Danelle Cutting: Pruning for a better blackberry
Published 12:00 am Friday, February 27, 2015
As most individuals are thinking about all of this winter weather, I am trying to think of how I am going to get all of my pruning finished. For our last article in the pruning series, we will talk about pruning thornless blackberries.
Pruning blackberries can be fairly easy once you know the basic rule of thumb. One major rule is that it is always easier to prune when you start from the beginning. Another rule that counts for any type of pruning is that you can always remove dead, diseased and damaged canes anytime of the year.
To start pruning, you need good, clean tools. For thornless blackberries, you will use loppers and pruning shears. I prefer bypass hand shears so that when I make a cut I do not crush the cane, I want a clean cut.
The next step in determining how to prune your thornless blackberries is knowing what type you have. Most homeowners have what we call floricane producing blackberries, which means that the berries are produced on the second-year canes. Once the canes produce the berries, they die. This makes some of the pruning easy because you need to remove all of the dead canes. Once you prune out the dead canes, make sure you dispose of them properly so that they do not harbor any pests or disease.
I often receive questions about topping the blackberries, so I will briefly mention that if you are trellising your blackberries, most of the tops of the new canes are pruned during the summer time as well as new canes being tied to the trellis, since this is not that time of year, I will write an article when that time approaches.
But in a perfect world you have your berries trellised and you have pruned the tops, the main item that we do during the dormant pruning season (February to early March) is pruning the lateral shoots 12 to 14 inches. Think of laterals as the arms of the large canes. I also like to keep in mind that I am pruning the laterals to be almost the size of a school ruler. Once you get the hang of it, pruning is fairly simple.
When you prune the laterals to 12 to 14 inches, it helps when you are harvesting, produces better quality fruit and the fruit will be larger. If there are lower laterals that are close to the ground, I remove them, as well, because I do not want to be stooping or bending down to pick the berries. It also helps with air flow and a reduction of disease.
Once you have finished pruning your laterals, removed any dead, diseased or damaged ones, make sure you dispose of all of the debris. You can burn or throw in the trash but make sure you have removed the old canes from the property. If you leave in the field, you can continue to create a habitat for disease and pests.
For more information on pruning thornless blackberries contact your local Extension Agent Danelle Cutting at 704-216-8970 or visit: