Question: Can I grow blackberries in Sampson County?
Answer: There are a few varieties that grow in Sampson County, such as Arapaho, Chester, Cheyenne, Choctaw, Navaho, and Shawnee. When selecting your plants, you should consider the chilling hours for success. Blackberries are classified by three different growth habits, which are trailing, semi-trailing, and erect. Erect and semi-trailing varieties need 3 to 4 feet between each plant. Trailing varieties need 6 to 8 feet between each plant. Be sure to provide support for the canes by using a trellis or stakes.
Early spring is the optimum time to plant blackberries. They do best in full sun and with plenty of room to grow and prefer a well-drained sandy loam soil. Typically, each plant can produce about 20 pounds of fruit. During the growing season, plants need about 1 inch of water per week. However, during fruit development each plant needs approximately 2 gallons of water each day. Mulching around the plants will help reduce moisture loss from the soil and minimize weed growth.
Just as other fruiting plants, blackberries require nutrients to promote healthy growth. Make fertilizer applications with a complete fertilizer such as 10-10-10 at a rate of 5 pounds per 100-foot row or 3 ounces per plant.
How do you know if the fruit is ready for harvest? A dull black fruit color indicates that the fruit is at its peak sweetness and is ripe. If you are going to refrigerate fruit, pick fruits that have a shiny black appearance. They will last longer in the refrigerator. Fruit harvest and consumption is not the last choir when it comes to blackberries.
After harvest is complete for the growing season, prune out all of the old fruiting canes. For the erect varieties, during the winter the laterals need to be pruned to approximately 12 to 16 inches. As new canes develop be sure to provide them support by tying them to the provided support structure. Check with your local extension agent for blackberry cultivars suitable for your area.
Reminder: A growing program this year is the “Sampson County Friends of Horticulture.” This program offers monthly “How To” Horticultural Seminars. Please call (910) 592-7161 for more information. Please call the Sampson County Cooperative Extension Center at (910) 592-7161 with your horticultural questions and to register for any upcoming events. Be sure to check out the Ask An Expert Widget at sampson.ces.ncsu.edu for any questions you may have.