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My next question-- Blackberries

Posted by telow 7a (My Page) on
Sat, Jun 23, 12 at 14:59

I've done some research on pruning but havent found a definitive answer about when to prune the laterals. After I pruned the tips off the canes the laterals started to grow, and grow,and grow. This is only their 2nd year so I did'nt anticipate the jungle that I have now. Two Apaches, one Navaho, and one Doyle are still producing berries so I can't cut off those canes yet. The Doyle has lived up to their advertising and have more berries than the others combined. My problem is the laterals are growing 4 to 8ft. in every direction and I can't get down the middle of the row without stepping on them. I would like to tie some up but can't tell where to start. Can the laterals be trimmed up now or do I wait till winter? Also a question about corn stalks. After you've picked the corn, what do you do with the stalks. Can they be plowed under where they stand or do you have to compost them?


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: My next question-- Blackberries

Since blackberries grow on second year wood, I think any green branch you remove now might hurt next years crop. I am not a blackberry grower although I have a few in pots that I plan to put in the ground. What I have read says to leave four branches when you prune. I have picked lots of wild blackberries, and they become huge plants. Brambles seems to be a good word for them.

I hope someone that grows them successfully will answer your question because I would like to know the answer also.


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RE: My next question-- Blackberries

Terry,

I've linked a fact sheet from OSU that goes into great detail about pruning and trellising. You don't want to prune your laterals because right now they are your primocanes and they will turn into floricanes next year. All your berries are produced on floricanes, so if you prune the primocanes now, you're reducing how many berries you'll get next year from the new floricanes. The most common pruning problem with blackberries is that people mistakenly prune off the new primocanes in the summer, and then get no berries the next year because they cut off the primocanes the previous summer.

After you've tip-pruned to induce your canes to form laterals, you don't prune them again. You do prune off this year's floricanes after they are completely through producing berries because the canes are strictly a one-time producer. On the fact sheet it talks about the easy way to manage the plants, which is to train all the new primocanes to one side of the trellis while all the floricanes are trained to the other side. That makes it easier to work with the plants in future years. It is a great process, but can be hard to keep up with the second and even third year until you develop a routine and build confidence in what you're doing. In the first year, you let them grow like mad. Then, the second year, you tip prune them to get those lateral canes forming. You don't prune off the laterals because that's like throwing away the berries they would have produced the following year.

So, to make it clear, your question was "can the laterals be trimmed up now or do I wait till winter", and the answer is you do not prune them until after they flower and fruit next year. This summer's growth gives you next summer's berries. Just remember, you don't prune off a cane until after it has formed and ripened fruit. Cut those laterals back now, and you're cutting back next year's crop and reducing it. Having said that, sometimes in the first year or two, you may have to prune more than you'd like in order to get the plants trellised and under control and get a system established.

Next year, you'll be getting fruit from the floricanes (laterals) we're discussing right now, while new primocanes are developing. You'll tip-prune those primocanes once they're 3 to 4' long/tall so that they form more laterals for the following year's crop. You'll remove the current floricanes after they're done. That's your annual routine for as long as you have the berries.

As for the corn, it is your choice and I feel like you should do whatever works for you. I pull the stalks, chop them up and put them on the compost pile. My farmer friend, Fred, plows them under most years and lets them decompose in the ground to add organic matter to the soil. Neither way is right or wrong--I do what works best for me (I don't have a tractor and plow like he does) and he does what works best for him. The one disadvantage to turning the ground over and burying the stalks in it is that will bury pests underground and that may mean you'll have more pests next year if they overwinter in the buried stalks. That's why I pull mine--I don't want the corn earworms, which also are known as tomato fruitworms when they get into the tomatoes, to feel encouraged to stick around. If you don't have corn pests, there's really no reason you have to pull them and compost them, but I always have pests of some sort, so I like to get old plants out of the garden and onto the compost pile. If your corn has corn rootworms or nematodes, I would not plow the plants back into the ground.

