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alkaline tolerant berries in central Texas?

Posted by daninthedirt 8b / HZ10 Cent. TX (My Page) on
Thu, Aug 21, 14 at 17:45

OK, I just returned from a several week trip to the Pacific Northwest, and found myself deluged in berries. Blueberries, blackberries, huckleberries, etc. etc. etc. Bliss and wonderfulness.

So here's the old question, which deserves resurrection every once in a while. What edible berries tolerate central Texas alkaline soil (no, I don't live in Bastrop), and Texas heat?

No, I'm not going to acidify my soil, whether chemically or with other amendments, because it's a losing battle. I've tried that. Why? Because the ground water is alkaline, so watering with tap water opposes acidification. Unless you use rainwater, I guess. Ha. Rainwater? What's that?

Any ideas? I've heard that there are blueberries that barely tolerate alkaline soil, in that they live, sort of, but they don't produce much. Not going there. Maybe there is a variety of table grape that would work? Of course there are diseases for grapes in Texas that are major worries.


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: alkaline tolerant berries in central Texas?

Any nursery worth their pay will carry grape varieties that are either hybrids with native grapes or Pierce's Disease resistant. I wouldn't do blueberries since I think they are a hassle with trying to balance acidity and using special water. There are tons of blackberry and dewberry varieties that will work in Texas. There's a variety called Roseborough that's a Texas Superstar.


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RE: alkaline tolerant berries in central Texas?

Very interesting. Thank you! Where can I find some info on the needs (sun, soil, maintenance, etc.) on, for example, Rosborough blackberries? Good sources for them in Central Texas? I now gather that blackberries are much more tolerant of alkaline soil than raspberries and, of course, blueberries. Also very important that there are Pierce-resistant grapes around.

How much blackberry cane growth does one get in a Texas winter? If I put some in the ground in the next month or so, any hope of getting fruit next year?


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RE: alkaline tolerant berries in central Texas?

  • Posted by fruitnut z7b-8a,4500ft SW TX (My Page) on
    Thu, Aug 21, 14 at 23:58

Check out Womack Nursery in DeLeon. They have a good selection of fruits for central TX at reasonable prices.

Blackberries don't grow in winter. You won't get much fruit next yr even if you could find a potted plant and set it out now. Plant this winter and get fruit in 2016.


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RE: alkaline tolerant berries in central Texas?

There's also dewberry, which is essentially a more trailing blackberry, and Agarita (Mahonia trifoliolata).


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RE: alkaline tolerant berries in central Texas?

Natural Gardener carries bare root Rosborough (and other varieties). I planted mine in January. Great flavor, but those thorns can be a bear.


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RE: alkaline tolerant berries in central Texas?

Womack won't be shipping until December, it appears. I had no idea Natural Gardener carried blackberries, and they aren't inconvenient. I'll give them a try. Now, I probably have to ask around and see if any neighbors have any in the ground. Making cuttings of these is trivial, I believe.

Yeah, I figured the vine-growing season was probably over for the year. Oh well.

This has been most helpful. I always just lumped blackberries with blueberries about alkaline intolerance. It's delightful to know that they are different.

Now, in the Pacific Northwest, blackberries are a weed. They grow *everywhere* the ground has been turned over. One wonders why that doesn't happen here. The advantage of that is that you aren't competing with birds for berries. They have loads.


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RE: alkaline tolerant berries in central Texas?

Raspberries do fine in alkaline soil. Serviceberries supposedly taste like blueberries and are tolerant of alkaline soil. The plants are lovely in the fall, I just have not had any berries yet.

I planted a native elderberry 2 years ago (in the fall) and should be able to make some syrup this yea, I sure hope I like it because the deer and rabbits do not eat the foliage and it has done well even though it has been neglected. You may find it worth researching.


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RE: alkaline tolerant berries in central Texas?

Pretty sure that blackberries aren't a weed here because we don't get enough rain, lol. However, dewberries certainly do grow like a weed in my area. I lost my blackberry bush to the Bastrop fire, but since then I have had several dewberries growing along my fence line. I assume they are gifts from the birds, lol.


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RE: alkaline tolerant berries in central Texas?

