Blackberry Tree Care: From Planting to Harvesting

A beautiful addition to any orchard or home garden is blackberries.

In addition to being delicious when eaten fresh, these berries also produce wonderful jams, jellies, pies, and other baked delicacies.

What’s more, blackberry plants are remarkably easy to grow as long as you follow the proper care guidelines.

Everything you need to know about caring for your blackberry tree, from planting to trimming to reaping delicious berries, will be covered in this extensive book.

Blackberry Tree Care
Blackberry Tree Care

Getting Started with Blackberry Plants

Did you know that blackberries grow on bushes rather than trees? However, these bushes can grow quite tall and require a trellis or other support system, sometimes called blackberry trees.

There are three main types of blackberries:

Erect Thorny Blackberries: These are the most common type, growing upright on stiff canes armed with thorns.

Erect Thornless Blackberries: As the name suggests, these varieties lack thorns, making them easier to manage.

Trailing Blackberries: These varieties produce long, trailing canes that need to be trellised or allowed to trail along the ground.

A few things to think about while selecting your blackberry plants include climate, area, and intended yield. A range of blackberry cultivars are available at most nurseries and garden centers to accommodate varying growth conditions.

Planting Blackberry Bushes

Blackberries should be planted in early spring once the ground has thawed and dried out a bit. Choose a sunny location with well-draining soil rich in organic matter. Blackberries prefer a soil pH between 5.5 and 7.0.

Dig a hole large enough to accommodate the plant’s root system, and space the holes 3 to 4 feet apart for erect varieties or 5 to 9 feet apart for trailing varieties. Set the plants at the same depth they were growing in the nursery, and backfill them with soil, firmly packing it around the roots.

Water the newly planted blackberries thoroughly, and apply a 2- to 4-inch layer of mulch around the base of the plants to help retain moisture and suppress weeds.

Trellising and Support

As your blackberry bushes grow, they will need support to keep the canes upright and the fruit off the ground.

Erect varieties can be grown on a simple post-and-wire trellis system, while trailing varieties require a more elaborate trellis or can be allowed to trail along the ground (with appropriate mulching or landscape fabric to keep the berries clean).

For an erect trellis, sink sturdy posts into the ground at the ends of each row and every 15 to 20 feet along the row.

Stretch heavy-gauge wire between the posts at heights of 2, 4, and 6 feet above the ground. As the canes grow, use flexible plant ties or twine to secure them to the wires, spreading them out for better air circulation and sun exposure.

Watering and Fertilizing

Blackberries have moderately high water needs, especially during fruiting and hot, dry periods. Aim to provide about 1 to 2 inches of water per week, either through rainfall or irrigation. Avoid overhead watering if possible, as wet foliage can promote fungal diseases.

In early spring, before new growth emerges, apply a balanced fertilizer (such as 10-10-10) at a rate of about 1/2 pound per 20 feet of row. You can also work in some well-aged compost or manure around the base of the plants.

After the plants have set fruit, apply a nitrogen-rich fertilizer (such as 21-0-0) at a rate of about 1/4 pound per 20 feet of row to promote healthy cane growth for the following year.

Pruning and Training

Proper pruning is essential for maintaining productive blackberry plants and ensuring a bountiful harvest year after year. The pruning process varies slightly depending on whether you’re growing erect or trailing varieties.

Erect blackberry pruning:

1). In late winter or early spring, remove any dead or damaged canes by cutting them off at ground level.
2). Thin out the remaining canes, leaving 4 to 6 of the strongest, most upright canes per plant.
3). Trim off the lateral branches from the bottom 2 to 3 feet of each remaining cane to facilitate air circulation and make harvesting easier.
4). Tip back the remaining lateral branches by removing the top 6 to 12 inches of growth.
5). After fruiting, remove the old, fruited canes by cutting them off at ground level.

Trailing Blackberry Pruning:

1). In late winter or early spring, remove any dead or damaged canes.
2). Thin out the remaining canes, leaving 6 to 8 of the strongest, most vigorous canes per plant.
3). Trim off the lateral branches from the bottom 2 to 3 feet of each remaining cane.
4). After fruiting, remove the old, fruited canes by cutting them off at ground level.
5). Train the new canes onto the trellis or along the ground, spreading them out for better air circulation and sun exposure.

As you prune and train your blackberry plants, be sure to wear sturdy gloves and long sleeves to protect yourself from the thorns (unless you’re growing thornless varieties).

Pest and Disease Management

Like any fruit crop, blackberries are susceptible to certain pests and diseases. Here are some common issues to watch out for:


  • Cane Borers
  • Japanese beetles
  • Raspberry crown borer
  • Spider mites


  • Anthracnose
  • Cane blight
  • Powdery mildew
  • Rust

To minimize pest and disease problems, follow these best practices:

Choose disease-resistant cultivars when possible.
Practice good sanitation by removing and destroying any diseased or infested canes and plant debris.
Avoid overhead watering to keep the foliage dry.
Maintain good air circulation by properly spacing and pruning your plants.
Apply approved fungicides or insecticides as needed, following label instructions carefully.

Harvesting and Storing Blackberries

One of the most rewarding parts of blackberry tree care is harvesting those plump, juicy berries! Blackberries are typically ready for picking in mid- to late-summer, with the exact timing varying by cultivar and growing region.

When to harvest:

Berries are fully black in color (though some varieties have a slightly reddish blush when ripe).
Berries are plump and easily detached from the plant with a gentle tug.
Taste a few berries to ensure they are sweet and flavorful.

To harvest, use a shallow container or berry basket to gently collect the ripe berries. Try to avoid squishing or crushing the delicate fruit. Refrigerate or process the berries promptly after picking.

Fresh blackberries will keep in the refrigerator for 3 to 5 days. For longer storage, you can freeze, can, or make them into jams, jellies, or other preserved products.

With the proper care and attention, a well-maintained blackberry patch can provide a bountiful harvest of these delectable berries for many years to come. Happy growing!

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