birdsnbloomsJune 26, 2010

Hello.. I hope someone can help. Yesterday, Fri/6/25/10,I received a Blackberry, 'Apache.'

Even after Googling, I'm still confused. LOL

Some sites say Apache is hardy to zone 5, others say zone 6.

I'm in central IL, zone 5. Anyone know if Apache will survive our harsh winters?

Since I've never grown any type of edible berry before, outdoors, any info will help.

One important question, is Apache a bush or vine? I need this information in case Apache a trellis is required.

What about pH. The phamplet that came with the berry said it needs acidic soil- 5.0-5.5..Some sites Googled said, it needs Alk/6.5-7.0 pH. Very confusing.

How deep should it be planted? Does it need a male and female plant to fruit?

Is there any other info I should know..I actually bought two blackberry plants. They arrived bare-root, the tallest branch about 2' tall.

Both plants are in a bucket of water. I was hoping someone had answers. I appreciate your time and help..Thanks, Toni

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franktank232(z5 WI)

Have you thought of Triple Crown? It is very marginal here (dies back on top) but it has a very big crop right now of berries. On top of that the berries are huge. Like plum size almost. With our snowcover (which lately has been very heavy) i think is what is saving it. Last winter was -17F and the winter before was -23F... I had fruit last summer too.

    Bookmark   June 26, 2010 at 6:39PM
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Frank, the problem is, I already have the Apache, but if it doesn't survive I'll keep Triple Crown in mind. The nursery had it marked as a zone 5 plant.
Your berries are huge, almost as large as a plum!! Are they sweet?

Since I purchased this blackberry, I'd like to keep it going, and have berries some time in the future.. Blackberries are delicious. Thanks, Toni

    Bookmark   June 26, 2010 at 7:02PM
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Apache should do fine for you. I have a friend in Effingham County with them, and his harvests are reliable. Blackberries are a cane and need support, but with only two plants I think I'd plan on adding to them. It's hard to get enough berries for much with just two plants--unless they're Doyle. You also need to learn about pruning them. Overall, they're an enjoyable and rewarding fruit. As Frank noted, Triple Crown is an extremely good berry, but I also like the old Chesters.


    Bookmark   June 27, 2010 at 12:42AM
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oregonwoodsmoke(5 OR Sunset 1A)

Zone 5 is pretty marginal for blackberries. They are easy plants, but you will need to do a little extra for them.

During the winter, they will need protection from the wind. Wind dries them out and then they get freeze damage.

Once the vines are fully dormant, lay them down and mulch them with straw to cover.

It's not all that much extra work and blackberries are so yummy, it is worth a bit of extra effort.

If you don't want to baby your fruit plants, then raspberries will be more hardy for you. I love the raspberries, too, but why not have both?

    Bookmark   June 27, 2010 at 6:33PM
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olpea(zone 6 KS)


I can't answer how hardy Apache is for you, since I am a zone warmer than you.

However, regarding your other questions:

Don't mess w/ the pH of your soil. IL soil is fine for blackberries.

They don't need a trellis. However if you get strong winds, keep the canes short so the won't blow over (I've raised Apache for 4 or 5 years and never trellised them).

Get them out of the bucket of water.

I never put anything in a bucket of water. Instead, make sure the soil environment has the appropriate moisture through the growing season.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2010 at 8:53PM
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franktank232(z5 WI)

Triple Crown gets very large...and very good tasting.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2010 at 10:20PM
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Your zone is borderline, but they should be able to get through with some pampering. It will help if they have some protection from prevailing winter winds, probably from northwest. Since they are bare root plants it was best to give them a soak in a pail of water for a few hours to let them rehydrate. Apache is a fairly erect variety, but they will need some support in areas with strong winds, especially when they have fruit. I grow blackberries in 25 gallon containers because I rent my house and don't want to leave them when I eventually can afford to buy a home. To keep my tall canes from falling over, I have them growing up inside of 4 foot tall wire tomato cages. I use those cheap wire tomato cages, which I find useless for tomatoes. These cone shaped wire cages are strong enough to give these blackberries support since they don't need as much support as my tomato vines, for which I have built 6 foot tall "jungle gym" towers made of 2 inch PVC pipe. I'm letting my blackberries come out of the top about a foot, then nipping them back so that side branches will spread out to form sort of a "blackberry fountain" with the wire cone holding up the center.