Dew berries grow wild here west of austin but they struggle on dry years, but return when it rains.I have seen mulberry trees all over. there is always ground plums. .. I have no luck with strawberries but I see them sold at the natural Gardener. It must be me. I would ask the gardener there what he recommends. He is very knowledgeable.


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RE: alkaline tolerant berries in central Texas?

Actually, we have as much rain (inches per year) as the Pacific Northwest, but there it comes down all the time. The blackberries must like that. I have to suspect that they don't like the summer heat much either. I find it a little suspicious that I don't know anyone who grows blackberries. I suppose they could get somewhat invasive.

Dewberries would do, and the berries are a lot like blackberries, but they don't grow as high as blackberries, I believe. I'd like a berry that fills vertical space.


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RE: alkaline tolerant berries in central Texas?

Dan- maybe ?4 years ago I went to a lecture by Dr. Larry Stein on Fruit and Nut gardening. He's out of Uvalde and advises farmers on crop production and does plant testing for Texas A&M. I jotted some notes on a handout he provided. Full disclosure- I have no first hand experience on any of these except strawberries.

Blackberries- two categories
Thorny (grow upright, no trellis)- Kiowa, Brazos, and Rosborough

Thornless (needs a strong trellis)- Arapaho, Natchez

At the time Natchez was still in testing but he was really enthusiastic about it. I heard him again a couple of years later and he mentioned they were finding it to be a heavy producer every other year, not so much the opposite year.

My notes say to plant in January and remove dead canes in the spring after flowering.

Grapes: Black spanish, Champanel, Favorite, Herbemont, and Blanc du Bois (resistant to PD)

Best time to prune is after they bud out.

Strawberries: Chandler, Sequoia

Plant in October, plant as an annual. I've had good luck with Chandler as long as I can keep the pill bugs under control. Be sure not to bury the crowns when you plant them.

You might want to try to email him if you have specific questions. The guy has forgotten more than I'll ever know about this stuff. He might be able to give you more updated recommendations.

HTH- Lisa


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RE: alkaline tolerant berries in central Texas?

Thanks. In fact, I found the A&M Agrilife Extension document on blackberries, written by Kamas, Nesbit, and your Larry Stein. VERY informative.

I have no problems with thorns, and could easily use a trellis if I needed to. That being said, Natchez looks promising, but is real new (~2007 or so) it says. Among the thorned varieties, I gather that Brazos is the longtime Texas standard, but the fruits are somewhat smaller and more acidic than the newer Rosborough.

The "plant in January" rule indeed seems to be the way to go. Of course, you won't get fruit until the following summer.

I see mixed advice about sun. Many sites say full, or almost full sun, but at least one other site says they'll do fine in part shade. Not sure what to make of that. Maybe the
production suffers in shade but the plant does fine?

I'm a little less enthused about grapes and strawberries, as I suspect those will be more work. But this is good info.


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RE: alkaline tolerant berries in central Texas?

Bob wells nursery has a good selection of blackberries and will start shipping in October I think. I ordered brazos, roseborough, Kiowa and ouachita earlier this year. They all arrived healthy and are doing well.
As for the sun, part shade question; I can't really speak for these newer varieties, but I'm assuming that blackberries will usually find a way to grow regardless, as long as it's getting a light source. I've picked many wild blackberries in these thick east Texas woods where I live and they thrive in shade. I would try to shoot for a spot that's going to get, at the very least, half a day of full sun or more though.


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RE: alkaline tolerant berries in central Texas?

Dan- after one of those classes I tried to pin Dr stein down on specific recommendations ("if you could only plant one based on best flavor which would it be?) he kind of hesitated but said it was probably Natchez. He hesitated to say it because it was new but said they were big berries and a great flavor.

Strawberries aren't bad. One year something ate all the leaves in the fall and they still came back and produced in the spring. But they do take up some real estate while you're waiting which doesn't work for everyone.

Good luck- Lisa


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RE: alkaline tolerant berries in central Texas?

I'm impressed with the selection at Bob Wells (out near Tyler), and if I'm going to put in the ground in January, bare root is the way to go. They sell those. But they say their minimum on-line order is $50! That's a killer. Are they serious about that?


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RE: alkaline tolerant berries in central Texas?

