Hi there, wondering if anyone has tried any blackberry varieties in zone 3-4? Our raspberries do well and we are hankering for more variety.
Years back, I had tired a few varieties of blackberries, though without winter protection they either died or did poorly. But, with moderate success I've grown the Wyoming Black raspberry. It has a nice rather unique flavor, though watch out for those thorns! I had crossed it with a flavorable red raspberry and have obtained thornless offspring that retain that rich unique flavor.
I'd also be interested in knowing of anyone having success with any particular blackberry variety.
I have tried myself a couple of times, no luck, it seems they don't want to grow here and
even with winter protection they died.
I sure would love some too!
I have a friend who has grown blackberries for a dozen years or so.... 'Illini Hardy' variety. The issue isn't just the low temperatures but when those last cold temperatures linger until. This variety might survive in a zone 3 garden with a relatively early spring for the zone.
I tried a Jewel Black Raspberry from Nourse Farm. Twenty-five plants died out over a two year time. I got a handful of berries - they were delicious.
I did not mulch or give any winter protection. I kind of wish I had mulched them 4-6 inches to see if that would have helped them survive.
I am in Palmer, Alaska - zone 3b, I think. I have only seen -30 degrees here for about 3 days in the last few years.
We grow Boyne red raspberries and they seem indestructible.
Today I had to go to Home Depot and by accident I spotted blackberry!
These ones they have are called Chester.
I goggled and found out that these are for zone 5 to 8.
I'm not going to bother, haven't found anything hardier then zone 5 - 8!
Old thread, but thought I'd dig it up. In spring 2009 I bought a couple of those Chester Thornless blackberries from Home Depot and planted them next to my grape trellis. One plant only grew a couple of inches tall, then died over the winter. The other plant put up a cane about 4 feet tall, which was still fully green and growing strongly when the autumn frosts came. So I lay it down on the ground, weighted the tip with a brick, then covered everything up with about a foot of leaves. This spring when I uncovered it, it was still green, leaves and all. To my amazement it actually grew and flowered (they set fruit on year-old wood, not new wood). So now I've got about 40 blackberries forming, with luck they will ripen by fall. And it put out another new cane for next years crop, which is now about 6 feet tall, branching, and growing vigorously. I'll try to protect that cane this winter and I'll see what happens. Anyway a couple pics:
Here is the youngest flower cluster on Aug. 6, it still has a few buds to open:
And here is a more typical fruit cluster on Aug. 6 -- still needs time to grow and ripen.
Those are beautiful. They look like they'll make it to ripening stage.
I did try the Illini hary a few years back. I gave them a small hoop house for some extra heat and they grew like crazy, made some green fruit and proceeded to die back to the roots that winter. (I gave them no cover, only what little snow we had, sorry blackberries. The next spring, a few of the original 6 plants came back, grew less well than the summer before and produced nothing. All gone now.
I think if you are willing to devote a large area under cover and cover them in the winter, you could do it.
One month later (Sept. 6), here's the same cluster of berries as in the last photo. This is the first blackberry to fully ripen so far, so they clearly could use more summer heat, though they can at least ripen in Edmonton's climate. And given what a cool rainy summer it was in 2010, I think they would do better in most other years. Ripening of the other berries is likely to continue through September and maybe October, so it will be interesting to see if the berries can take a frost and still be okay, or whether a serious frost is the end of things.
Just thought I'd relate my personal experience - I live in Northern Ontario.
Had planted blackberries 3-4 years ago and they didn't really produce til this summer. Unfortunately September was cool & wet and they didn't have time enough to ripen on the vine. I was so disappointed.
Then I hit on the idea that maybe they would ripen after being picked like tomatoes. So just before the first hard frost I cut off all the stems with this unripened fruit and placed them in water indoors.
It's been almost a week and lo and behold the fruit is softening and getting blacker so I think I'll be able to 'harvest' ripe blackberries after all. It's no substitute for vine ripened fruit but better than nothing.
Very interesting concept, I wish I had thought of it! We had a -5C killing frost around Sept. 15 and that turned all my remaining berries to mush. A lot of the ones on my plant had turned red but not yet black, so I think they would have been good candidates to finish ripening indoors.
Looking good Don!
I still have one plant and it grew out again in it's 3rd. season...unless
you have the time prep it for winter with ton's of mulch or insulation
you will always have too much freeze back..[like mine last year] and
never end up heaving fruits on new canes. Also, looks like season is too
short, we had minus 10C in the Sept. cold snap. Edmonton minus 5, another - 5 outside.
Hey, Canadian daisy...
I'm really curious as to how those fruit ripened for you indoors...
Don, about 2/3 ripened ok but the taste left a lot to be desired - rather tart & bitter. I guess they really do need sun & heat to sweeten up.
Don't know if the flavour would improve with cooking. But I didn't have the patience to try so I just threw them on the compost heap. Well them's the breaks.
That's too bad the indoor ripening didn't work, but thanks for posting. Guess we'll have to hope mother nature is a bit more cooperative next summer!
I'm curious if anyone on the FN forum has tried Prime Jan or Prime Jim blackberries? I did purchase both variaties this summer but they were so small that I potted them up and have them overwintering in my greenhouse. I will plant them out this spring. However, I'm hoping someone may have tried these varieties. I understand they are supposed to be hardy to zone 3 or 4.
