Gardening With Tony
Raising Cane Takes A Bit Of Work
By Tony Tomeo
Jul 31, 2012 - 12:16:48 PM

LOS ANGELESAll the raspberries and blackberries that are now ripening do not come without a price. The canes that produce them may grow like weeds, and in many gardens really are weeds, but they need quite a bit of work. Like the deciduous fruit trees that need such meticulous pruning while dormant in winter, berry canes need winter pruning while dormant, as well as summer pruning as the berries finish.

Even this weedy unkempt bramble produces blackberries well, which is why someone has been picking them, leaving the blank stems. The remaining ripe berries will likely be gone by the time you read this. The red berries will ripen to black and be gone within days.

Blackberry canes that have produced fruit should be cut at the ground as the fruit gets depleted. Then, for 'trailing' varieties, about a dozen of the new canes that grew since spring should be selected, pruned to about six feet long, and trained onto the same supports that the removed canes used. 'Semi-erect' varieties need only about half as many canes, and get cut about a foot shorter. ('Erect' varieties that get cut even shorter are not common locally.) All other canes should be cut to the ground. Through the rest of summer, the pruned canes develop side branches which should eventually get pruned to about a foot long in winter to bloom and produce fruit next year; but that part must wait.

Summer bearing raspberries do not need to develop side branches to produce fruit next year, so do not necessarily need to be groomed of spent canes and pruned just yet, and can actually wait until winter. Ever-bearing raspberries are not nearly so simple, although canes that were selected while young last winter and allowed to grow through summer likewise need no pruning just yet. The top portions of these canes will produce fruit later in autumn, and later in winter, get pruned down as low as fruit developed. However, the lower portions of older canes that fruited the previous year and got their tops pruned down last winter are now finishing their second and last phase of fruit production, so should get pruned out as they finish.


Fruit of the Week: Blackberry

Rampant brambles of feral blackberry, Rubus fruticosus, canes are much too common and give blackberries a bad reputation. Yet, with regular selective grooming and pruning, their biennial stems that emerge from woody perennial roots are both more productive and easier to contain than one would guess. 'Primocanes' grow rapidly to six to sixteen feet in the first year. In the second year, they become 'floricanes', which do not grow longer, but instead develop lateral stems that bloom and fruit. Only a few modern 'fall bearing' or 'everbearing' cultivars fruit on primocanes.

Canes are trailing, semi-trailing or erect. As the names imply, trailing types like 'Marion', 'Boysen' and 'Olallie', need support. They are the most popular locally because they are more productive. Erect types that need no support, like 'Navaho', 'Choctaw' and 'Arapaho', are less productive, but because they are more tolerant to frost, are more popular where winters are colder. Old classic blackberry varieties are quite prickly. Modern thornless varieties are becoming more popular as more varieties are developed. All have palmately compound leaves with five or seven leaflets. Simple small white or pale pink flowers that bloom late in spring are followed by the familiar blackberries that are ripening now.

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