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Milberger's Nursery and Landscaping
3920 North Loop 1604 E.
San Antonio, TX 78247

Three exits east of 281, inside of 1604
Next to the Diamond Shamrock station
Please click map for more detailed map and driving directions.

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If you grow brambles in South/Central Texas, June is a time for action. Brambles include boysenberries, dewberries and, my favorite, blackberries. If you are not familiar with the term "bramble", Mr. Webster defines "bramble" as "a prickly shrub of the rose family." Mr. Webster defines "prick" as "a tiny puncture made by a sharp point." Obviously he has not grown the Brazos-type blackberries which are capable of tearing one's arm off!

Bramble produces flowers and fruit on one?year?old canes. Once a cane has produced berries it will die and should be removed to enhance growth of new canes which will produce the berries for next season. This cane removal is easier said than done.

The first season blackberries are planted, the new growth initiated should be left since it will produce berries next season. The second year after establishing a blackberry planting the producing canes are fairly easy to remove from between the numerous prima canes (new growth). The third year is when disaster strikes! The blackberries have grown from several small plants into a hedge which is 5 feet tall and 4 feet wide. Now try to remove the old canes and leave the new growth!

There are two possible solutions to this dilemma. The first involves throwing up your hands and saying forget it! The second involves personal fortitude and complete faith in the recommendations of your Extension specialist. It involves the use of a machete and a shovel. The machete (pruning shears and an old pair of sturdy gloves can be substituted by adventurous types) is used to cut the old canes at ground level without having your arm shredded by thorns. This year's cane growth should be spared if possible. New canes emerging through the mass of last year's canes will have to be shortened to facilitate old cane removal. New canes can be cut to short, six inch stubs and will immediately begin to resprout after "the surgery" is complete.
The shovel is an integral part of this system. The cutting of old canes should begin at one end of the planting. As the bases of canes are cut, the shovel is used to roll the cut cane mass into a ball. The ball of cane can then be systematically rolled down the row and will entangle canes as they are cut. Cut some and roll a little further is the system. The shovel is a safety tool to protect arms from those flesh eating thorns.

Once you have reached the opposite end of the row with the ball of thorny canes and all have been removed from the row, simply roll it to the garbage. Your blackberry row will now resemble Hiroshima ? not much left standing. At this stage in the blackberry pruning operation, your spouse and children will run from the house exclaiming all sorts of derogatory statements. You can assure them that if these remaining stubs are well watered and fertilized another blackberry hedge will be produced by fall.

This type of drastic cane removal is necessary every third year. Commercial blackberry producers cut hedged vines to the ground with a tractor and shredder. Removal of old canes prevent insect and disease problems.

Regardless of how old the blackberry planting is new canes should be tipped when reaching a height of 4 feet. The hedgerow width should be contained within a 3 foot diameter. Tipping involves cutting or pinching the top out of vigorously growing new canes to promote production of side shoots. The side shoots should also be tipped after they have grown 6?8 inches. Tipping of main and secondary canes increases next year's production potential, since it increases the amount of cane which will be initiated this year. Tipping of canes should be done continuously during the summer until early September. Discontinue tipping in September to allow canes to mature and harden before frost occurs.

Blackberries should be fertilized with one?fourth pound of fertilizer per plant in early spring and every month during the summer. Fertilization should be discontinued in July. If leaves are yellow, an iron chelate should be added to the soil. Iron sulfate (copperas) sprayed onto the foliage will also cause plants to green.

As you can tell, bramble production involves a few duties which must be performed if success is expected. But brambles are some of the most productive, reliable adaptable and pest?free fruits that exist.

For more information about blackberries and brambles, see:


Check for the latest blackberry varieties such as Kiowa and the best adapted thornless varieties.