I rarely drop in, but this post caught my attention. Doesn't anyone have wild blackberries? They're plentiful here in northern WI.
What zone is northern WI? My brother has wild blackberries on his acreage near Ottawa, ON, zone 5. They are quite vigorous and the berries are very good, but much smaller than cultivated ones. I also see that Vesey's seeds sells a blackberry from Nova Scotia called "Balsor's Hardy Black", which they claim is hardy to zone 4 -- I suspect it is a wild blackberry but I've never seen it in person.
I'm pretty sure they're about zone 4, but i have seen blackberries growing there, right in the area where Elvis lives. I've thought of that as i keep up with this thread. :) We used to visit there years ago, and the kids loved them.
I'm Z3/4. Winters are often to -20F, occasionally -25 to -35F; so it's certainly cold! We have land, so it's not really a backyard situation, but it is in a way. It just happens the clearing in the woods where we made the house is next to the natural blackberry patch. They are usually large berries, around 3/4" long, although this summer is was dry early on and they were much smaller. Had I thought to move the sprinkler over that way it would have been a different story, darn it. I freeze them and make the jelly during the cold months; just finished making a batch of blackberry jelly.
They are no where near the size of tame or especially the thornless ones, but I think they're tastier, and they're definitely more bang for your buck that wild blueberries are as far as size and flavor goes.
Wonder why they're not growing up there? The soil? Ours is sandy,Red Oak & Red & White Pine, well drained, and they're getting partial sun.
I realize digging plants and shipping them up there would be a border hassle, but how about seeds from the berries?
Hi Elvis. I'm in zone 2b/3a in Saskatchewan. When I looked at a usa zone map, I see Wisconsin is much much warmer than where I am. Where we are, it very often gets to -35C and we can have times when it's -40C or -45 for up to a week or more. We can get cold spells like that more than once per winter. I suspect your climate is why you get wild blackberries and some of the people posting here don't.
I'm far from an expert when it comes to blackberries, but I did live in a climate where they grew wild, and the growing season was totally different. How long is your growing season? As far as I know, there are no wild blackberries in Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba, but what do I know? Please someone, if you can, confirm this. I'm really curious =:)
Hi nutsaboutflowers. I'm surprised! I guess I'm used to thinking that if a plant can take our winters they can take anything within reason. But then, there's plenty we can't grow around here, so I shouldn't be surprised. Don't know if the blackberries around here could take USDA z2, but I know they thrive in z3.
It's not easy to find a nursery that sells really hardy blackberries. The only one I know of for sure is a really nice one here in WI called Wallace-Woodstock.
It isn't really officially z4 here at all, but our climate has definitely warmed up a bit over the past several years.
Our growing season is from (hopefully) first week of June till first week of September. So, 3 months--
Thanks for your thoughts!
Well, my blackberries survived last winter but it's been so cold and rainy that I'm going to need some luck to get them to ripen again this year (last year only one berry ripened). But they are blooming and the bees are on them, now I just need about 6 weeks of hot sunny weather! :)
Good luck with that! LOL How skilled are you at sundancing? :)
It would be great if you could post pictures on August 6th and on September 7th for comparison from last year =:)
You will get sun. You will get sun. You will get sun!
Looking good!.. I see your last year's Aug. 7th were ahead a little.
Mine, [BC type] all froze down to the ground, even with bags of
leaf over them in Winter... and doesn't appear to be alive anymore.
"Our growing season is from (hopefully) first week of June till first week of September. So, 3 months-- "
That's the growing season for annuals, vegetable gardens, etc., but not for perennials, trees, shrubs, bulbs, etc. Anything in the ground already has started "coming back to life" way before June 1, and that's the difference between zone 3 in Idaho and zone 3 (or even 4) farther north. First frost may occur about the same time, but ground temperatures warm up probably about a month earlier, so plants have at least a month longer to flower, ripen, whatever.
Here's a couple pics from Aug. 7, 2011 showing some of the farthest along berries, to match last year's pics from Aug. 6. Seem about the same to me, not surprising I guess since this is another cold wet summer. I have two plants now -- the first pic is from the same plant as last year, the second pic is from a new plant that I put in last spring so this is its first year with berries. Meanwhile, the new canes that will produce berries next year are now about 8 feet long and growing.
I saw some ripening in Thunder Bay. Of course, they can get away with zone 4 there in the city.
If I had some blackberries I'd give my idea a try and let you know, but since I don't, here's my crazy idea. I always try to remember that a lot of things in this world were once considered crazy.
I was thinking about how fruit can be ripened in paper bags after picking. How about while they're still on the bush? What do you suppose would happen if every night you put a brown paper lunch bag over a small batch of your berries to see what would happen? Since you would take the bag off every day, do you suppose you'd have any problems with fungus? Hmmm. What do you think? Crazy or worth a try?
They use plastic bags to prevent cross pollination on things don't they, so what about paper to help the ripening process?
Interesting idea. I think first the berries would have to reach full-size, which they aren't yet. I think the ripe-in-a-bag idea is based on the buildup of ethylene gas, which would probably be a lot harder to build-up in a bag outside where the wind blows than inside where the air is perfectly calm. That said, it looks like I'm going to need something to help me out. First option will be to protect the berries from early frosts -- last year I left them completely exposed and was a bit taken back by how they had zero frost tolerance.