After they bear fruit the first time, you will need to prune the canes. Until then, the only pruning you need to do is when they get about 4 feet tall. You then need to nip the top bud off so that they will begin to branch out from the sides and get bushier.

Instead of buying more blackberry plants as BROOKW suggested, you could help your 2 plants have "babies". Blackberries are easy to propagate by "tip layering". This is as simple as taking one of the canes and bending it gently over to the ground where you have prepared a place free of grass and weeds, cover the end of the cane up with about 6 inches of dirt so that about 3 to 6 inches of cane is sticking out of the dirt, and wait for the tip to take root. You can to this by sticking the tip of the cane into a pot of dirt, but you will have to keep the pot watered well. You need to have a way to prevent the cane from popping back upright. A large rock on top the dirt will work, or you can pin it down with something. Depending upon how hard the ground is, bending a wire coat hanger into a "V" and sticking it into the ground on either side of the cane can work. Leave 2 to 6 inches of the top sticking out of the ground.

Where the tip was buried will sprout roots and start another plant. When the cane has had a few months and started growing up from the ground, you clip where the original cane went into the ground to cut the "baby" plant loose from its parent. Blackberry plants need to be about 5 feet apart when grown. You can either plant these 2 plants 5 feet apart and then root canes on the outside of each, or plant these two plants 15 feet apart and bring a cane from each toward the middle. With the 2 plants you have, you pick out a cane on each and allow it to get about 6 feet tall and not cut it back when it gets 4 feet tall. (If you use my tomato cage idea for staking the plants, leave one of the canes outside the cage if you want to layer it later.) When the cane gets 6 feet tall, you can then bend it over and stake it down. Some people layer with shorter canes, and then dig them up and transplant after they have rooted. I'm lazy and find it easier to simply let the cane get long enough to reach where I want the new one to stay. If you stake it down this fall, it will start growing next spring and you can clip it free then. Wild blackberries don't stand as erect as the thornless ones like Apache, so they routinely fall down on the ground. Canes lying on the ground root and spread in all directions around the parent plants. If you have room, you could plant your 2 plants 15 feet apart, start 2 between these , and 2 more on the outside of the parents. For next summer only the 2 parents would bear fruit, but summer 2012, you would have 6 plants bearing fruit. I'm cheap, so if I were going to spend money on more plants, I would buy some highbush blueberries for a little color variety and propagate the existing 2 blackberry plants for free.

I planted an Apache and an Arapaho in early April, which each have 4 canes that have gotten to 4 feet tall already. My plants were only about 2 inches tall when I got them, but had good roots. I would suggest cutting your plants back to about 6 to 9 inches tall after planting. If you can't tell how deep the plant was growing before, plant it deep enough that all the topmost roots are at least 3 to 4 inches underground. Unlike grafted fruit trees, you don't have to worry much about planting blackberries too deep.

Before they start bearing fruit next year, you will need to read this winter about pruning the canes. In simple terms, the canes that grow this summer will bear fruit next year and need to be cut down after you pick the fruit. The new canes that start growing next spring will then grow more vigorously to bear more fruit the next year.

The biggest problem you may have with cold in your area is if the winter is so cold it kills the canes that grew each summer, leaving you with a plant that grows new canes from the roots each year, but never has any 2 year old canes to bear fruit. What you will need to do is find a way to protect the dormant canes from fluctuations in temp during the winter and from cold dry winds killing the canes during winter.

