Wild blackberries

bullelkFebruary 4, 2012

I was on the forum looking for suggestions on finding and growing wild blackberries. Knowing nothing & starting from scratch, I was hoping for some suggestions. Any ideas?

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I have never grown what I would call wild blackberries. I picked many as a child and mom would can them, and make jam and jelly. When I was grown and got the itch to grow blackberries I just got a start from my parents garden. I think you would need to establish a goal of what you wanted first, maybe even know someone that has blackberries and get a start from them. There are not near as many wild berries around here as there was when I was a child but I am sure you can find some.

Black berries are easy to buy, and they are great plants, but I would not know what to ask for if I were going to buy wild berries. I would expect there are many different kinds. Many are bred from the Arkansas/ Oklahoma area and may have been called "Wild" at one time.


    Bookmark   February 4, 2012 at 3:22PM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7

Hi Bullelk,

Welcome to the OK Gardening Forum!

Do you mind if I ask if there is any particular reason you'd prefer to grow wild blackberries instead of commercially developed cultivars?

Now, if I was answering that question, I'd say because the flavor of the wild ones can be so sweet and just so right, and often superior to the flavor of the domesticated varieties....and that would be true.

On the other hand, wild blackberries can be prone to suffer from viruses whereas most modern cultivars seem to have better disease resistance.

The wild blackberries on our property form creeping tangles of brambles so harvesting them is not easy. You either have to mow pathways through them, or put on really thick boots and pants and fight your way through the brambles all the while watching for the snakes, particularly copperheads, who seem to love lying there in the brambles. If space is an issue, you'd be better served by trellising your blackberry plants so they'd grow in a more upright manner both to conserve space and to make the berry-picking a more pleasant experience.

Since the birds love the wild berries, they are forever "planting" wild berry seeds everywhere. I have spent years digging out wild berry plants that pop up in places where I don't want them. It has taken me 13 years (this is our 14th year here, so maybe a year from now I'll say 'it has taken me 14 years....) just to get all the wild blackberries out of my veggie garden. It seems like they pop up there every year, and if I do not quickly dig them out, they take over very quickly in the enriched garden soil.

Finally, while wild blackberries are tasty, they are very small, or at least the ones here on our property are. There are several hundred different kinds of wild blackberries, so if you are determined to plant the wild ones, I'd look around locally and try to find some becaue whatever ones are already growing in your local area are the ones that probably would perform best for you. You rarely find them in stores unless you run across some at a native plants nursery. You might ask on your local Freecycle website or Craig's List if anyone has any wild blackberry plants that want to get rid of. You might be able to get some that way--by digging up unwanted ones currently growing on someone else's property. Or, maybe someone who has them would allow you to come take cuttings from their plants.

The problem with trying to find any native blackberries on-line and order them (or their seeds) is that they might not be the same ones that are native to Oklahoma so they might not grow well in our climate.

All things considered, if I was going to go to all the trouble of preparing soil and planting berry plants, I'd buy commercially bred cultivars that would give our family a much larger harvest.

I'm not saying don't plant wild blackberries, but rather think about the pros and cons and decide if you'd rather have tasty but small native berries that grow as creeping/semi-upright brambles, or if you'd be just as happy with modern cultivars with larger berries, more berries per plant, some disease-resistance and a more upright growth habit which makes the plants easier to manage and easier to harvest.

If I was planting native blackberries and starting from scratch, I'd enrich the planting area with lots of organic matter like cow manure or compost. Blackberries prefer sandy and sandy loam soils, but will grow well in clay if a lot of organic matter has been added to the soil. I'd put up a wood-post-and-wire trellis to try to train the plants to grow more upright than they'd grow without support. I'd space them pretty far apart with wide pathways so picking berries would be easier. After I planted them, I'd mulch well, though not right up to the base of the plant...you want for new canes to be able to freely emege around the base of the plant. I'd put down either soaker hoses or drip irrigation lines to water the ground but to keep excess moisture off the plants. Then, I'd patiently wait. The canes that emerge this year will give you fruit next year. Once canes have produced, you cut them off because they will not produce fruit again. Then, new canes will come out each year that will produce fruit during the following year. Proper pruning is important because if you prune off the wrong canes this year, you'll have no crop next year.

If you still prefer to grow wild berries over commercially bred ones, you might want to try growing dewberries. My grandparents grew Austin dew berries in their backyard when I was a teenager, and the plants produced really well. They did, however, take up a huge amount of space because they were very vigorous growers.

It is not necessarily easy to find dewberry plants nowadays, but I've linked one place below that sells 2 types of dewberries, plus other kinds of commercially-bred blackberries as well. This seller gets very good reviews at the watchdog website we cannot name here because it is at a competing garden forum. I don't know of any specific commercial source for native blackberries from our part of the country.

Good luck and if you have more questions, ask!


Here is a link that might be useful: Bramble Berry Farm

    Bookmark   February 4, 2012 at 4:49PM
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I just happened to be reading the OSU Fact sheet called Home Fruit Planting Guide (HLA-6222) this morning at breakfast. It makes varietal recommendations and indicates levels of sweetness. There is also HLA-6215 Blacberry and Raspberry Culture for the Home Garden and HLA-6239 Commercial Blackberry Planting.

Here is a link that might be useful: Home Fruit Planting Guide

    Bookmark   February 4, 2012 at 6:40PM
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I have liked dealing with these folks.