As to strawberries, I tried them once long ago, and was not very successful. But as I said, I'd really like to go vertical, as I can't offer them the real estate they'd need to produce well.


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RE: alkaline tolerant berries in central Texas?

I tried growing strawberries in a strawberry pot and that was worthless. Maybe I am doing it wrong.


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RE: alkaline tolerant berries in central Texas?

A lot of people like Starks bros, isons and there's quite a bit more online nurseries. STAY AWAY FROM ANYTHING OWNED BY TYTY! Check out the garden watchdog website; you can search for more Texas based nurseries. That's how I found bob wells and legg creek. Also, you might copy your post and repost it on the fruits forum. There's a few people over there with a wealth of berry knowledge. Also, don't be afraid to call bob wells nursery. They actually answer the phone and WANT to help you.


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RE: alkaline tolerant berries in central Texas?

I always thought those TyTY people were sleazy with their "sexy pin up" guys and gals posing with their plants.


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RE: alkaline tolerant berries in central Texas?

That's a BIG help. Many of those other vendors don't seem to have minimum order, and at least a couple are in Texas, which I'd like to patronize. I don't see Rosborough on any of their lists, but Natchez seems to be well represented. I understand Natchez is, unlike many thornless varieties, fairly upright, which seems to be a fit for me. To the extent it is invasive, a thornless variety is less worrisome. I usually don't like very new varieties because they haven't been well consumer-proven, but the 2007-developed Natchez sounds great. It is, I now see, a 2013 A&M Agrilife "Superstar" selection for Texas.

I know almost nothing about fruit and berries, so this has been a VERY useful discussion. Thanks to everyone.


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RE: alkaline tolerant berries in central Texas?

Make sure that your chill hours are right for natchez. I think those are in the 700 range. If you are less than that, you might check out ouachita or Osage. They are supposed to be similar in growth and flavor, I think just the fruiting time is different. Also, a lot of people like triple crown. I've preordered 3 of those for October shipping, as I accidentally killed my last three.


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RE: alkaline tolerant berries in central Texas?

Re chill hours, that's a good point. I see reports that Natchez does fine with 400-500, which is OK by me, as my area averages about 700 (though I will be planting on the south side of a brick-walled house). Might be smart to put some white foam board behind them.


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RE: alkaline tolerant berries in central Texas?

For some reason I confused the hours with that of Navaho, which is in the 7-800 range. Natchez is in the 300 range! You should be just fine! I just put two prime-ark freedoms in the ground about a month ago. Ordered them off amazon. They were a little sad looking when they arrived, but are looking really good now. I'm interested in seeing what they can do. I have to say though, I'm a little worried as I'm in 9a zone and I hear that they are supposed to not do well in the deep south, but I'm not sure how anyone would know already since they're so new.


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RE: alkaline tolerant berries in central Texas?

OK, I think I'm good to go. Am looking forward to this. I have called a few local sources, and while they tell me they "usually" have this variety or the other, they won't make any promises about individual varieties. Also, they don't take bare root delivery from their suppliers until December or even January, which strikes me as somewhat late. So I think I'll pre-order online from a reputable source, and ideally get them in the ground in November.

Interesting about Prime Ark fruit. In that context, I see the word "primocane" used as a feature. What exactly does that mean? I'm thinking it means you get fruit from new canes, which is useful if you live way up north and the canes dies back each year. What advantage would that be in the south? Also, what temperatures can canes endure without dying back?


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RE: alkaline tolerant berries in central Texas?

What I'm looking forward to is the double cropping. Fruit from primocane and floricane. I've got plenty of space in my backyard and just wanna test them.

I've got 3 plants from walmart that were mislabeled as black raspberry. You could plainly tell they were blackberries by the leaves and that they had no thorns. They are growing like crazy. I think they might be black magic or black satin. So don't be afraid to shop at big box stores next season! They've sometimes got some good stuff. I'm gonna extend my patch and add some raspberries too.
I think I got a little sun scotch on my brazos and ouachita plants, but it's pushing 100° everyday here lately. Since Natchez are supposed to be able to grow in the same climate as apache (from what I read), I think they'll be fine. There's a lady down my street that's been growing apaches for years.


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