I'm becoming resigned to the fact that blackberries can be made to survive a zone 3 winter, but will actually only produce a reasonable berry crop one out of every ??? years! I'm definitely in this game again next year!
Okay, August 26, first 3 berries have turned black, that's 11 days ahead of last year's Sept. 6 for the first black berry. The down-story is that they aren't really ready for picking when they first turn black... they are still rather sour at that point and have to be tugged off the plant... I think for them to be truly ripe and sweet is when they are easily pulled from the plant, which is not quite yet. Still, this is looking more promising than last year, and both this year and last were on the cool side.
Hey Canadian Daisy, are you still reading this thread? I'm really curious about your indoor-ripening experiment from last year. Did you pick and try the berries soon after they turned black, or did you leave them on the branches for awhile after they turned black before sampling? I ask because my experience this year is that when the berries first turn fully black they need to be tugged firmly from the vine and are very sour and unpalatable. If I leave them on for several more days until they come off with a gentle pull, then they are heavenly sweet and flavourful, even though they look no different than when they first turn fully black.
Looking good Don!
As I remember...they should be soft when ripe, usually it goes pretty fast after they turn black,..about another week, when soft they should come off easily.
Hi Don, yep still here.
In answer to your question, if I remember correctly I picked them shortly after they turned black and they were indeed very sour and bitter tasting. Are you thinking of trying indoor-ripening yourself?
Thanks for the reply! Yes, so far I've only picked a few berries off the plants and there are 6 or 8 that are black now but not quite soft and ready to pick. But that leaves a great many more that are reddish, and even more that are still green and hard, heck there are even a few flowers on the vines. When a killing frost threatens, whatever hasn't ripened outside but is reddish or maybe even green and fully-sized I will try your trick to ripen them indoors. But I'll leave them on the twigs for a week or so after they turn black to see if that makes them sweeten up. Or, haha, maybe we'll have a long hot fall and they'll all ripen outdoors :-)
Make sure you take the time to check those berries every day now, particularly after they do turn black. They're kind of like a raspberry, in that one day they're not quite ready, and the next they're past their prime. There's seems to be a fine line sometimes between pick or wait.
We lived where they grew wild and I'd pick some one day, decide to leave some for the next day, and then they'd be too ripe.
Be sure to post more pictures =:)
Don, it looks like some pretty good temps are soon to come, so you'll likely be harvesting a good deal of ripened fruit :)
Yes, they seem to like the late season heat!
Thanks Don for posting pictures comparing your results from last year on the same dates.
I think those beauties belong in an expensive crystal bowl. Your bowl is too ordinary for them, LOL !
They look pretty tasty. Were they?
Yes, they look mouth watering...enjoy you hard earned berries!
Thanks folks. Yes, the berries are fantastic, though I think my satisfaction comes as much from getting a harvest (the challenge!) as it does from eating the fruit. I've let my daughter have the majority of the berries, as blackberries are her favourite.
Not something you'd want to grow as your main berry crop because it's a lot of work and success is not guaranteed (last year I got just one ripe berry). But I already grow red, yellow and black raspberries, and had some extra space and love blackberries, so was game for the challenge. For the dollars invested, the entertainment value couldn't be greater!!
A month has passed, time for an update. It's a bit ironic to read thru the earlier posts and see that I was joking back on August 30: "Or, haha, maybe we'll have a long hot fall and they'll all ripen outdoors :-)"
That's exactly what happened. A super-warm September with no frost in my location meant that blackberries continued to ripen well, and by month's end the harvest was largely complete, with just the stragglers remaining. I picked the remaining stragglers on Oct. 6 to see if they would ripen inside with their stems in a container of water.
The nerdy tally (I keep track of such things)... 2 plants, 403 ripe berries outdoors, two or 3 dozen indoor berries yet to be picked and evaluated -- that's another topic all by itself!
Don, that's so awesome.
Sounds like you got about as many precious blackberries as I did the old fashioned, can't kill them, raspberries in our yard =:)
Here's a year-end update for anyone curious about growing blackberries:
Final tally from my 2 plants -- 412 berries ripened outside, 37 ripened inside.
Frost finally hit around Oct. 15, and since I knew it was coming I picked the few remaining berry clusters before the frost to test out indoor ripening, as was discussed earlier.
The berries do actually ripen well indoors, in a jar on a kitchen windowsill, provided they have already turned black outdoors and just need two or three days to soften up (fully ripen) indoors.
For the berries that were red or greenish-red when the clusters were picked and brought inside, they did turn black and soften up over about a week indoors, but the taste was variable - some were tasty but most were just kind of bland.
Here's one jar of berry-clusters when first brought inside:
Here's the same cluster two days later, showing rapid ripening indoors:
And here's one of my two blackberry vines in early October 2011. These vines grow huge -- the vine extends a full 15 feet horizontally, and the upright canes drape over the top of the 6 ft. high fence, probably about 9 feet tall if stretched out full.
The producing area this year is only the very centre of the vine. This fall I will try to protect the centre of the plant plus the horizontal cane that grows out to the right in the photo. The rest of the zone 6 vine will die in our zone 3 winter.
Great Don - thanks for the update on your blackberry experiment and congratulations on your success - your hard work and perseverance paid off.
