Growing Blackberries & Peonies Having Problems

Question:

 I am looking to plant some blackberries and need some advice on what varieties would be best suited for this area? I am especially interested in the thornless varieties.

Answer:

  • Today, there is a renewed interest in growing Blackberries and Raspberry as they are widely available. They're being planted by a new generation of gardeners, but they're not always suited for every yard.
  • Before you plant, consider the negative growing points. Blackberries and Raspberries are aggressive growing vines that need to be maintained; otherwise, they'll overtake a landscape, and removing them will be expensive and time-consuming.
  • They like a sunny location and must be supported with a sturdy trellis. Typically, a fence is used, but this is a horrible idea, as there is no way you can prevent the underground rhizomes from intruding into an adjourning yard. Ultimately, this could lead to a nasty neighbor dispute.
  • You'll need a four-foot-wide planting area that is at least four feet from any property line. Ideally, it should be in a raised bed so you can control the rogue roots.
  • The berries form on the second year's growth. Each year, the fruiting canes are cut off at the ground after the harvest.
    • They're replaced on the trellis with the new shoots that have formed at the base of each plant. Before planting, be sure to add plenty of organic matter like homemade compost or any of the blended soil conditioners.
  •  The vines are watered often and fertilized annually in the spring.
  • They’re sprayed during the winter to control Berry Mite. Berry Mite causes the berries to ripen halfway and be very hard. The nursery professional at your favorite garden center should be able to assist you with the varieties, but you can't go wrong with Boysenberry, Ollie, or Marion.
    • And finally, thorny blackberries are heavier producers than the thornless ones. 
  • Unless you have a big yard you might want to pass on this.

Question:

I'm trying to grow bush peonies in large containers. They grow to about four or five inches, and then the leaves start to brown around the edges. They slowly brown until I get disgusted and prune the plant back. What can I do to prevent this year? 

Answer:

  • With containerized plants, leaves that have a burnt edge usually suggest moisture problems.
  • The edge of a leaf is the last point that gets moisture and is the first point to show water stress issues. Windy and sunny conditions dry these plants out quickly; so containerized plants are watered frequently compared to those in the ground.
  • When the daytime temperature is over seventy-five degrees, I'd be watering  them every other day. The container should be up off the ground so the water flows freely out the bottom. I'd dump the water out of any saucer or better yet delete them.
  • I'm not a fan of saucers because of the problem with mosquitoes and West Nile Virus.