Pruning Blackberries/Raspberries for Dummies???

rinibeanJuly 30, 2014

I have read several articles about how to properly prune Blackberries and Raspberries and I'm still utterly confused. Too many terms that I don't understand. Can you guys help me sort this out?

I have two raised beds, around 4x8 each. One has Raspberries plants (one each Caroline and Heritage), and one has blackberries (one each Apache and Triple Crown). Both were planted this spring. Both have trellis' for support.

I do know that I can prune anything that bore fruit this year. I also know I should prune anything that looks diseased.

Other than that, I could use assistance. I'm read some plants should just have their tips pruned, other ones should be pruned down to a foot.

Then, what do I do about all the new sprouts coming up in the bed? Should I remove all of them so I just have the two main plants, or should I just thin them to a certain number?

When should I do this pruning? I'm in central Virginia.

Thank you for the help!

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drew51 SE MI Z5b/6a

Pruning is done at various times.
Your raspberries are both fall bearing cultivars btw.
Primocanes are 1st year canes
Floricanes are 2nd year canes
Fall bearing bear fruit on both primocanes and floricanes.

Primocanes will have a fall crop on upper 1/3. The next summer lower 2/3 will fruit (now called floricanes).
You can just take the first crop and cut them down. Or you can also take the summer crop. Up to you. If you want both crops once primocanes are done fruiting, cut off upper 1/3, and leave the bottom 2/3's to fruit next summer after winter.
So a new cane will fruit in fall, then the next summer will bear fruit again. It is confusing! Some just take one crop to make it easy. I myself take both crops.

Blackberries and summer bearing raspberries fruit on 2nd year canes only (floricanes).
With blackberries you want to tip them at 4 feet. They will produce lateral shoots, and produce more berries.

You can tip them when they reach 4 feet. This is not a set rule, 3 feet or 6 feet, is OK. If left to grow too long berries can break canes from the weight. So best to prune them.

New canes come from the crown with blackberries. Just leave them. It doesn't matter how many. Raspberries throw suckers that come up all over. A rule of thumb is to space about 6 inches apart. Any closer it becomes too crowded, not enough light or air flow. Blocking air flow encourages fungal growth.
So if new canes are very close, you can thin them out. Do this when dormant.

Once floricanes fruit in done, remove them ASAP

    Bookmark   July 30, 2014 at 2:51PM
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Drew is a good berry guy, but I do things different then he does. My raspberry bush has gotten dense so the spring crop is not worth messing with . those plants do not get enough sun due to the new growth. So the only pruning I do is cut them off just above ground after all the leaves have died in late fall. The two you have are good producers and require very little from you. Pests mostly leave them alone (jap beetle is the only pest I deal with) just some water when no recent rain.

On black berries I start pinching the tops off when they are 18" then again repeatedly every time I notice they have grown several inches. At 4' I cut 6" off with hedge trimmers. Now they are over 4' and I tipped them all again, I do not want any much over 4 ft..... I got this method from a professional grower. It keeps them easier to net and in my case not so ugly looking for the neighbors. You have to net black berries or the birds will take all of them

    Bookmark   July 31, 2014 at 10:11AM
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drew51 SE MI Z5b/6a

I do the summer crop as I have to anyway I have 4 summer bearing cultivars, and 2 black raspberries which are summer bearing. So making them all pruned the same makes a little bit more sense for me. Well except I prune the top 1/3 out of fall bearers. This years summer crop was light though. last year I got more, not sure why?
Maybe the tough winter? So yesterday I pruned out all the floricanes from summer and fall bearing, except Anne, and Fall Gold as the summer crop is still going on, and the primocanes have berries too, very cool, no lull in production.

Thanks for the info on how you handle blackberries. I'm still debating what to do. Plus I have trailing, semi-erect and erect, to make things so not easy. For now I prune at 4-6 feet, just so they remain structurally sound, i.e. no broken branches etc. I may change my mind.

Yes, the birds do love them! Hard to keep them out for sure.

    Bookmark   July 31, 2014 at 12:19PM
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i cut straight at the ground level prior to spring for raspberries. Before i knew it, my blackberries had thrown new growth over 6 feet while i was busy watching the flowers. best growth yet this year, not sure why. Birds are ok but the squirrels have really gotten a taste for the blackberries. they wait until they are somewhat ripe, just almost all black before they strike (i think to mock me).
Drew - you have been very helpful for me with berry questions previously...thanks

    Bookmark   July 31, 2014 at 1:10PM
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Thank you all. My raspberries are still fruiting, but it is looking like an early frost this year so I'm wondering what to do to prepare.

What do I need to do to winterize the beds? I have read that I should "fold" down the canes (I think I will trim the top 1/3 as suggested) and cover with mulch. I'm not sure how realistic that is, I'm not sure I have that much space left in the bad to cover things with a few inches of covering and I certainly would not be able to cover the crown with more than an inch or two (BTW...I have an abundance of pine needles on my property, so that was what I was planning to use). Last year was a rough winter in central VA compared to normal, and there were several days of 0 degree temps.

Also, my blackberries did not produce at all this year. I'm assuming that these are first year canes then and I should expect them to fruit next year? I'm assuming to winterize I should cut these canes to 4ft as everyone suggested (they are crazy long now, probably 12 ft or so...just never got around to dealing with them)? Or, is winterizing different than what I would do during the season to prune for blackberries?

On another note, I've had no problems with birds eating berries this year, but there are small bees that are eating my raspberries. Even though the bushes are producing a ton, the bees are eating about the bottom 1/3 of each berry.

    Bookmark   October 6, 2014 at 10:29AM
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