I have a couple of questions: do you prune out any canes in the Spring?
Also do you think black raspberries would be a good substitute for blackberries?
I'm starting to wonder if I should give up on growing blackberries altogether. As you well know it`s a very fussy plant and here they bloom way too late in the season, delaying fruiting until September & October. By then they're at the mercy of frost & cooler temps.
Thanks! And good to see you are still following this thread! Answers to your questions:
1) The only pruning I do in the spring is to remove the parts of the canes that are clearly dead. Tough enough to bring these canes thru the winter, so anything that survives is worthy of protecting!
2) I grow Wyoming black raspberries (planted 2 or 3 years ago), and they provide a nice berry, ripening around the same time as red and yellow raspberries for me, but with longer, arching canes (though nowhere near as long canes as true blackberries). They are a sweeter alternative to raspberries, and I recommend them, but they are not a substitute for blackberries. In a taste-test, black raspberries would be sweeter but similar to red raspberries, yellow raspberries would be sweeter but somewhat different taste than red or black raspberries, and blackberries would be completely different from any of the others. Not the same at all.
3) As for giving up on blackberries... if space is limited, then I would definitely stick with the various raspberries -- red, yellow, black -- as they are going to give you a nice crop of berries every year. I would only suggest growing blackberries if you have some extra space or want to try something different that pushes the zone, and are willing to do the extra work to protect the canes for winter. Blackberries are far out of zone here, and will only do okay with ample winter protection and a long frost-free summer. I'm pretty hooked on them right now, but I've got lots of garden space that I don't know quite what to with, so I've got room to experiment. You are obviously growing them right now, but whether that space could be better used for something else depends on your situation.
(P.S. continue to grow them, and we can compare notes next October... lol.)
Thanks for the reply. I think I'll give blackberries another shot - I've moved them (did I say 'them' it's one plant but HUGE) to a more sheltered spot with southern exposure so just maybe this will provide better growing conditions.
I'll also try the other raspberries you mention - for variety. We'll see what next year's growing season brings. Gardeners are always a hopeful lot.
Took the leaves off the canes today... a bit beat up after almost 6 months buried beneath a pile of leaves and snow, but still alive and with green leaves remaining from last year!
How did they taste? Did they have that wild blackberry taste that's so good. 2 years ago I planted a few plants I got from someone's wild patch- they're growing but not that vigorously and last summer something (we think a bear) ate all the berries long before they ripened. I want to start some more plants but want something that taste's good enough to be worth it.
I planted a blackberry bush late this winter and it bloomed wonderfully and had many berries. We have peacocks in our neighborhood and they ate the berries. Any suggestions on how to protect the berries from these peacocks?
Basilno - I find that fresh cultivated blackberries (BB), both my homegrown ones plus fresh BB I have bought at a berry farm in Oregon, taste better than wild BB. I have eaten fresh wild blackberries in Ontario, British Columbia, and Oregon, and while the wild berries are good, they are definitely not as tasty as the fresh-from-the-vine cultivated BB. No doubt there are wild BB somewhere out there that can put cultivated BB to shame, but generally I would say that cultivated BB are much superior to wild BB.
I am new to this forum. I am trying blackberries in the Fairbanks, AK area. I know, really crazy. I too have experimented with big box store plants - it is a lot cheaper than trying to get things shipped up here. I found out this spring that voles love thorny blackberry canes (especially marionberries). I removed the snow and found a few remnants of the canes, still green. Interestingly, the marionberries appear to be resprouting from the crowns, so they must not be totally dead. And these are still in pots. My rule is if it overwinters in a pot, I plant it. Doesn't mean it will last more than 3 years, though. My luck is aided by the consistent 20 inch (50 cm) snow pack that we have from mid-November until mid-April. I've tried Ebony Kings and Arapaho Thornless. Based on this thread, I think I'll add Chester and cross my fingers. Love the tips everyone.
Well, interesting reading all the posts on here... I'm trying an experiment this year. I had my granddaughter dig up wild blackberry canes down in Washington State, and mail them up to me. I've transplanted them into my garden up here in Fairbanks, Alaska, and will be seeing if I can get them to 1. Grow this summer, and 2. Survive the winter. Something tells me that starting with wild plants will give me a better chance at both. The plan is to cover the lower portion of the plants with peat in the fall, and then cover them with clear plastic once the frost arrives. Once it starts snowing, I'll add a layer of black plastic sheeting on top and uncover in reverse order next spring as things thaw out. We get a lot of continuous sunlight and warmth here in the summer months, so I am optimistic about getting them to grow, but surviving -40 winters might be a challenge.
Oh, and I WANT the huge thorns. They might keep the moose from eating the plants
Just a friendly word of warning... the wild blackberries along much of the west coast are usually one of two highly invasive species from Europe, the Himalayan blackberry and the evergreen blackberry. Himalayan blackberry has run rampant in British Columbia, Washington, Oregon and California and has proven extremely difficult to control. You might want to be careful about introducing it to Alaska too...
Here's a link from Washington:
Not a problem for zone 3 I would think.
I agree with Konrad that invasiveness isn't likely going to be an issue in zone 3. As long as the canes need your help to survive, everything should be fine. If they do well without your help, warning bells.