Here is a link that might be useful: Simmons Plant Farm - Arkansas

    Bookmark   February 4, 2012 at 7:42PM
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I have bought plants from Simmons and was very happy with what I got.

    Bookmark   February 4, 2012 at 9:47PM
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Bull Elk

I transplanted small plants of wild Okla. blackberries (called Dewberries) from the wild on my own property, into the back of my veggie garden in rows. You don't need to dig up big clumps. Allow four or more feet between rows so you have room to walk between the rows to pick the berries without getting torn to shreds. I spaced my plants about every three feet. Then, I set posts at each end of each of the rows and strung three rows of bailing wire across from post to post for the vines to grow upon. This makes harvesting much easier and keeps them from becoming just brambles, and a tangled mess. Do not prune new growth or you won't have berries. You may need to train the vines as the grow up on the wires to help them get started, and then occasionally tuck them in where you want them, but it isn't difficult to do. I don't tie mine to wires. Their thorns will hold them to the wires just fine. Besides that, tying weakens the stems, and they can snap off in our strong Oklahoma winds.

February is the month to transplant them if you want a crop this year.

In the Fall, cut back any dead growth. Don't wait until Spring to cut them back. It can get away from you before you realize it too late, and make it difficult to do without cutting the new growth. The fruit develops on the new growth each year.

In Fall or early Spring, pile composted manure under and around the plants. Mulch deeply with wheat straw or fall leaves. It helps to keep their base cool and moist. Make sure they are well irrigated throughout the growing season, especially when it is a dry year. If you look at where they grow in the wild , in their natural habitat, they like sandy, wet, damp places, like ditches or low places. So, they need plenty of moisture, especially if you want nice, big, juicy berries.

Blooms appear in late April or early May (depending upon the weather). Wear long-sleeved shirts when harvesting berries.

Hope this helps.

    Bookmark   February 4, 2012 at 10:27PM
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Thanks to all for your input. I have lots to think about.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2012 at 4:36PM
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Here is a close-up pic of my Oklahoma Dewberries in bloom.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2012 at 7:54PM
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My berries make thumb-size fruit.

See? No brambles. Nice, tidy berry plants growing on wires.


    Bookmark   February 5, 2012 at 8:00PM
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Thanks for sharing the pictures with use. They are very nice.


    Bookmark   February 5, 2012 at 8:10PM
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if you live in Central Oklahoma, you can find them growing all along the country roads. No one in this area will care if you get a few starts. Just get the smaller off shoots. They will grow big and spread. Don't use any chemical weed killers around them or between the rows because it kills them. An old-fashioned hoe works just fine. :)

Just sayin'...

    Bookmark   February 5, 2012 at 8:58PM
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Annie, I live in the edge of Arkansas, south of FT. Smith. We have a lot of Dewberries along the county roads also.

I like the taste of Dewberries better than Blackberries, but both are good. I wish someone would come up with a seedless type that taste as good as the ones I picked as a child.


    Bookmark   February 5, 2012 at 9:42PM
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If they do Larry, I would venture to guess that any new varieties would be GMO's - not good! Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO's) kill off old varieties through breeding and cross pollination. This is happening as we speak with not only plants like corn and soybeans, but also with fish and more animals. I am fighting against ALL GMO's.
GMO's are now banned throughout Europe. It is now widespread throughout America.
It benefits Big Business, but not the consumers. The ill affects of genetically modified foods on humans, animals, insects, and etc, are not fully known, but it is now looking very bad. Life as we used to know it on this planet may be spiraling out of control to our own destruction.
Sad state of things.

So, deal with the seeds, please. Just swallow them - they are good roughage for cleansing the gut and colon.


    Bookmark   February 5, 2012 at 10:03PM
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I can swallow the seeds, I just need someone to clean my teeth.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2012 at 11:17PM
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Ha! Ha! Ha! I know what you mean, but Blackberry Jam or pie is mighty good, seeds and all, just the same!
Thanks for the laugh. :)

    Bookmark   February 6, 2012 at 1:50AM
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I have tried two times now to start berries and have not done well at all. So I was happy to see this thread. Last year the drought got them, the year before stupidity got them. LOL.

I'll be darn here I am year three thinking about having a go at em' again...:)

    Bookmark   February 6, 2012 at 6:20AM
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Arapaho is known to have some of the smallest seeds of all blackberries and Navaho is one of the sweetest blackberries I've ever tasted. Both are thornless and dependable in central ok.

    Bookmark   February 6, 2012 at 12:39PM
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I have to start mine all over again. They died in 2010. The new owner of the pasture on the ridge above my place sprayed with Herbicide...
I nearly choked to death for a week from the fumes and when it rained, the runoff carried it down into my gardens.
I lost my entire Herb Garden and the Dewberries! Hundreds of dollars worth of plants - dead!
It also killed most of my Native Sand Plums. I named my place, "Plum Creek" for a reason. Almost all of the sand plums are gone now.

But, I am planting again. I let the ground lay fallow for two years and now ready to try again.

I just pray for a better summer this year.

    Bookmark   February 6, 2012 at 4:25PM
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Thanks for posting photo, as we have a bramble patch we inherited with our new house. Am hoping I can thin out the deadwood and construct some kind of trellis around the existing plants to train them up like yours.

    Bookmark   February 6, 2012 at 7:24PM
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sweetannie - I am so sorry to hear that! That is awful!

    Bookmark   February 7, 2012 at 6:12AM
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