Wednesday, April 21, 2010

A Ramble on Brambles

Wow, Spring has definitely sprung! If you are not crazy busy this time of year, you either don't work in anything horticultural, or are not a gardener. Work has been extremely busy as of late, which is great! When I get home in the evening, I continue the same type of work in my own yard. Everything is flushing new growth and I love it!!
This year it looks like I am going to have a bumper crop of brambles. Brambles in case you were wondering and didn't know are, Blackberries, Raspberries, Boysenberries and such.
It has been well documented by me that I like to grow everything in containers. To recap why:
1) I rent
2) If they are not happy I can move them easily to someplace to make them happy
3) I have access to all kinds of sizes of containers and potting mix from work
4) Because I can
My bramble collection is no different. I have, Thornless Blackberries, Red Raspberries, Golden Raspberries, and Boysenberries. Do not ever let anybody tell you that they can not be grown in containers. On top of that, I am told that Raspberries do not grow well here in South Carolina.
Want some proof to show them? Check out these pictures.

As you can see, they are in containers. To save room, I use a teepee type of support.

This is just a small sample of the flowers on them already. This is the Thornless Blackberry

This is some of the Golden Raspberries. Not ripe of course, but they are coming along nicely.

Growing Brambles is rather easy. Though, just like everything else in the garden, it requires a little work. All brambles prefer full sunlight and grow best in well drained, sandy loam soils, rich in organic matter. They prefer a soil pH of 5.6 to 6.2. This gives me a good chance to remind you to have your soil tested. Check with your local extension agents to find out how.
Fertilization is a little trickier in containers, but don't let that scare you from trying. The general rule of thumb is, they should be fertilized each year in the early spring. This is the recommendation for in the ground. I feed mine about once every 6 weeks or so. 10-10-10 is a good choice, I use Tomato Miracle Gro.
Most cultivars require about one inch of water per week during the growing season. Of course, this is RELATIVE! It will depend on your weather conditions. Hot, dry and windy, will require more water. Lots of sand or a very well draining soil will need more water than one with lots of peat moss. The size and type of containers. This one is kind of a no brainer, a very small terracotta container will need more water than a larger plastic one. You want to make very certain that there is ample water during fruiting time also.
Pruning is vital! It is important if you grow them in the ground and have a good amount of room, but if you don't for whatever reason, it's not the end of the world.
In containers, you could be in trouble. The canes will create an unwieldy mess and it will cut down on your fruit production. I wait until the canes just start to flush a new growth in the Spring. I then proceed to cut out anything that is dead and thin it out a little. Then I re-stake the loose canes. This is also a good time to dig up the plantlets that have started growing on the ends of canes that were touching the ground. My Red Raspberry plant was really an over achiever this year. As I was working them this Spring, I ended up with 15 new plants! They were a hit at the plant swap.
You want to make sure to keep the planting area weed free to discourage insect pests and prevent competition for water and nutrients.
All bramble fruit is extremely perishable and should be harvested frequently.
Raspberries are ready to pick when they easily separate from their core. Blackberries do not separate from the core, so ripeness should be judged by color and taste. Darn, you will have to keep taste testing them to see if/when they are ripe. You will eventually learn just by looking at them.
Birds can be a problem. Netting is the best defense for them. There are a number of other pests, including tarnished plant bugs, fruitworms, sap beetles, Japanese beetles, and cane borers. Check with your local extension agent for the best product to use in your area.
Brambles are also susceptible to many diseases, I will do an article on them in the very near future. Here are some things you can do to prevent many of these diseases in the meanwhile:
1. Select disease resistant varieties and high quality, healthy stock.
2. Plant in places not recently cultivated with tomatoes, potatoes, eggplants, peppers, or strawberries.
3. Keep plantings free from weeds and plant debris.
4. Control aphids and other insects to prevent spread of diseases.
5. Remove canes that have fruited after harvest, and destroy all diseased canes.
6. Thin out plantings to allow for increased air circulation.

A well kept bramble can provide fruit for 10 to 20 years.
Hopefully, this year will be a bumper crop. My homegrown, homemade Boysenberry jam already has a backlog of orders.
Happy Growing!


  1. great Idea - Containers - I'll give it a try. I've been trying new ways to 1) grow more food crops, and 2) take advantage of the limited sun I have, and 3) use more verticle space since I have an already well planted yard. Thanks for the ideas. Claudia

  2. Glad to see it working, as this is what I plan on doing with some boysenberries I was given. I have to use raised beds or containers (clay soil) and am happy to find out boysenberries can be containerized. Great information on containers and soil! Thanks.

  3. how big are those pots? thanks.

  4. Any idea if you'd get more fruit if the containers were 25 gallon?

    1. If you used bigger pots, you would probably end up with bigger plants, needing larger supports, so I would yes, you would get more fruit. My issue was room and wanting variety.