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
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
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.