Well, I have them planted in an area with a 20 foot gravel border underlaid by solid clay... if they start growing beyond their assigned garden bed I'll just use the flame-thrower and the tiller like I do for wild roses. Not much survives that. oh, and yes, I purposely got the himalayan variety because I figure they will take a minimum of effort to maintain, while not getting out of control.
Oh yeah... Fairbanks is technically zone 2. So I'm not too worried about uncontrolled spread.
Well, as expected little survived the winter without protection. However, enough of a Marionberry cane survived to flower. Since it just flowered, it is unlikely that the berry will ripen before a frost. I found a full cane of Wild Treasure that had survived the winter, but there was physical (as opposed to temperature) damage near the crown and the cane ended up dying . . . too bad! Although most crown/root systems survived, the tops of all others died back to the ground (about 40 plants, 15 varieties). I've added another dozen or so varieties and have a larger planting of Wild Treasure to experiment with. I'm going to try laying Agribon 50 and plastic over the canes to protect them until the snow falls.
I have a concern with the standard method of pruning to encourage greater fruit production. If I tip the canes to encourage laterals (this would have to be done on Wild Treasure), will I sacrifice the earliest berries? In my experience, on raspberries the fruit usually ripens from the top of the cane to the bottom. Some later varieties (like floricane production on Fall Gold) ripen only the first 2/3 of the crop here because the season is too short and cool. I'm concerned that by tipping, I will be forcing blooming and ripening to occur later on my blackberries. Does anyone have experience with that?
wxjunkie -- in my experience in the same zone as you, you can reject all blackberry pruning rules develeloped in warmer climates. Nature will do all the tip pruning you contemplate, and then a whole lot more.
I can get new canes to grow 10 feet (3 m) long in a season, but even laying the canes down, covering with a thick layer or straw or leaves, burlap over that, then a steady snow-cover on top of that, I normally get only 3 feet (1 m) of that growth to survive. If winter is pruning out 7 feet from a 10 foot cane, you should just go with what survives. That means prune nothing except dead wood (and there will be lots of that).
On the positive side, 3 feet of surviving canes, plus all the new growth that sprouts from that, will still give you a super crop of blackberries.
I've been trying Prime Jan in eastern ND and it looks like it may work. Had a couple of berries last year, but didn't get to try them due to health problems. They made it through a very bad winter with almost no snow cover, followed by a very late cold and wet spring, but then got accidentally mowed down. The plants are leafed out and healthy looking so I have fond hopes for next year.
Thanks for the info Don555. I'll cover them all for the winter and hope for the best. Unfortunately for me, it appears Triple Crown and Chester don't care for our cool summer weather-even this one, which was on the warm side. So the hardier ones probably will never produce 10 ft (3m) canes. Less hardy, trailing varieties will have canes that long. Wild Treasure is near 7 ft (2m) and an unknown variety is at 8 ft (2.5m). But then I have a 3 yr old Cumberland black raspberry that produced a cane over 6 ft (2m) tall this year, so maybe I shouldn't give up yet.
Summer ended last week and it will start snowing in another 4 weeks. I hope I can get a few Marionberries to ripen before then. The first one has started to turn red and I'm excited!
As for primocane fruiting berries, they don't start flowering on primocanes until now. The Prime Ark 45 I have has not even produced buds yet. Furthermore, I doubt the canes will overwinter as these are erect varieties. Plus, there are other erect varieties that are earlier and produce better fruit that I am more inclined to protect. Amoret, it would have been interesting to see how much winter damage your Prime Jan canes suffered (if they hadn't been mowed down) given your climate. Unfortunately, as I understand it, the axillary buds can be damaged by warmer temperatures that don't necessarily kill the axillary bud during the winter. I see this on my black raspberries when the laterals grow out, but few if any flower buds form.
My prime Jan flowered in plenty of time last year. The big advantage of the primocanes is that it is fine if they die back. The mowing was only an issue because it happened mid summer so Iost a lot of growth.
Hi all, I'm in Manitoba and put in 2 "Chester" plants on 27th. May this year. T&T seeds of Winnipeg have them as suitable for Zone 3! From what I read I could be onto a loser.
However the canes have done well tied to wires and all I now have to do is get them through our nippy winter, much like the Saskatchewan one of minus 40's.
We actually picked enough berries, a dozen or so to add to Plums and Strawberries to make a couple of pound of mixed fruit jam this weekend past, and very tasty it is.
Will upload a photo of the vines if anyone interested,
Vic2b, In another month or so, lay down the new canes as close to the ground as you can and protect them with straw or leaves for the winter. The centre parts should survive and give you a good crop next year. I planted Chester 5 years ago in Edmonton and they are still with me. Picked about 250 berries so far this year, more to come as long as the frost holds off...
Thanks don, will give it a whirl if I can get the canes to lay without breaking. Been here for 10 years now from UK and miss the free wild fruit, especially the blackberries and damsons. And no we only moved from 2 miles from Heathrow, so hardly countryside, but plenty of waste ground where the old gravel pits were.
Have managed to root some tip layers so will lift and replant them in a more sheltered spot against the house.
Yes, laying canes down can subject them to breakage. The best option is to encourage them earlier in the summer to grow as close to the ground as possible -- ie, only tie the producing canes (last year's canes) to the trellis, and encourage the current year's canes to grow along the ground so they can be covered for the winter, then tied up to the trellis next year when they produce fruit.
