help me understand cane berry lateral growth

steve_in_los_ososJune 20, 2013

Here's my growing situation: I am growing both boysenberries and Triple Crown blackberries in 18 gal containers. Each container sits within a rectangular cage which is about 7 ft tall and a little wider than the container itself.

I only allow four fruiting canes on a plant each season and these are tied to the vertical corners of the cages. New canes that will fruit the following season are directed up the center of the cage until they can take the place of the older canes. Then I choose the four best, cut out the rest, etc.

This is done in a narrow side yard and is the only place I have for growing these plants (long story, evil neighbors, etc.).

My question is about the fruiting laterals. I've read that after tipping the new canes the laterals will develop and that these can then be cut back to perhaps 12-18" in the dormant season. I generally do this for any laterals that have formed, but many canes do not have laterals at that point (maybe because I don't tip the new canes until it's time to remove the old ones?), so when they start growing in the Spring I'm never sure what to do. My initial observation is that flowers seem to form on the terminals of the laterals, so I fear cutting them back will sacrifice fruit.

The other side of that coin is that there is a real tangle now since many of the laterals are quite long :-( This has pluses and minuses as well, but I think more minuses.

So...if I cut back (or pinch out) the tips of newly growing laterals in the Spring, how will the remaining lateral grow? Will it send out side shoots with flower buds or?????

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Steve, I'm in a perplex situation as you on on the Triple Crown cane growing. I really don't believe in this...tipping or sniping the ends of the canes, as I rather let the canes have fun and grow as they please.. Most of my TP new growth are 6-7 feet in length now, and most have lateral stems as well. Some of the lateral stems are 16-18 inches now. I have "tipped" the ends on several canes just to see what happens. I have several acres for these to expand, so, let them grow to their hearts content.

    Bookmark   June 20, 2013 at 7:56PM
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TC canes are variable as to how many laterals they form, but most of them do. Laterals will become evident at leaf nodes on the main cane during the active growing season before the canes are tipped. Sometimes these laterals start fairly close to the ground.

If none are evident on a cane, tip-cutting the main cane should encourage laterals to form, but they will likely form high up on the cane near the pruning point.

I would tip the main canes when they exceed the height of the cage, don't wait for any particular time of the season instead.

My experience with TC is that once growth on a cane/lateral system stops for the year, it does not resume the following spring; instead, the fruiting stems and blossoms occur. In your Cal zone 10, they may behave differently. Repeated pinching of laterals can result in a maze of ever-smaller additional laterals through the growing season.

In your limited space, perhaps you could try pruning the main cane when quite short and force the growth of smaller-diameter laterals that can be looped, like some of the other forum member's photos have shown for container growing.

I'm not familiar with Boysen habits, but they should be easier to loop than TC.

And it all boils down to how many berries do you want when trying for a certain total linear feet of laterals.

    Bookmark   June 20, 2013 at 11:43PM
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Thanks for the helpful responses. Indeed, my TC canes are always "naked" until tipped. I have been letting them do their thing until late summer but I think you may be on to something with limiting their vertical growth right off the bat. The Boysenberries are maniacs when it comes to cane growth and I know that if a growing point is injured then lateral growth commences like wildfire so I can see the potential issue if this growth is pinched out early. Hmm.....time for some experimenting.

I'm not expecting buckets of berries from these conditions. There are only two of us and a little for fresh eating plus a couple of pies is just fine. There are other things to eat in the garden.

    Bookmark   June 21, 2013 at 11:18AM
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Then I would just experiment with tipping height and let whatever laterals form grow through the season and keep them bundled or maneuvered out of the way and do a 1-time pruning when growth has slowed or stopped. That will still make plenty of berries. Even the lower main canes produce fruit--although the fruiting stems there can get 3 feet long on TC.

    Bookmark   June 21, 2013 at 10:34PM
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If you have not seen Dr Powell's video on trellising blackberries, I would highly recommend watching it. There is another of his videos that show a later progression of the growth.

Here is a link that might be useful: trellis blackberries with Dr Powell

    Bookmark   June 21, 2013 at 11:23PM
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