Me and my 300 Triple Crown Blackberry Saga

jo1991July 15, 2012

Hi everyone!

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....., 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 - 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 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 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, 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

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lol i thought i had a lot with just 35 blackberry plants :)

    Bookmark   July 15, 2012 at 6:14PM
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We used to have a 2 acre kiwi orchard and used a Max Tapener. I pulled it out of storage and use it for my 6 blackberries I have. It works well for me and something you may want to think about using. It may be a pain to cut all the tape loose after they have fruited.

    Bookmark   July 15, 2012 at 6:51PM
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see video

Here is a link that might be useful: video of tapener in use

    Bookmark   July 15, 2012 at 7:06PM
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Lol,people ought to make movies about these experiences,it'd be a riot.

    Bookmark   July 15, 2012 at 7:37PM
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milehighgirl(CO USDA 5B/Sunset 2B)

Bradybb, would that be like watching movies of wedding mishaps; you cried then but you're laughing now?

jo1991, you are made of steel! May your efforts give fruit. Look at it this way, just by venting you will probably help someone else out by not making your mistakes. Take a step back and look at all you, yourself, have learned and you will be amazed. You obviously are not one to sit back and feel sorry for yourself and be on the dole. Kudos to you for doing something amazing! Truly Amazing!!!

    Bookmark   July 15, 2012 at 10:00PM
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Lol yeah,it could be called something like the Failure Fruit Club.It'd be very interesting,especially for us growers.We could laugh and learn and feel for the people involved.
I agree,that's a big and bold undertaking,but I think it's going to be a success.Brady

    Bookmark   July 15, 2012 at 11:15PM
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Ouch jo1991, reading your post makes me wince. Assuming your labor is free, how many years until you break even?

    Bookmark   July 16, 2012 at 2:30AM
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Ctiger - I have thought about using a tapener, however, my reservation with using one is my monofilament wire - having to cut thousands of pieces of tape from my vines leaves a HUGE area for an "oops" while cutting the tape away from the wires - one little cut, and it would slice right thru my wire - remember - it is plastic, not wire. The bands that I am currently playing with seem to be working pretty good - so I will update once I see how they do over the next year.

BradyB - a movie??? Oh my - there would indeed be some moments for certain....

Milehighgirl - I think I am more crazy than anything!!! Actually my grandparents were known many years ago over many counties for their produce - that was their way of living...peaches, greenbeans, corn, watermelons, squash, etc. My mom grew up working in the fields (she hates it by the way - even though she married a farmer!!!)....which leads me to my parents - farmers - and my dad always had a melon wagon at the end of the quarter mile lane with the melons in would drive by, pick one out, drop your money in the box sitting in the wagon and go on your way....very cool, and really, usually the money box did not come up short. So, I guess this madness you could say is in my blood....

Murky - I doubt my labor will be repaid....ever!!!!! I paid my two 13 year old kids their salary for the year of $100 each.....even though they fussed the entire month of the season...they really didnt do a whole lot - but did help me pick around 170 pounds for our local winery which is going to make blackberry wine with our berries (cool huh!!!) As far as expenses - I will break even next year. Mind you, I had all of the end post, t-post, tractor, etc. from prior "adventures" around the farm. My expenses where: plants, monofilament wire, wire stretcher for monofilament, t-post connectors for the monofilament wire, drip-line irrigation, vine clips, different vine clips, more vine clips, weed killer, digital scale, picking buckets, directional u-pick signs, plastic bags for buckets, june bug traps (they were horrible about a month ago, and still have some out there chomping on some fruit/leaves)... the biggest expense was the plants themselves, followed by the monofilament wire and drip-line irrigation - I would buy the 2 year old plants again (almost double the price of one year plants), I would DEFINATELY do the monofilament wire (love it so far) and the definately the drip-line irrigation - little expense, absolute BREEZE for ME to install!!!!

On the trellis design - I am not certain I like the 3 wire set-up - reason being is of course - LOTS OF LABOR tying up everything - I am currently talking to one university who is contemplating handling their canes a different way which has my interest - possibly not tying canes but doing a rather "raspberry" type of support as the middle or top wire (a sandwich of two wires) - my only hang-up is what I have encountered over the past few weeks after the storm...canes being blown over to a severe slant - so I would have to think of something to keep them from being able to do that....I do see some sort of revisement in my trellis design, I just haven't came up with what as of yet!!!

I just ran out to take a few photos I will see if I can get them uploaded - a few different ones....

The one on this post - is the "beast" in its entirety - 9 rows, 200ft each of Triple Crown blackberries......

June bug leaf damage, size of triple crown canes, a "completed" plant - pruned and ready for winter, one of the "beast" yet to be tamed (i.e. - unpruned, leaning from weather, spent berry greens still on),

    Bookmark   July 16, 2012 at 11:30AM
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