Cut any other remaining canes to the ground.
Many commercial growers keep the business of pruning raspberries very easy. For fall, or everbearing, raspberries, they simply cut all of the canes off at ground level during the winter and harvest just the fall crop of berries.
Then they let the fall-fruiting canes overwinter and allow them to bear a second, much smaller crop of berries the next summer.
Harvest and Storage
For best flavor, pick bramble fruits when they are thoroughly ripe. Ripe fruits are soft and come free from the plant with little effort.
Unlike other fruit, brambles will not ripen off the vine, so be patient, and allow them to ripen fully on the vine.
- Raspberries are ripe when they come off their cores very easily.
- Blackberries, when they are ripe, stay attached to their cores, but the berry separates easily from the stem.
Put harvested fruit in shallow containers no more than 3 or 4 berries deep or else you will crush the berries. They don't last long and are perishable, so store them no longer than 2 or 3 days in the refrigerator.
- Red and Yellow Varieties
'Anne' - Everbearing - Large apricot gold berries
'Autumn Bliss' - Everbearing - Very large red berries
- Black and Purple Varieties
'Brandywine' - Large purple berries
'Munger' - Medium black berries
'Royalty' - Very productive, high quality fruit
- Trailing Varieties
'Boysen' (boysenberry) - Large black berries
'Olallie' (Olallieberry) - Large black berries
Gold or Yellow Raspberry:
Trailing Canes on Trellis: