Blackberry Growing Guide

Blackberry Growing Guide

Growing Blackberries

Growing blackberries can be a rewarding experience, and it is a great way to enjoy fresh fruit in the summer months. As with blueberries and strawberries, blackberries are relatively easy to grow and maintain in Northern Michigan. All it takes is the right supplies and a few simple steps to get started. 

In this guide, we will cover everything you need to know to grow blackberries successfully in Northern Michigan, including selecting the right variety, preparing the soil, planting and caring for your blackberry plants, and harvesting your fruit.

(Featured Image: Blackberries by Jared Smith)

Best Blackberry Varieties For Michigan Growers

When it comes to selecting blackberry varieties for growing in Michigan, there are several things to consider. One of the most important factors is the variety’s ability to withstand the cold winter temperatures common in this region. Some of the most popular blackberry varieties for Michigan growers include:

  1. Arapaho: This variety is known for its high yields, large fruit size, and early ripening. It is also resistant to many common blackberry diseases.
  2. Triple Crown: Triple Crown is a thornless variety that produces large, sweet fruit. It is also resistant to several diseases and pests.
  3. Chester: Chester is a late-season variety that produces large, sweet fruit with a firm texture. It is also resistant to many diseases and pests.

Preparing The Soil For Blackberries

Before planting your blackberries, it is essential to prepare the soil. Blackberries prefer well-draining soil with a pH between 6.0 and 6.5. The soil should be rich in organic matter, and it should be worked to a depth of at least 12 inches.

If your soil is too acidic, you can add lime to raise the pH. If it is too alkaline, you can add sulfur to lower the pH. It is also a good idea to add compost or other organic matter to the soil to improve its structure and fertility.

Tips For Planting Blackberries

Once you have prepared the soil, it is time to plant your blackberries. Blackberries should be planted in the spring, after the danger of frost has passed.

When planting blackberries, it is important to choose a sunny location with good air circulation. Blackberries need plenty of sunlight to produce fruit, and good air circulation can help prevent diseases.

When planting, make sure to space the plants at least 4 feet apart. Blackberries can grow quite large, and they need plenty of room to spread out. Plant the bushes at the same depth they were in the nursery container, and water them thoroughly after planting.

Late season blackberries on a branch that has been removed from a blackberry bush in Northern Michigan.

Late Season Blackberries by L. West

Step-By-Step Guide For Planting Blackberries

1. Choose A Suitable Location

Blackberries need a lot of sunlight, so pick a spot that receives at least six hours of direct sunlight each day. The soil should be well-drained and rich in organic matter.

2. Prepare The Soil

Remove any weeds, rocks, or other debris from the planting area. Use a garden fork to loosen the soil to a depth of about 8-10 inches. Add compost or well-rotted manure to the soil to improve its fertility. 

3. Plant The Blackberry Bushes

Dig a hole that’s slightly larger than the root ball of the blackberry plant. Place the plant in the hole and backfill with soil. Make sure the plant is level with the ground and the soil is firmly packed around the root ball.

4. Use A Trellis

We highly recommend trellising blackberry brambles so they are protected from animal traffic and wind damage. A basic trellis can offer support to the weak brambles, making them less likely to break.

5. Water The Blackberry Bushes

Give the plants a good watering after planting, and continue to water them regularly throughout the growing season. Blackberries need about an inch of water per week, either from rainfall or irrigation.

6. Mulch Around The Plants

Cover the soil around the blackberry plants with a layer of organic mulch, such as straw, mulched leaves, or bark chips. This will help retain moisture in the soil and keep weeds down.

7. Prune The Blackberry Canes 

In the first year, cut back the canes to about 3-4 inches above the ground after planting. In subsequent years, prune the canes that have borne fruit to the ground, leaving the new canes to grow and produce fruit next year.

White flowers on a blackberry cane growing in a Michigan yard.

Wild Blackberry Flowers by E. R. Vicol

Caring For Blackberry Plants

Once your blackberry plants are established, they require relatively little maintenance. However, there are a few things you can do to ensure healthy growth and a bountiful harvest:

  1. Water: Blackberries need regular watering, especially during dry spells. Make sure to water deeply, as shallow watering can lead to shallow root growth.
  2. Fertilize: Blackberries benefit from regular fertilization. Apply a balanced fertilizer in the spring, and again in mid-summer. We exclusively use organic, granular fertilizer on all of our berry plants, and our fruit yield has grown exponentially with the addition of this fertilizer.
  3. Prune: Blackberries should be pruned annually to remove old or damaged canes and promote new growth. Prune in the late winter or early spring before new growth appears.
  4. Mulch: Blackberries benefit from a layer of mulch to help retain moisture and suppress weeds. Apply a 2- to 4-inch layer of organic mulch around the base of the plants, but avoid covering the crowns.

With proper care and maintenance, your blackberry bushes should produce a bountiful harvest for many years to come!

Harvesting Blackberries

Blackberries typically ripen in mid to late summer, depending on the variety. When the fruit is ripe, it should be plump, shiny, and slightly soft to the touch. Blackberries are delicate, so they should be harvested carefully to avoid bruising or damaging the fruit.

To harvest blackberries, gently pull the berries from the plant. Ripe berries will easily separate from the stem. Blackberries can be fragile, so store them in light layers and do not toss them into a bucket.

Start Your Blackberry Patch Today!

Blackberries are surprisingly easy to grow, especially in Michigan’s soil and climate. These berries will come back year after year, often spreading and growing in size. Blackberries are fun for the whole family, and also attract a wide variety of birds and animals. 

If you’re shopping for healthy, ready-to-plant blackberries, Bright Lane Gardens is the place for you! We offer a wide selection of berry plants that are chosen for their ability to thrive in our region. We also sell all soil, amendments and accessories needed to get the job done. Stop by to shop our best sellers today!

Red and black blackberries in various stages of ripening on a bramble in a Michigan yard.

Blackberries Ripening by Scott 97006