For winter protection, I live in eastern Tennessee and have a similar problem growing muscadine grapes in my area because it is borderline for them here. Once the canes have dropped their leaves and gone dormant in late fall/early winter, you could wrap them to give them protection. One way is to build a cylinder of chicken wire that you put around the canes, fill the cylinder with straw and/or dry leaves, and then wrap the outside of the wire with clear plastic to keep it dry till you unwrap it for spring. This technique is often used by rose growers to protect their plants during harsh winters. With your winter winds, you will probably need to drive some stakes into the ground to hold down the wire cage around the plants this winter to avoid the entire thing getting blown south to my back yard in Tennessee.

Below are two links from the University of Illinois Extension Service that further explain the difference between first year primocanes and second year floricanes. They suggest pruning in the spring to clear out canes that have been killed by the cold. I saw an idea that I liked that can help identify which canes to prune after fruit each summer. The article, which I cannot find now, suggested that in the spring after you uncover your bushes and prune out the dead canes, you should tying a piece of ribbon or something bright around each cane near the base. The canes that are alive in the spring are the ones that will bear fruit that summer. After the bushes have finished bearing fruit, you cut out all canes that have a ribbon around them. This allows the new canes that will bear fruit next year to get the full support of the plants roots and not waste energy on the canes that will not bear fruit again. Without the ribbons, the longer you wait after fruiting ends, the harder it will be to tell which canes need to be pruned. By looking carefully at the canes, you can tell the floricanes from the new primocanes, but it would be easier for a novice to tell the two apart if ribbons are on the old ones. (grin)

Sorry to go on so long. I cannot seem to say anything without it taking longer than I intended, so the tweeting around my house to left to the birds.


Here is a link that might be useful: tip layering blackberries

    Bookmark   June 28, 2010 at 7:18AM
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olpea(zone 6 KS)


You've been receiving advice here by people that apparently have little experience growing Apache.

Apache is an erect variety that will spread naturally by the roots. The other day I pulled up a plant that had suckered 6 feet away from the patch.

This erect variety is best managed as a hedge. Just pick out a spot where you can envision a row and plant them there. Pull up or mow any suckers that pop up outside your row. The row will eventually fill in with a continuous hedge.

As I said, you can grow Apache without a trellis. Kansas has plenty of wind and the canes won't blow over if you keep them short (3 feet). It will kill the canes if they blow over. If you want to grow taller canes, they will need support.

You won't be able to lay the canes down and cover them with winter protection, since Apache is an erect variety. However, the first year they send up pretty weak thin canes, and you may be able to lay those down. In subsequent years, the canes get as big around as your thumb and won't lay down. The tomato cage idea may work for winter protection, except that you'd need your tomato cages 5' tall (which is a good natural height for Apache that has support) but you'd eventually need a row of tomato cages to protect your hedge.

I know there are a lot of folks that soak plants/trees in water before planting. However, I think a lot of new gardeners do more harm than good with this practice. Roots need to be moist to live but a soaking in a bucket of water is frequently more than they need (They also need oxygen and will die without it.) Perhaps a simple analogy would be when you're thirsty, you need a good drink, not for someone to hold your head under water.

When you plant the plants make sure the soil around the plants is moist, and don't let it get too dry (especially this time of year). However, don't over water or you can drown the plants.

Lastly, blackberry roots are very sensitive to UV radiation, so keep the roots shaded when you plant.

    Bookmark   June 28, 2010 at 10:49AM
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Thank for all your help. There's a lot more to growiing fruit trees than I expected the day I ordered.

Brook, one problem is space. The area where I planned on planting the berries has a limited amount of room. The area itself is semi-large, 'don't have numbers,' but there's an 8x12' green house that takes quite a bit of room..The only other area they can be planted faces north w/some south and west sun, not a whole lot. Is north sufficient? Actually, I'd be happy with a pint of

Effingham is a gorgeous town. We stopped there on the way to's quite beautiful. Effingham is farther south, a long way south. It's probably zone 5b or 6.

