Blackberry winter survival in zone 6a/5b 2014

drew51 SE MI Z5b/6aApril 8, 2014

Well all my plants are still dormant, but I can access damage. All trailing types with unprotected canes. The canes died. The plants though are alive. Base of plant was protected and all canes are very green there. We had 13 days below zero this winter. With the coldest at -14.
Boysenberry, Tayberry canes died back to covered point. So no berries this year off of them. Wyeberry exposed canes look rough, covered canes look great.
So it appears the trailing types can survive very cold weather but need to be covered in zone 6 or lower.
All the erect /semi-erect types are fine with minimal dieback. Those include Triple Crown, Natchez, Navaho, and Chester.
Loganberry was exposed and seems fine. It had one short cane only, my dog tore all the others off running by., Installing a fence to stop that this year.
But I must give Jesse the wonder dog credit where credit is due. I didn't cover the trailing types except wyeberry. But my dog urinated on them and did that kicking thing. Which resulted in the mulch mounding at the base of the plants. When I uncovered them, they were all green underneath. If Jesse didn't do that, all the trailing plants would be dead.
Really he messed up my Loganberry, but saved my tayberry and boysenberry.
I will leave this year's canes sprawl on the ground , cover them in the winter then tie them up next spring.
Anyway a good lesson. I lost a lot of berries, but all plants are alive. I know they can produce here. And I still have 4 huge plants that wll give me a decent yield. I'm adding Columbia Star, Black Diamond, Loch Ness, and Apache.
Many others I would like to try, but I'm full!


All raspberries look great, -14 didn't do anything to any of them. ZERO dieback.
Adding Jewel and Niwot black raspberries this year. I only have Allen black raspberry now. Which also looks fine, beautiful purple colored canes.
I have Encore, Prelude, Anne, Kiwi Gold, Cascade Gold, Taylor, Rosanna, Himbo Top, Polka, Honey Queen, Carolina, Allen, Fall Gold, Crimson Night, and Double Gold. All look fine! Many, many more I would love to try, but again no more room!

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Interesting. I'm experimenting with Chester blackberries here in zone 3. I planted 2 in Spring 2009, but one died over the winter so I added another in 2010. They need heavy winter protection of straw or leaves and even then on a 10 foot cane I can only get about the first 3 feet to survive and fruit. Still, I've picked about 500 ripe berries in each of the past 2 seasons, fewer in the 2 years before that as things were getting established.

The weird thing about the canes here is that when I uncover them in spring (which I'm in the process of now), the full 10 feet of each cane has live green leaves that haven't seen the sun since I cover them up in early November. But no matter what I try, the outer 2/3 of those canes slowly die before the remainder puts out new growth in May. Not sure if it's sunburn or some kind of inevitable latent winter death.

BTW, we usually see some nights below -30F or -35F here, though this winter I think the coldest was -27F (on a day where the high temp reached -15F).

Raspberries are much hardier here. I've had them for 23 years, I never cover them, and they have seen -40F in the coldest winters. I'm growing hardy types like Boyne (red) and a yellow which is maybe Fall Gold?... it starts producing about a week after Boyne. The raspberries some years survive to the tips, other years die back by varying amounts. Interestingly, the worst dieback years are warm winters with little snow.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2014 at 1:27AM
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Scott F Smith(6B/7A MD)

Thanks for the report Drew. Its not surprising they were very unhappy at -14.

I got down to 3F but more than that the winter was brutally long and cold. My experimental trailing berry planting did better than I thought it would, all of them kept at least some cane growth in spite of not being covered. The best was the thorny boysenberry, it must have gotten some help from the raspberry genes - no damage there at all. All the other ones had some damage. Ones that I thought were still pretty good included Black Diamond, Newberry, and Kotata. Siskiyou did OK.

Unfortunately I was not super thrilled with the Boysen flavor so I am going to pull those plants to make room for more experiments... the search continues!


    Bookmark   April 9, 2014 at 9:53AM
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drew51 SE MI Z5b/6a

Thanks for the info guys, many Scott mentioned i would like to try. I'm out fo room! I'm hesitant to pull any that are not perfect though. Even bad blackberries make excellent jam, so i find uses for them. Like Natchez and Chester are not my favorites, but the plants grow so well, and make lot's of berries, i don't have the heart to kill them. The jam from them is darn good! When i move in 4 years, i will have room for others. I need to make new plants to take with me of all of these too, even Natchez and Chester! I don't have to worry about that for a few years.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2014 at 10:46AM
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Chester will survive in zone 3 as long as you have reliable snowfall. I cant get rid of mine.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2014 at 1:41PM
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We had similar cold here in central IN.

