Blackberries Erect vs. Semi Erect Vs. Trailing

TubbyCreekFarm(7b)November 6, 2012

Hello all,

We are preparing a fruit orchard area that will include 2, 100 foot rows of blackberries.

So I understand the physical differences of erect, semi-erect and trellising blackberries and the corresponding trellis needs.

My question is what is the difference in the production and flavor. Building a trellis is not an issue but lower maintenance and better flavor are an issue.

We live in north Mississippi zone 7b

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When we first decided to start growing blackberries eight years ago, we put in ten 135 foot rows and bought 9 different varieties of blackberries - two thorny varieties (Chickisaw and Roseborrough), three thornless erect varieties (Arapaho, Navaho and Apache), two semi-erect varieties (Triple Crown and Hood) and two trailing varieties (Doyle Thornless and Boysenberry). Now, we have over 8000 linear row feet of blackberries and the varieties that work well for US down here near Montgomery AL are Arapaho, Navaho, Ouachita, Natchez, Choctaw and Kiowa.

For us, the Apache produced too many white druplets and never produced that many berries. The Hood just never produced much of anything. The Triple Crown and Doyle Thornless varieties started ripening in late June which was too late for us as they would wind up cooking on the vines after about the second picking. As far as the Boysenberries went, they were tasty, but too soft to sell at farmers markets and at our U-Pick.

So after a bunch of trial and error, for us, I like the Arapaho and Ouachita the best as they are thornless (U-Pick moms love them and pruning them is non-painfull) and they are sweet. The thorny Kiowa produce monster berries, but they are not IMO as sweet as our thornless varieties and have super-sharp thorns! The Navaho (the sweetest of them all) and Natchez varieties seem to do better in sandy loam soil rather than clay loam, of which we have both.

My advice to you is plant a variety of blackberry plants and see which ones do best for you. You'll know within a couple of years which ones you want to keep and which ones you don't.

Hope this helps,

Ken Barber

Barber Berry Farm
Millbrook AL

    Bookmark   November 6, 2012 at 10:39AM
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Thanks that's helpful info.

Anybodyelse have some thoughts?

    Bookmark   November 6, 2012 at 2:05PM
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I agree completely w/Ken. You should experiment and find what you like best and what works for you in your area and for your personal needs. If time is an issue, erect varieties are so much easier to take care of in terms of pruning and management. I also have no desire to bother with the thorny varieties. I may be missing out, however. In my area, the Arkansas varieties do very poorly. I've tried several and have systematically removed them all except a couple Natchez, which puts out a huge, good-tasting berry--though it lacks a lot in terms of production. Black Satin has consistently proven to be the best berry in my patch--though they are a bit tart if not ripened fully. The bulk of my planting is Triple Crown, and it can be amazing. However, it demands constant attention, and I have found it much more susceptible to extreme heat. Chester works well for me too in that it is not as demanding of time, but it is not as productive or as tasty as TC either.

    Bookmark   November 7, 2012 at 12:48PM
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One additional note that took me a number of years to realize. It's a process called subsoiling. When I first planted my blackberries in our test area, all I did was till up the soil, which has a clay base about 4-5 inches down, then fertilized based on soil test results and then planted the blackberry plants.

The problem I have come to learn is that when the roots hit the clay layer, they grow sideways rather than downward. Subsoiling allows you to bust up the soil 12-18" down by using a metal implement attached to a tractor. By doing this the roots can grow deeper into the soil rather than slow cook on the top layer in the summer heat.

I've included a picture where I planted new Kiowa plants a couple of years ago. On the left row I used a shovel to plant some young Kiowa plants while on the right rows I subsoiled first before planting. I was amazed at the growth difference in just six months. Last December I subsoiled more rows and had the same success with the thornless Ouachita and Natchez varieties.

Anyway, if you have clay in your subsoil like I do, I highly recommend subsoiling the beds first before rototilling.


    Bookmark   November 8, 2012 at 12:01PM
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Hi Ken,

Thanks for the additional info. I definitely want to run a subsoiler. I just need to find someone around here with one.

    Bookmark   November 12, 2012 at 2:21PM
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I got mine from a local tractor supply company. It cost about $150.

    Bookmark   November 13, 2012 at 11:08AM
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Our little Farmall Cub won't pull a subsoiler. I'm asking around with other farmers in the area

    Bookmark   November 13, 2012 at 4:47PM
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I have no idea of what you people are talking about. I have one blackberry tree I have no idea what its name is it has thorns which gives pain and unnecessary punishment. It produces a lot of large weet berries. We collected several plates daily out of it but you get punished by its thorns. Now I have 6 more grown around it from nowhere. I put wire cages around them to protect the kids from touching them and getting stung with the thorns. It seems to me the Blackberry is care free compared to my other fruit trees. It does not need any spray my other fruit trees has to be sprayed 10 times during the season or the fungus will kill all the fruit.

    Bookmark   November 14, 2012 at 1:39PM
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Foolishpleasure: Sounds like your blackberry bush is doing great. In this particular discussion, we're talking about what someone might want to consider doing if they are on a small farm and want to plant multiple varieties of blackberries in long rows and they have clay soils located close to the surface under their top soil.

My suggestion of using a subsoiler wouldn't apply to someone like yourself planting a few blackberry plants in their backyard. All they would have to do is take a shovel (a form of a manual subsoiler), dig a good hole 12-18 inches deep and wide, place the potted blackberry plant into the hole, refill the hole with the soil and take care of it as recommended by their local nursery where they bought the plant.

However, if you want to plant a few hundred or more of them in rows and have a clay base just below the top soil as I do and manually digging the holes is just not an option, just rototilling the rows 4-5 inches down doesn't work as well as if you dug deeper to bust up the much harder clay soils under the top soil.

Hope this helps explain what we're talking about in this particular discussion.

    Bookmark   November 15, 2012 at 10:04AM
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Sorry for the duplication of my response. I thought my computer was hung up when I sent the first one.

    Bookmark   November 15, 2012 at 10:07AM
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Thank you for the explanation. I grow Blackberry because my kids love it. I have now seven bushes and it is really is care free plant. All it needs some fertilizer, lots of water and lots of sun. Thanks again.

    Bookmark   November 17, 2012 at 5:05AM
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