Me and my 300 Triple Crown Blackberry Saga
First off - for anyone thinking of planting 300 triple crown blackberry plants - check your mental state of mind first!!!
Last year after taking a 9 month position, I planted 300 (2yr old) triple crown blackberry plants to have a u-pick patch in order to make up some $$$ lost for taking this new position.
Planting the 300 plants - piece of cake!!!! Summer came and wow - I have a few berries to pick! Yep - they are good eating!!! This is good news for me for the upcoming u-pick. Then.....reality began setting in.....
Pruning....how, what, when, why.....over and over and over - so many different ideas, so many theories, so many options - which do I do...........
First - I must build a trellis....so - I have 9 rows that are each 200ft long. My end posts and middle of the row posts are all telephone poles....yep - strong and mighty!!!!
Now for the trellis wire.....keep in mind this is mostly my little project - my husband is really getting tired of all of my different "wonderful ideas" - so trying to find something that I can do by myself....so talk with a few Universities about monofilament wire for my trellis. After much calculating I came up with a plan and the University agreed it should work for my Triple Crowns. So, I have 3 wires of monofilament for the berries down each row. So, each row consists of a telephone end post, then t-post every 25ft, then a telephone post at the 100ft mark, and then t-post every 25 ft until we get to the end telephone post of the row. In total - I used 27 telephone posts, 54 t-post and the monofilament wire for the wiring.....all t-post and wiring was done by myself!!!!!
Now back to point of craziness....pruning and tying....
Pruned everything as I thought I should, tying up everything that moved with little green c-clips....we would get a wind....re-do it all, as the c-clips would come off of the tiny monofilament wire....mind you - each time I do the tying - it takes me about 2hrs per row...18 hrs for all 9 rows. I have done this twice now....then I get the brilliant idea after reading about the new modular trellis design - that maybe I need to run all of my laterals up and down instead of side to side...so, I un-do everything on each row, and re-do all of the rows......I have now clipped each row....3 times!!!!
The beast was tamed and the berries rippened this year...harvest is just wrapping up - we have been thru the worst drought this year - no rain for over 40 days - thankfully, I had installed drip irrigation tape down my rows - which saved alot of my berries - but along with the drought, we also had almost 2 weeks of 100+ degree weather....I lost quite a few berries to sunburn. My total production was not at all what I had expected, but again, my berries are only 3 years old, and have only been in the ground a little over a year and two months. The plants produced about 400 pounds of berries this year. Season was almost over and .....storm - lots of wind with a little rain....I walk out to DISASTER!!!! Any new canes that were not tied are leaning almost to the ground - oh my gosh - I am just wanting to mow these babies down!!! Actually today, I have been contemplating using the alternate year production with the berries...meaning I would just take every other row down to nothing and have the rows producing every other year - so each year I would have 4 rows or 5 rows of berries. Well, I have gotten ahold of myself and gathered my thoughts and re-read all of my notes from the Universities.......and this is where I am right now..... I have worked 6+ hours on my first two rows - taking out the plants that produced this year (all of those clips/bands must come out before the plant!!!!) and then I have also pruned and tied all of these 2 rows - I have thinned each plant down to 3 canes for next years production - I have read that 2 canes will outproduce 4 or 6 - but I have left one extra cane for the winter - spring I will pick the best two canes for each plant and prune out the "runt" cane and trim all laterals to 18 to 24".
I have a mess still in my remaining 7 rows and I am not looking forward at all to how many hours it is going to take me to get them all straightened out - ****note - for those thinking of Triple Crowns - their canes are extremely big and rigid - I lost quite a few in the wind - they are NOT flexible **** I try to pry them up as far as I feel comfortable doing - and then I just have to use a string to tie them to the trellis, instead of using my bands. On top of all of this - with the inch of rain we finally rec'd - I am needing to mow my rows in between the berries....well, I can't do that until they are put back into order......OMG!!!
Thanks all for letting me vent today - I am feeling quite overwhelmed after being out there today.....have I mentioned that I also planted 300 joan j raspberry plants this spring too.......not only do I have my mess with the blackberries - I have a mess of weeds with the raspberries. The rows are mulched with straw - so that has helped tremendously - but the blackberries are taking ALL OF MY TIME......poor neglected raspberries!!!!
Stay tuned - I will have to post a picture of the blackberries once I get them picked back up, pruned, thinned, spent ones removed, mowed.......yep, I will be back in a few months!!!! LOL
Lisa in Illinois