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Blackberry & Hybrid Bushes

 

Planting

Blackberries need a fertile neutral soil to crop well (a pH of 6.0-7.5 is ideal) with good drainage in full sun. Two pairs of horizontal wires, 60cm (2ft) and 1.2m (4ft) above ground, will be required to support the fruit-bearing canes in future years.  The planting distance will depend on the variety. Compact varieties can be planted in the open ground 1.8-2.4m (6-8ft) apart, but more vigorous varieties may require up to twice the amount of space. Reuben blackberry has an upright habit and can be planted as close as 0.5m (20in) apart or grown in a large pot. It can be supported with a stake.

Plant your bushes as soon as possible after receipt. Should weather conditions be adverse (i.e. if the ground is frozen or too wet to plant), then the bushes can be left in their pots in a sheltered spot or if bare rooted should be temporarily heeled in until conditions improve. Dig a hole or shallow trench and cover the roots loosely with sufficient soil or compost so that no roots are exposed to the air.

Improve the soil structure by thorough digging before planting and if possible mix well rotted manure or compost into the top soil.

Soak the roots in water for 1-2 hours. Dig a hole comfortably large enough to take the rootball, remove the pot and plant, ensuring the top of the rootball is level with the surrounding soil or up to 1cm (½in) deeper. Apply rootgrow™ mycorrhizal fungi directly to the roots before planting - this will help the plant to establish quickly. Firm the soil around the rootball and water-in thoroughly.

Reuben blackberry is very suitable for container growing. Start the plants off in a container that is 40cm (15in) in diameter. Use a good quality loam based compost such as John Innes No. 3 and repot every other year
.
 

Watering

In very dry weather water the bush thoroughly once a week, especially during its first spring and summer.

 

Weeding & Mulching

Keep the area around your plant free of weeds, particularly during its first year. An annual mulch of well rotted compost will greatly improve moisture retention and soil structure, and help suppress unwanted weeds.

 

Pruning Floricane Varieties

Floricane varieties fruit on the previous year’s new wood. To encourage vigorous new growth and help establishment cut all stems back to 30cm (1ft) above ground level at planting time. In future years your fruit will come entirely on the previous season’s canes which then die back to ground level. To prune therefore after fruiting just cut out the canes that fruited and train in the new canes, tying them onto the support wires from where they will produce their fruiting spurs the following summer.

 

Pruning Reuben (Primocane Variety)

Reuben is currently the only primocane blackberry available. Unlike floricane varieties, primocanes fruit on the first year wood. In March following planting cut all the canes down to ground level. In June/July, once the canes reach a height of 1-1.2m (3-4ft), ‘soft tip’ them by removing the top 2-5cm (1-2in). This will encourage bushy growth. It is important to complete all ‘tipping’ before the end of July.

To maximise the primocane (autumn) crop, in winter just cut back all the canes to ground level, clearing the way for the new cane to grow and fruit the following autumn.

Reuben can also be used to produce two (smaller) crops a year. To achieve this, instead of pruning all the canes down to ground level in the winter, only remove the top part of the cane down to where fruiting stopped, overwinter and it will crop the following spring. Once the spring crop has finished, the spent cane should be removed completely to give space to the new cane which will carry the autumn crop
.

 

Feeding

Feed liberally in spring using Fruit Feed.

 

Pests & Diseases

Blackberries and hybrid berries are generally trouble free but watch out for damage to the fruit from the raspberry beetle. If troublesome this may be controlled by installing raspberry beetle traps. Any chemicals should be used strictly as per the manufacturers instructions.

 

Further Information

For further information refer to RHS Growing Fruit by Harry Baker. Useful information can also be found on the RHS website.

 

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