Growing Backyard Berry Crops
How and where to plant berry bushes, a discussion of 'everbearing' types vs. once bearing, pruning for maximum yield, controlling growth on brambly bushes such as blackberries, organic pest control measures
Raspberries and blackberries are some of the simplest fruits to grow at home. Their relatively high cost and scarcity in the supermarket has more to do with shipping difficulties (soft fruit bruises easily) than ease of cultivation. Members of this ‘bramble’ family, so named for their thorny stems and thickety growth, grow wild in wooded areas so are a bit more shade tolerant than other fruits. For maximum fruit yield, however, give them as much sun as possible.
Bramble bushes are most easily managed and will produce better if they are not allowed to colonize into tangled thickets. It’s best to grow them against some sort of fence, even if it’s just a simple structure of posts with two or three rows of heavy gauge wire stretched between them. Though the roots of bramble bushes are perennial, each individual cane is biennial, meaning it completes its cycle of fruiting in a two-year period. First year canes, called primocanes, grow leaves but do not bear fruit during their first season. As they sprout and grow longer, allow them to lean away from the fence or trellis. Anytime from fall through early spring, as their second season of growth commences, tie them or weave them through the fence or trellis. These second year canes, or floricanes, will flower and produce berries as new primocanes emerge. Once the fruit has been harvested from them, cut them off at the base -- they will not fruit again. Then tie the remaining canes, which have yet to bear fruit, to the fence and let the cycle continue.
Some varieties of raspberry are referred to as “everbearing” and bear fruit in both spring and fall. These include the varieties “Heritage” and “Fall Gold” (known for its incredible sweetness. “Fall Gold” and other golden raspberries are also less likely than red and black raspberries to be gobbled up by birds, who don’t recognize them as being ripe. Another way to avoid inadvertent sharing with the birds is to put a net over berry bushes.