Oregon. Actually, I considered raspberries, but the nursery was out of stock. I'm very confused. Aren't blackberry's similar to raspberries, only black in color? It's been a long time since I've eaten berries..our grocery store charges 5.99+ a pint!!!
The spot I want to plant has pros and cons. The pro is, on either side of the garden are front is a fence, in back the gh. The con is, the buildings obstruct a fair amount of sun. On sunny days, the spot gets about 3 hours of direct sun.

Olpea. I had doubts placing the berries in water, but we've had major storms, everyday the past week..the sun is out today though, but the earth is mud.
When a plant arrives bare root, I usually soak roots a few hours...Think I made a mistake keeping the plants in water so's been 2 days..but they're out now.
When I Googled, some sites said most blackberries don't ship well. Roots dry to the point of death. That's what urged me to place in water..bad choice, huh?
Ph was also mentioned, which is the reason I asked. But I've decided to let Mother Nature take over..they'll be planted in soil w/o amending.

Frank, your berries are beautiful and so large. I've never seen berries that size. Congrats.

Greg, you grow berries in containers? How are they overwiintered? Are they left outdoors or hauled in a protected area? If they can be kept outside year round, I might have better luck growing in pots. This way, I can keep them in a sunnier spot in summer, and protected in winter.
You've been a great help, too. Lots of information. The ribbons are an excellent idea.
I will definately keep this page and links posted for reference. Thanks so much.

Grapes do well here. It took three tries, the third was a charm. I bought a Concord grape plant in a box..'8 or 9 yrs ago.' The second year little grapes formed. The following year, there were several clusters..The only problem was we never got to eat any. The birds got to them first. lol. I'm embarrassed admitting this, but I'd dug up the roots and planted an unedible plant..Hummingbird Vine.

One year I planted a small patch of strawberries. Whatever type of strawberry it was, it's invasive. There are strawberry plants But w/two dogs that go wee-wee in the yard, we prefer not to eat them. I was disapponted anyway. Thought they'd have large fruit; they're medium in size. But sweet. Tasted fruit before
BTW, TN is a beautiful state. We visited twice. Tullahoma. Unfortunately, each time was for wakes/funerals.
But Tn climate is perfect. We went there in March. The weather was warm, people were IL, there was snow on the ground. lol. A big difference. reason I chose Apache was because it was stated it grows upright, fruits the second or third year, and doesn't take a lot of room. So, I believe you've got it...Apache grows upright, and if pruned won't grow over 10' tall. Thanks so much.

One other thing. I also read blackberries shouldn't be planted where tomatoes, peppers, among a few other veggies have grown within the last three years.
Since the area is dedicated to edibles, I've got both tomatoes and peppers in that section..Is this going to be a problem? What will happen? I don't understand the reason behind it.

Thanks again. Toni

    Bookmark   June 28, 2010 at 1:15PM
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Well I lived in Michigan and they grow wild there as well as raspberries along side the road areas. We had at least three varieties; from a small to a very large berry. We never did anything for them except cut the old canes back each year so we could get around our patch. They did just fine all the years we lived there in the 50's

    Bookmark   June 28, 2010 at 11:34PM
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olpea, that may have been the best root-watering analogy ever.

    Bookmark   June 28, 2010 at 11:37PM
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I loved gardening discussions because there are so many "right" ways to do differing things, depending upon different circumstances. The different ideas of whether Apache thornless blackberries needed to be supported is a good example. When I lived in Macon, Georgia, my neighbor had several varieties of thornless blackberries and muscadines growing along our property line between our yards. When I moved there and saw his vines and canes, I asked questions so that I could build a similar system. He suggested that since his made more fruit that he needed, we could share his if I could help with the upkeep of the plants. He had a long 3 foot high trellis where he trained his muscadines using a "Umbrella Kniffin" system.