It's tough to remember to do that though, given how there is so much going on in the summer. And if you leave it too long the canes lose flexibility and are prone to breakage. I kind of half-remembered this year.... one year I will do it 100% right and use bricks or whatever to force the young canes to grow along the ground. Or so I keep telling myself.
Now picked over 300 blackberries from 2 plants. Still shy of last year's 500+, and 2011's 450 or so, but a decent harvest, and still more to come as frost hasn't been an issue yet.
I don't have any encouraging news, but I thought it would be right to tell you what I've experienced in 'northern' Ontario, Canada, zone 3. Thirty-five years ago I planted what were purported to be the hardiest available blackberries (I no longer know the variety, sorry). They would grow 8-foot arching canes each year and then die back to the ground over winter. Because fruit would have been produced on the previous year's growth, they never produced any fruit...in 18 years! One fall I even pinned the canes to the ground and covered them thickly with leaves for winter protection, but to no avail.
Fast forward to 2010 (approximately) and somebody gives me a 'Chester' blackberry plant (mentioned in this Forum and elsewhere as a possibly hardy variety) and I dutifully plant it without any expectations of success. Unfortunately, although I gave it the moistest, most sheltered location I had, no fruit has been forthcoming so far.
In between times I tried transplanting some (probably) wild blackberry plants into my garden, where the plants did thrive during the growing season but died back over winter and produced...you guessed it, no fruit; ever. When I gave up on them after a few years it was major labour to dig them out. The mother plants in the wild stand have produced a few fruit twice in fifteen years. However, there are many truly wild but productive plants in the woods around here so it would seem that the optimal conditions for them found in nature are hard mimic in a cultivated garden.
In this forum, someone mentioned Wyoming raspberries. Ones I have grown produce purple fruit, but sellers call them 'black'. They are not blackberries. But I think they have superb grape-raspberry flavour, and are extremely hardy and quite productive. They have a purple raspberry-like fruit (they are after all raspberries), on canes that grow with a blackberry habit, that is, they form a clump and do not sucker from the roots. They can be propagated by tip-layering.
I'm about in the same situation, even when you see some berries, the season is too short and most will not mature, leaving behind a massive growth of dead canes to clean up next spring. The ground and relatively large area the canes spread is a waste of space for the small amount of rewards. I found out that black raspberries are great substitutes and very productive.
Well, I just want to encourage people to give blackberries a try since I've had pretty good luck with them so far in Edmonton (zone 3a). They definitely require effort, but the rewards are worth it -- any blackberry you find in the store here has been shipped from far away and tastes bland-to-okay, but will never, ever, compare to a ripe blackberrry from your own garden for taste.
I grow Chester Thornless, and have had them for 5 years now. Year 1 was growing canes that would fruit the next year. Year 2 was a one-berry harvest, bah. Year 3 was about 450 berries, year 4 was over 500 berries, year 5 (2013) was about 450 berries. That's from 2 plants.
The growth of new canes over summer reaches about 12' each year, but I only have any hope of saving the central 3' or so over winter. So focus on covering the centre of the plant with leaves, straw, burlap, etc., and forget about the other 9' of cane since it's going to die anyway.
My plants have survived for 5 years now. If this winter ended up killing them, I'm not sure if I'd replant, or just count my losses and be thankful for past successes... oh, who am I fooling?... I'd replant!
Stratifying in the fridge are some wild collected blackberry seeds from Wisconsin. The growing season there is of about the same length, though hotter and not so bitterly cold as we endure. IÃ¢ÂÂm gonna give these a try in a very sheltered location where I wonÃ¢ÂÂt so likely be attacked by the vicious thorns. A challenge is to get them to germinate in the first place, as the rate drops off drastically if the seeds have sat for any length of time or have been dried.
I have triple crown blackberries planted two feet apart on a raised bed, they put on a lot of berries the second year, but yhey are climping all over the trellis, they are to thick I need to thin them out put I don't know when is the best time to move them to a new patch I have it ready to plant but don't know when to move them, can someone tell me what time of year is best to move them. thank you for reading my question. rcj123
Hello rcj123 ... it is best to dig and move your blackberries in early spring as soon the ground is dry enough to work, you will of course need to cut the vines back.
I hope this helps clear up the question of blackberry hardiness. The cultivated blackberries are not hardy for most people beyond zone 5, without significant protection. However, our native blackberry (Rubus allagheniensis in WI/MN) is completely hardy in zone 3. We all know that our global weather has been trending warmer for many years and as a result, we are not growing in "normal" zone temps. Our native plants evolved to tolerate the old "normal" temps. A few years ago a small community in north west WI (Wascott), reached -50F, and everything native to the area magically survived. Normally, frost pockets in the area reach -40F.
The blackberries in this area maybe growing in what is considered zone 4a now, but the plants are far more hardy than that. Also, they thrive in soils that are not moist, as this area is mostly jack pine sand barrens.
Just curious if anyone has tried, or knows someone who has tried, Veseys "Balsors Hardy Blackberry"? Veseys claims it is hardy to zone 4a-4b, so would still need protection in my Zone 3a, but maybe not the huge protection I give to my Chester Thornless (which are zone 6 I think), and maybe being native to Nova Scotia it might ripen earlier than Chester? I'm thrilled with Chester, and they have produced amazingly well for the past 3 years, but I always worry that tough winter or a cold summer is going to be their undoing.