I have Ouachita, Apache, and Triple Crown; some planted in a very exposed area on the west side of the house. Unprotected over the winter.
All seem to be doing fine, with new growth. There is some dead material near the tips, but they seem to have survived OK.

All the red and black raspberries are doing well, too.

Only berry problem I had was the blues were ravaged by rabbits during the cold weather when we had all kinds of snow cover.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2014 at 2:27PM
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I posted in more detail in another thread but here's a quick summary:

- Using Agribon-50 row cover, I was able to overwinter a number of trailing blackberries even when temperatures fell as low as -7F. Temperatures were also below zero F for almost 48 hours. Siskiyou and Kotata were the most hardy (no die back) and Marion was perhaps the least cold hardy with about 50% die back. I think I can improve the marionberry survival by putting some space (air pocket) between the canes and the row cover top. Boysenberries proved cold hardy but since I didn't have them laying completely flat, they had some cold damage, along with cane borer and vole damage.

Cane borers ended up being the most destructive agents in the berry patch last year and I'll have to treat the trailing blackberries with a insecticide this year to have a crop next year (2015).

I'm pulling a couple of less successful berry plants to make room for others. Black Diamond (low vigor), Silvan (severe cane borer damage), Obsidian (severe vole damage + leaf curl issues), and Caroline raspberry (low production) are being replaced with Columbia Star, Loch Ness, Newberry, and Glencoe Purple raspberry. I'm also going to expand my Siskiyou plants from 2 to 6 because they seem highly vigorous and also very cold hardy. Hopefully they taste good too!

    Bookmark   April 9, 2014 at 9:06PM
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I was going to say bury them well under the snow as soon as you have some snow. That prevents serious freezing. Don't know whether it is smarter for survival to leave the old florocanes on and prune off early spring or prune off after fruit is gone; supposedly after fruiting devotes more resources to overwintering.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2014 at 9:22PM
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In Cleveland, OH, with 9 days below zero and a few more days right on the edge, and a low of -11 for two consecutive days, my potted brambles (and blueberries), with the canes still tied up on the trellis and unprotected, and with mulch and leaves piled up around the pots, I experienced minimal dieback and lost zero plants, including:

Blackberry, Apache
Blackberry, Black Satin
Blackberry, Chester Thornless
Blackberry, Hull
Blackberry, Prime-Jan
Blackberry, Prime-Jim
Blackberry, Triple Crown
Blackberry, Unknown Varietal
Blueberry, Bluecrop
Blueberry, Bluegold
Blueberry, Blueray
Blueberry, Chandler
Blueberry, Earliblue
Blueberry, Elliot
Blueberry, Patriot
Blueberry, Pink Lemonade
Boysenberry, Thornless
Raspberry, Anne
Raspberry, Munger's Black
Raspberry, Red Willamette
Raspberry, Royalty Purple

The Royalty Purple Raspberry is the only one that suffered any noticeable dieback, but I think that had a lot to do with it being a young plant weakened by a late season insect problem that I didn't notice until it nearly ate all the leaves off the plant.

It's kind of comforting to know that these plants are all hardy enough to survive one of the worst winters I can remember in pots with very minimal protection. I've read that if you have them in pots, you should get plants that are a zone or two hardier than your area, and by those standards, I should've lost a couple of these.

    Bookmark   April 10, 2014 at 12:02PM
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I am finally seeing buds starting to break on my black and red raspberries today. The black raspberries came through unscathed, and the reds look like only a can here and there bit the dust. I have acreage with wild blackberry but due to inability to control watering, started installing a domestic black berry bed last year. Ouichita and it looks fine. We are SE Ohio, formerly on a 5/6 cusp but now considered zone 6. It was a nasty winter with prolonged episodes of teens, mostly snow-covered, but a few sessions without that protection. I had two prize roses, who bit the dust and lost the top of a rare rhodie. No fruit this year on peaches, I'm afraid and that's unusual for us.