In a really bad drought year, we do things differently. When pastures are poor and hay is costly, Fred asks me to let him have the cornstalks to feed to his cows. Depending on how green or dry they are, they may not provide much nutrition, but they are good filler to supplement whatever feed he is buying for his cows. The first year he asked if he could have my corn stalks, I couldn't imagine why he wanted them until he explained why.

Hope this helps,

Dawn

Here is a link that might be useful: Blackberry Culture


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RE: My next question-- Blackberries

I have tilled my corn in the past 3 growing seasons. Before that I fed the stalks to the cows, because of declining health in many family members we only have 2 yearlings to take care of and they have more grass than they can ever eat.

The areas where I have tilled the corn in seems to be some of my better soil. Not all tillers are strong enough to till corn in. I have a counter rotating tine tiller that does not do well in the corn. I have a Troy Bilt Horse that does a pretty good job, but it is still a lot of work, but not as much as pulling the corn and hauling it to the cows. I'm not man enough to pull anything but I can guide that tiller and let it eat the corn.

Larry


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RE: My next question-- Blackberries

Larry,

Well, some years the ground is baked so hard by the time the corn is done that I cannot pull it either. In those years, I cut it off at the ground with hedge clippers, and deal with the roots in the fall. I interplant pumpkins with it, so they just grow all over and take over the space anyway, even if I don't get the stalks out of there pretty quickly.

I don't think my tiller would rototill corn in unless I cut it up somehow first, but Fred's tractor does. Of course, he's a farmer/rancher and I am a gardener, so he has heavy-duty tools that I don't have.

Dawn


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RE: My next question-- Blackberries

I'm confused. The site you sent me to says this.......
New canes that have produced lateral branches after summer pruning(i guess this means after tipping the main primocane) should be pruned again in late winter(Feb. or March) to simplify harvesting and increase berry size. Shorten lateral branches to about 12inches in length. This would mean lopping off 10ft. or better by summers end.I guess OSU knows better than me. Thanks for the heads up on the corn stalks Dawn and the OSU website.


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RE: My next question-- Blackberries

Terry,

I had to go read that to see what they were talking about. Well, I guess they want you to tip prune the laterals again because it gives you better air circulation and bigger berries, but I've never done that, and my brother doesn't do it with his, and his produce very well. Since your plants sound very full and are growing so well, you might need to do that pruning in late winter to keep the new floricanes more manageable. I say do it if you think you need to, or do it to half and not to the other half next year. Then decide which way works best for you. For the record, I always plant things closer together than the experts advise us to. I'm bad about breaking rules.

With all due respect to the plant experts, sometimes you have to wing it and do what works for you whether it is the same thing as they advise or not. Every garden rule was made to be broken occasionally.

I never prune our native blackberries, and they produce just fine with no maintenance whatsoever. However, I have to fight the wildlife for those berries, and sometimes that native blackberry thicket is too wild for me. When I grew blackberries in Fort Worth and here for several years, I was bad about not pruning them as much as they needed to be pruned. I couldn't bear to cut off potential fruit. Eventually I lost mine here to repeated drought, but want to plant a new berry patch in a better location. I had them so far away from the house before that it was hard to get water to them. The new location I have in mind for them is a lot closer to the house and to the water faucet.

Dawn


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RE: My next question-- Blackberries

I think you are probaly right Dawn and I think i'm going to go with 50/50. It will be a good experiment to see berry production versus size and quality. It does seem redundant to cut off the berry producing laterals but maybe the shorter laterals have larger, sweeter berries. I will say that this is my first time raising thornless blackberries and am constantly amazed at how big some of them get.


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RE: My next question-- Blackberries

This is all great info. My berries are having an INSANE year. We have so many huge, juicy, sweet blackberries that we can barely keep up.

Mine grow along the fence on two sides of my garden, and I more or less leave them alone. I don't trellis or tie them in any way. I have always just cut the old stems down to the ground after fruiting is done in the summer. Then in the spring I give everything a little trim. ;) Nice and easy.

Now I am wondering what they would manage to produce if I did things the RIGHT way! Yowser!

Jo


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