Planting Blackberry Vines & Rejuvenating Old Soil

Question:

 I’ve purchased several new Blackberry and Raspberry plants that I’m planting on a fence. How much sun do they require and will they have berries this coming summer or next year? 

Answer:

  • Blackberries and Raspberries, also known as cane berries, are not a good choice for many gardens. Unlike beans and peas, they are aggressive growing vines that need to be contained to prevent the vegetation and roots from becoming a major headache.
  • You do not want to plant the vines on any property line fence even if you’re adjourning open space. There is no way to prevent the underground roots from intruding into the adjourning property. This is the beginning of a neighbor dispute that you can’t win after exhausting a lot of time, energy, resources and aggravation.
  • Cane berries are best grown on a trellis structure, in raised beds three to four feet wide and four to six feet off any property line. Hence, many yards are too small to successfully grow them long-term.
    • The trellis needs to be sturdy enough to support the weight of the vegetation. I like to use a ‘T’ bar style of trellis made out of four by four post with a two by four cross piece and with a heavy gauge wire running between the post.
    • The posts are spaced on six-foot centers in the center of the bed. The plants should be spaced every four to five feet. Cane Berries require six hours of sunlight per day, April through October.
  •  Berries are produced on the second year growth so your plants will fruit next summer.
  • The vines are pruned off at the ground after you finish harvesting all the berries. These canes will not produce berries again, but if left uncut will form a thick, thorny, mass of vegetation called a briar. They are replaced on the trellis with the vigorous shoots growing at the base of the plants while the other new growth is removed.
  • And finally, you’re keeping a watchful eye and removing any signs of growth outside the raised bed. After weighing the pros and cons, you might want to reconsider growing your own raspberries and blackberries. 

Question:

 I do my gardening in containers on a balcony. Is it possible to recondition the existing dirt or is it necessary to buy new soil each year?

Answer:

  • It's not uncommon for gardeners to reuse the same soil year after year; however, it’s important to rejuvenate the soil by adding new nutrients.
  • I'd add several handfuls of Dr, Earth All Purpose Fertilizer, or similar organic fertilizer to the existing containers. It should be mixed or stirred into the remaining soil.
  • Potting soil is added if you need some additional volume.
  • If you're redoing several pots, you may wish to dump all the soil into a pile and mix in the nutrients all at once; otherwise, it's done one pot at a time.
  • And don’t forget, you still need to feed during the growing season.