He trained the thornless blackberries in a similar way so that the canes were tied to the top wire at 3 feet off the ground. He headed back the canes when they were a foot above the wire and then allowed the side shoots that branched out to drop down from the top wire forming an arch along the top the trellis. By the fall of each year, the new canes were 7 to 8 feet from base to tip. He had built a raised bed that was a foot high to keep the Bermuda grass lawn from being invasive around the plants. With deep rich soil and a drip irrigation system, the blackberries and muscadines grew like the weeds their ancestors were. Before the canes started putting on fruit that were very fairly erect, but once laden with fruit, the tops of the canes began to gradually sway down under the weight. The top trellis wire kept the base of the canes upright, while the tops continued upwards and then drooped back down to eye level for a perfect picking height. It was the perfect height to grab handfuls and stuff in your mouth. (grin)

With heavy snow and harsh winter winds, it makes a great deal more sense for growers in Kansas or Illinois to keep the canes shorter and stiffer. With the mild winters in Georgia, the canes could be kept more than twice as tall for larger plants and high productivity.

My description of using the tomato cage was somewhat confusing. I'm using the tomato cage in the center of the canes to support them. For winter protection where hardiness is borderline, I was suggesting using chicken wire to build a larger cylinder around the outside of the canes to enclose them during the winter. This cylinder of chicken wire is then filled with a mulch of straw or dry leaves. The tomato cage in the center would be about 18 inches in diameter, while the cylinder of chicken wire would be 3 feet or more in diameter. This is a system that many southern gardeners use to protect hydrangeas during the winter and is also used on a smaller scale by gardeners in the north to protect roses during winter. It's best to keep the mulch dry during the winter, so the top is wrapped with plastic, but the bottom of the wire cylinder is not covered in plastic so that enough air can circulate to keep the mulch dry.

I am curious about OLPEA's comment about letting the plants fill in a hedgerow from root suckers. My understanding was that the root suckers of thornless blackberries would have thorns and no longer be thornless. From what I've read, this is one of the reasons tip layering is suggested for propagating thornless blackberries rather than root cuttings. Is Apache different from other thornless varieties in this aspect so that they can be grown thornless successfully from transplanting root suckers?

Here is a link that might be useful: Uni Tenn Exten - Blackberries and Raspberries in Home Gardens

    Bookmark   June 29, 2010 at 1:48AM
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The Root suckers from Apache and all thornless Blackberries will be true to type and remain thornless, that is how most of them are propagated. They will tip layer as well and on the trailing types such as Triple Crown, at least in a homeowner environment Tip propagation on these types is used a lot, but for the U. of ARK, erect and semi-erect cultivars the spreading of the plant with new shoots/canes will be like plants, and all blackberries including trailing types are own their own roots, its just that some trailing types donÂt sucker as prolifically. There is so such thing as a grafted bramble as it makes so since as the Canes only live 2 years.

    Bookmark   June 29, 2010 at 8:29AM
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Correction The last sentence was meant to read. There is no such thing as a grafted bramble as it makes no since as the Canes only live 2 years, they are all on their own roots, the new canes will all retain the same traits.

    Bookmark   June 29, 2010 at 8:41AM
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Thanks for that info. It didn't quite make sense to me when my neighbor told me that was why he kept cut back all sprouts between his plants. But since he was growing enough blackberries for both of us, I gave him credit for knowing what he was talking about.

After thinking about it a bit, he was probably confused by what were self-seeding volunteers that sprouted from fallen fruit and thought that they were suckers sprouting from roots. The volunteer seedlings would not have been true to the parent plant, which is why we propagate most of our modern fruits vegetatively.

    Bookmark   June 29, 2010 at 8:41PM
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Hi Frank,
How big are your triple crown berries?
Do you grow them in full sun? How many hours of sun?
Mine is like a size of nickel. This is my first time to have berries on the plant. Thanks.


    Bookmark   July 2, 2010 at 10:41AM
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franktank232(z5 WI)

How big are the plants? Some canes are probably 8ft right now... They grow very quickly once the hot weather starts. The berries are just turning purple, about width of my index finger, not as long :). Sun? Not all day... They get some sun in the morning, then shade until about 1pm or so...then full sun until night time. My tomatoes are right next to them and seem to do just fine even with some shade during the day. I would guess i'll have ripe berries in at most a week.

    Bookmark   July 2, 2010 at 4:10PM
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