Raspberries & Blackberries
Red raspberries should be planted in early spring in a location that receives full sunlight. Before planting, cut back tops to a height of about 6 inches. Set the plants 3 to 4 feet apart in rows that are 6 to 7 feet apart. Cover roots with 4 inches of dirt. Make sure the roots are spread out naturally.
Cut canes back 4 to 5 feet in the spring. Weak canes should be removed completely leaving only 5 to 8 strong canes per plant.
Drive a 7’ long, 2” or 3” square stake 18” into the ground beside each plant. Tie the canes to the stake with cloth or string. About 5 to 7 strong canes should be left at each plant and the reminder cut out. OR – Drive sturdy posts into the ground 15’ to 30’ apart. Attach cross arms to the post 2’ above the ground. String wire 18” to 24” apart.
Black Raspberries and Blackberries
For black raspberries and blackberries, spring planting is best. Berry bushes like well-drained soil with lots of moisture and sunlight, so try to pick a location where they’ll get plenty of both.
Set plants 3’ to 5’ apart. Leave about 6’ between rows. Or, use the hill system and set plants 5’ to 6’ apart in each direction. Avoid planting your berry bushes too deep. The roots should be covered with 3”-4” of dirt. The crown should be just at soil level. Spread roots out naturally – don’t bunch them into a ball. After planting, water well and cut the stem back to 1” above the soil level. Use stakes to mark the row if helpful.
Cultivation should begin shortly after the plants have been set and should be continued at frequent intervals. Cultivation should be shallow to avoid damage to the roots. Cover crops may be planted (millet, Sudan grass, domestic rye, etc.) around the middle of July to provide organic matter which may be worked into the soil the next spring. Covering crops also help to harden the young canes before winter.
As soon as the plants have produced fruit, the old canes should be cut off at ground level. Cultivate thoroughly. When the new canes are about 3’ tall, pinch off the top bud of each. This will cause the cane to branch out. In addition, prune every spring to keep the plants from becoming tangled. You may stake or train your plants on a trellis to keep them orderly and upright.
Put a stake of 2 x 2 lumber beside each plant. This should extend 2 1/2’ above the ground. Tie the plant to the stake with soft cloth or string. Or – Use a wire trellis with posts 20’ apart 2 1/2’ to 3’ above the ground. (The post should extend about 18” into the ground.)
Fertilizing for a Brambles
If manure is not available, apply 2 oz. per plant of 10-10-10 fertilizer approximately 3-4 weeks after planting. Manure or fertilizer can also be used as a pre-plant after your soil is worked and approximately 7-14 days before planting. For mature plants (2 years and older) apply 6-7 oz. per plant of a 10-10-10 fertilizer in the late winter or early spring before new growth starts. Avoid late summer or fall fertilization as this can make brambles (of any age) tender and susceptible to winter injury.
Thornless blackberries are very vigorous and should be planted 6’ to 8’ apart. After the first year, train the plants on trellises.
Set heavy posts 15’ to 25’ apart. Stretch 2 wires between the posts. Place the bottom wire about 2 1/2’ from the ground and the top wire 5’ from the ground. Train canes along the wires and fasten with soft string.
In late winter or early spring, prune out the old and weak canes and cut side branches back to 12” from the main cane.