Actually, I grow these two side by side,..only in it's second season, both froze down pretty well all the way, so far I don't see much encouragement in both, grown in colder condition,..out in the country. I got two more for testing, a Montreal seedling and a Russian.
Interesting. Thanks for the quick reply.
Orchidsinduluth, good to hear about Rubus Allegheniensis. I am trying to sprout seeds of these and see how they do. I had limited success with Marionberries this year. One very short cane survived, flowered, fruited, but didn't ripen completely before the first frost. Nothing else had canes that survived, but it was only the first winter for most of them. This year I got significantly more growth out of Chester and Triple Crown. I pinned them to the ground, hoping to force them to trail. It worked better than I thought it would. Significant snow fell before subzero temps hit this fall, so next summer may be a good test to see what might ripen in our 500-600 GDD10C climate. I still have high hopes for Wild Treasure, as it hardens off early in the fall and is supposed to ripen pretty early. However, this spring physical damage killed the only surviving cane it produced last year. Don555, great to hear you are getting so many blackberries from Chester!
Hi all, still nippy here just had a week of blizzards and minus 30-59. gardeners itch starting! Here's a couple of photos of "Chester' planted last May together with a Xmas day photo with the snow cover. As previously mentioned in the thread the berries were better for being left a few days after going black. Hoping something will have survived for this year. Caught the dog picking the berries last autumn and also the raspberries.
Will put a couple of tip layers into the old pool house this spring where there is some protection from the elements.
snow covered on Xmas day.
Uncovered the blackberries today, some green stems, so hopefully at least part of the canes have survived. ground still waterlogged and an inch of rain forecast for today and more over the next few days. Ground very sticky!
You should be rewarded with some berries with all that work!
I have a Chester and Balsor's Black growing side by side without added protection, the Balsor seems heaving some live canes but on Chester all dead!
Even tho, ripening them out is a HUGE problem in our short season.
Vic, I uncovered my Chesters just a few days before you. Kept under leaves and burlap since early November. They always come up with green leaves and stems, then the leaves and a bunch of the stem dies back over the next month or so. Not sure why that is. Anyway, here's one of the plants, uncovered April 21, photo taken today. Most of the growth was on the left hand side of the plant last year, there is one cane on the right side (not shown). The fence was re-done last fall so my trellis had to be removed... I'd better build another one and get these cannes up off the ground. This plant is 5 years old and fruited every year except the first year of course. The other plant (not shown) is 6 years old and apart from its first year has fruited every year but one, when it killed to the ground over winter and spent the summer regrowing.
Grew BBs last year for the first time, (just N of Minneapolis) had the worst winter here since 1978, my back yard dropped below -30 F. I did cover them with some oak leaves and we had a lot of snow cover (deepest I've ever seen), however most of the canes seem to be dead. How do these sucker/spread compared to raspberries? I notice from your picture Don that they seem to be confined to a rather small clump. Anyway, I hope something comes up from the roots so I can get some berries by late Aug. The 3 varieties were Prime Ark 45, Prime Jim, and Prime Jan, 6 pack of ea. from stark bros. They're rated for zone 4, but we did not have a zone 4 winter
mrhayes, your plants will probably sprout from the roots even if the tops are dead, but unfortunately blackberries are floricanes that fruit on canes that were produced the previous year. Whatever canes sprout from the roots in 2014 won't bear fruit until 2015. If you didn't manage to keep any canes alive over this past winter, you won't get any berries this summer.
Try them for a few years. If you can't overwinter canes then you need to try more serious winter protection, or skip blackberries. I've seen some websites claim they have blackberries hardy to zone 4, even to zone 3, but I think most blackberries are really only reliably hardy to zone 6, with some wilds reliable to zone 5. I grow them in zone 3, so you certainly can in zone 4, but it might require a lot of winter protection of the parts you want to keep alive over winter.
Thanks for the advice Don. I've got my BBs on a hill where their exposed to prevailing north and west winds, while my very hardy and vigorous raspberries are in a low protected area. I may have to switch the two.
Just checked the plant info on the Prime Jim, Jan, and Ark 45, at Stark Bros web site and they all say they bear on first and second year canes so hopefully the year won't be a total loss.
I'm not familiar with the varieties you mention (I'm growing "Chester"), but if they are really primocanes (produce fruit the same year as the new Spring canes), then I'd be amazed if they would produce in zone 4, since primocane raspberries don't have a long enough summer to produce fruit on new canes from the current year in such a cool zone, and blackberries require a much longer season than raspberries. (Primocane raspberries definitely a FAIL in my zone, but floricane rasps start producing in late July).
That said... who knows?... and if you can get fruit this year then fantastic! And if it takes an extra year, then half-fantastic.
