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Growing Brambles

Unripe and ripe blackberry brambles growing.

Growing heritage brambles may seem daunting, but with a little pruning knowledge, it can be easy.  Raspberries, blackberries and all their relatives make for tasty, summer treats.

There are a few things you might want to think about when starting out.

Take the time to schedule your bramble chores. Look over your WVU Extension Service Garden Calendar, and circle the tasks associated with the bramble you are growing.

Most of the canes will not produce fruit until the second year, so don’t worry if you don’t see beautiful berries that first year. There are ever-bearing varieties that bear fruit in the first fall, followed by a summer crop that next year (primocane). You may decide that a mix of the two best fits your needs. 

Plan out your new venture by testing the soil, preparing it by digging a trench or holes for each plant, and adding compost. You also might want to add posts at the end of the rows with wire stretched between them for trellising.

Trellising will help support your canes as they shoot upward. Not all brambles require a trellis, so check the needs of your variety before planting. You should leave about 18 inches between each plant and at least 4 feet between rows. 

Don’t be afraid of pruning—brambles need it! Each cane has a two-year life cycle–first, growing foliage and then, producing fruit. During the first year of growth, prune the tips down to about 4 or 5 feet high, which encourages them to produce lateral shoots. After the fruit harvest the second year, prune out the second-year canes down close to the ground. These canes will look harder and woodier than new canes.

Harvest berries when they are in full color and easily pull off the stem. Brambles can be used in desserts, smoothies or as a topping.

By Stacey Huffman, WVU Extension Agent – Mineral County