    Bookmark   April 10, 2014 at 9:20PM
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I have noticed something that scottfsmith mentioned in an earlier thread about the effects of wind / weather exposure on blackberries. My parents live about 10 miles away from me and have a cultivated blackberry patch in an exposed field. This winter they had 10-20% winter kill on their Triple Crown and Chester canes, both pretty cold hardy varieties, whereas I didn't really have any winter kill on these varieties. I have my berry patch on a slope away from the typical direction of wind and a strand of trees nearby. I don't get the wind and have a North-facing location that also seems to handle the spring temperatures well.

Also, as a reminder of last winter's severity, I had Kiowa blackberries starting to pop leaves in late February last year (with a seasonal low temp of 7F) but this year with the extremely cold temperatures and the longer winter, Kiowa's didn't start leafing out until about a week ago (April 3rd). Ouachita and Prime Ark are also leafing out now. All of the covered trailing varieties are leafing out.

    Bookmark   April 10, 2014 at 10:28PM
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Update on blackberry winter survival (three weeks later)…

Uncovered Plants
- Black Satin (no winter damage). These were low to ground so maybe some snow protection.
- Triple crown (some winter damage) - approx. 20% die back). Seem to have handled the winter fine but some dieback, primarily on the thinner canes).
- Ouachita (some winter damage) - approx. 10% die back). Almost no dieback…surprising because I thought they would be less hardy than other erect varieties.
- Kiowa (significant winter damage - approx. 75% die back). At first I thought these had overwintered well, but two of the four plants didn’t leaf out and the other two were significantly damaged. This variety has had some health problems over the last two years with (2 of 6 previously dying). Since this year’s crop was a loss and I have had problems with this variety in the past, I decided to replace them with a newer, thornless variety: Von Blackberry.
- Prime Ark 45 (significant winter damage - approx. 50% die back). Honestly, some of the dieback may be from the primocane fruiting sections from last fall, but what is left seems to be growing well now. I think I’ll make these a primocane only crop after this season.
- Wild Treasure Trailing. In ground planting - left uncovered and plant died back to ground. Potted planting (covered) lost most of its cane length. Given space and effort, not sure this variety is worth keeping.
- All raspberries were uncovered and nearly all had no noticeable winter damage. I even had a blackhawk black raspberry and two double gold raspberry plants in pots just sitting in the open and both plants are growing really well and blooming.
- I did have two canes on the Cascade Delight raspberry that died during the winter but I believe that was partly due to exposed roots from some soil erosion in their raised bed.

Covered Plants.
- Black Diamond. I decided to give it a reprieve and let it grow again this year but spray it for cane borers. I had to remove all of last year’s growth due to cane borers but this year it has three times as much growth (e.g. canes) and looks healthy. There’s already a 8” of growth this season and that’s a lot for this variety in my climate.
- Siskiyou. No winter damage. Both plants look good and have been putting on amazing growth (well, at least amazing compared to my previous attempts). These second year plants each have 5 or more canes and the cane diameter has doubled since last year. The primocanes are already about ½ inch thick (e.g. diameter) and about 12” in length so far. Yeah! Last year’s growth is getting ready to bloom.
- Kotata. No winter damage and the plants are growing new canes. I have 2-3 new canes per each plant and there’s about 6-8” of growth so far. Less vigorous growth from these plantings.
- Thorny Boysenberry. The non-potted plants suffered the trifecta of cold weather, cane borers, and voles, so I have maybe 10% of the canes from last year but they are getting ready to bloom. I have had problems with leaf spot on these but I gave them a good lime-sulfur spray treatment this spring, so hopefully this will help. New growth has been outstanding with the cane diameter doubling, much like the Siskiyou blackberries, and there are 8-10 canes per planting with 12-18” of growth already. I’m going to do a better job of protecting these in the winter this year.
- Marionberry. I lost about 50% of the cane length from the overwintering period but have learned more about what not to do while preparing them for winter. Plants seem fine but not as vigorous as Siskiyou or Boysen but more vigorous than Kotata.
- Loganberry. I lost about 75% of the canes on these from cane borers and the cold. These may be the least cold hardy of the trailing berries that I own. The primocanes are growing vigorously though.

    Bookmark   May 6, 2014 at 9:23AM
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