I'm at the north end of zone 4 and just starting my third year with raspberries, fall gold, heritage, prelude, and queen anne yellow. Last year I got my first primocane berry 9/7 and had fall berries till mid Oct. In 2012 the first killing frost was first week of Oct., so about a month of fall berries. Must be our slightly warmer summers. The primocanes for this year are already starting to appear, its amazing how fast they shoot up. Makes for tough picking on the june/july berries from last years canes. This fall I'm going to try using some 6 mil clear plastic sheeting, possibly lights as well, to protect from the first couple killing frosts. My goal is raspberries till Nov! We'll see
After a long, relatively warm fall and mild winter (only to -24F/-31C, though Fairbanks hit -40 several times) at my location, buds are pushing on most of the 31 varieties of blackberries I am testing. None received protection other than the 23 inches (58 cm) of snow that accumulated over the winter. The lowest temp recorded prior to the establishment of a snow cover was about 5F (-13C). Looks like Illini Hardy (first pic) and Stenulson (second pic) have 100% cane survival and Marion has about 60%. It remains to be seen if the flower buds survived the winter, though. The other varieties have yet to leaf out enough to determine the total cane survival. PrimeArk 45 died to the ground, as it has every year. It grows a whopping 2.5 ft (75 cm) each summer and doesn't flower. From this I don't think Prime Jim or Prime Jan stand a chance here either, so I won't waste my money.
As far as raspberries go, my Cumberland black raspberries that produced 5-6 ft (1.5 - 2 m) canes are leafing out almost to the tips. They were weighted down and covered by the snow (and 3 freezing rain events) over the winter. Plenty of green buds on all of my yellow and red varieties, as well.
Here's the Stenulson picture. Sorry, not tech savvy enough to upload more than one pic at a time evidently.
Don what is your soil type this is planted in. Blackberry is one of the worlds best things to eat and I love them.
I've read though they prefer lower ph
Mattpf, nothing special about my garden soil. The previous owner created the garden when this house was built about 30 years ago, and he put a generous 30 cm of local topsoil over the local subsoil, and the subsoil is the dense silty clay of glacial Lake Edmonton. Been under my care for over 20 years, and I have never added any acidifying agent, all I add is some fertilizer and the annual contents of my compost bins (about 2/3 cubic metre of well-rotted vegetable and leaf compost). I've never had a proper soil test done, but it is the same soil I use to grow corn, squash, onions, carrots, etc. If I had to guess, I'd say pH 6 to 7.
Wxjunkie, seems up near Fairbanks you have much better winter survival, with less physical protection (like straw/burlap), than I have in central Alberta. The other issue I'm always concerned about is enough heat for berry ripening -- in my zone they don't start to ripen until August, and they don't really finish ripening until the end of September, assuming we have had a frost-free and warm September. How has this played out for you?
Don555 this question is mainly directed at you, however anyone with experience with rasp and blackberries your insights would be welcomed. Just wondering if BBs are slower to sucker than rbs? I've got hundreds of rb suckers coming up some already a foot tall, however I've only seen 3 primocanes coming up from my bb's. The 3 are coming up are only from my Primeark 45's, no signs of suckers from my other 2 cultivars prime Jim and prime Jan. Thanks for any insights! Mike MN Z4
BB are definitely slower to sucker than rasps in my climate. Lots of suckers coming up from the rasps, all just a few inches tall, but nothing yet from the BB. Oddly enough, the leaf shoots on the stems of BB floricanes are bigger than the leaf shoots on the rasp floricanes, though both are really just leafing out starting now.
Thanks for the info Don. I guess BBs just need a little more heat to get going. Finally gonna warmup starting today hopefully I see a lot more suckers the next week to ten days
Maybe that French layering would work but involves cutting back hard to basal growth. Have you tried piling soil around the base of the plants to encourage lower buds to break.
If you merely want more plants then tip layers work very well.
mhayes8655, suckering on BBs for me depends on the variety. It usually takes some time for many of the varieties I am trialing (near 40 at last count) to sprout new suckers, especially those originating from the U of Arkansas program. They do like the heat. However, my Siskiyous were sprouting new suckers almost as soon as the snow melted. This matches the timing of suckering on my most vigorous yellow raspberries (Fall Gold) and a few reds. PrimeArk 45 takes a long time to sucker for me, about a month into the growing season (even though it dies to the ground every year). Suckering also appears to depend on whether there are canes that survived the winter and are leafing out. This may delay suckering as energy is spent to push new growth on the old canes. Overall, the number of suckers produced by raspberries is much higher in my experience than BBs, but then this is reported in many other places that are more temperate.
Seeing quite a bit of suckering now on all 3 of my BB cultivars. Even areas where last years canes died completely to the ground new primocanes are coming up. Nice to see them coming back. wxjunkie, we also have the fall gold. Of the 5 raspberry varieties we have, they are probably the family favorite taste wise, and also the most vigorous, hardy, and eager to spread. They're already showing quite a few floricane blossoms, Should be getting berries from those in 3 to 4 weeks
Fall Gold is not fully hardy here and primocane crop is too late. Floricane crop runs from mid-August to mid-October, with the berries really getting sweet in the colder weather. I still think it is the best. But, that's for another forum.
Well after all the protection none of the canes survived the winter, but we did get down to minus 50 a couple of days.
The rootstock this past week has shown about 3 inches of growth on both plants but not on the layers I took. Guess it's better late than never so will have to rethink winter protection this year.
Ben Nevis blackcurrants are fruiting very well and ripening nicely.
Raspberries died off completely, strawberries produced well.
Fall Gold is fully hardy in my zone 2b garden...in fact, the first year, it survived winter above ground in a black nursery pot! I forgot to plant it and was quite surprised it lived. It isn't a particularly productive variety and the berries tend to fall apart easily. They are very sweet though.