How to Grow Your Own Berries

Once you sample your homegrown blackberries and raspberries, you'll know they were worth the trouble.
Blackberries Growing on Trellis

Blackberries Growing on Trellis

Blackberries can be trained to grow up a fence or trellis, which adds support to the plant's growth and adds a touch of color to your backyard.

Blackberries can be trained to grow up a fence or trellis, which adds support to the plant's growth and adds a touch of color to your backyard.

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Fresh berries are pretty expensive to buy because there's only a narrow window of time between harvest and decline. You can grow your own, however, and you'll love the fresh-off-the-vine flavor. Although they're considered a cool-season crop, berries are easy to grow in most parts of the country. Berry brambles love to ramble out of control, but with some extra care and attention, gardeners can tame even the most arduous vines.

County extension agent Chuck Ingels shares some advice:


There are two types of blackberries: the upright varieties grow vertically, and the trailing types send out horizontal runners. The trailing varieties like to set down roots and take off in the garden at the end of the growing season. In the fall, the terminal growth will grow into the soil and root to form a new plant, which may be a problem if you don't want plants all over your yard. To prevent unwanted roaming, Chuck suggests creating a plant barrier.

One such barrier is this in-ground device that reaches about a foot deep into the soil. Barriers may be made of concrete, redwood, plastic, stainless steel, or pretty much anything that blocks meandering roots. However, most home gardeners opt for easier methods of keeping berries in check, such as diligent hoeing and a thick layer of mulch.

Managing where these plants grow is one thing, but managing how they grow is another. Most varieties of blackberries bear fruit on 2-year-old shoots called floricanes.

Next year, this year's floricanes will be replaced by new shoots, primocanes. After they've fruited, the canes die back and should be cut down to make room for the new primocanes.

While that may sound complicated, it's easy to tell the difference between the old growth that requires pruning out, and the new growth that bears next year's berries. There is an exception to pruning brambleberries: for everbearing or fall-bearing types, cut those to the ground every winter.

Types of Hybrid Blackberries

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Modern Blackberry Cultivars Grow in Containers

Modern blackberries cultivars can easily be grown in containers. Plant them in early spring and set in full sun.

©2012, Dorling Kindersley Limited

Boysenberry Cross of Loganberry and Blackberry

The boysenberry is a hybrid vining berry, a mix of raspberry, blackberry and the loganberry. The fruit looks like an elongated blackberry, and it is larger than either the raspberry or blackberry. They are usually eaten fresh, or made into juice or jams.

©2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited

Loganberry Cross of Raspberry and Blackberry

The loganberry is a relatively modern variety of fruit, which resulted from an accidental cross between a raspberry and a blackberry. Loganberries look a lot like blackberries, or very dark raspberries depending on their variety. Best eaten cooked.

©2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited

Tayberry Cross of Raspberry and Blackberry

The tayberry is a cross between a blackberry and raspberry. Grown for its sweeter, larger, aromatic fruits that have an excellent flavor. It is a beautiful bright purple color and can be eaten fresh from the bush or cooked into jams, jellies and desserts.

©2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited

Japanese Wineberry Covered in Red Bristles

Japanese wineberry is a delicious fruit that ripens even in partial shade. It is fuzzy thorned, red toned new shoots in spring and butter yellow foliage in autumn. Train against a wall. Often grown as an ornamental.

©2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited

Growing berries doesn't require a lot of space. All you need is a long, narrow section — for instance, along a house or fence. To build a berry trellis, Chuck recommends using a posthole digger. Blackberries grow taller than raspberries and need to be trained upward, so Chuck constructs a vertical trellis composed of two 8-foot-long 4x4s buried two feet in the ground and secured with a brace along the inside of the posts for stability.

Next, he evenly spaces three screw hooks between the brace and the top and along both sides of the post. Onto each hook, Chuck places a turnbuckle and strings galvanized wire from one side to the other, twisting the wire to secure it in place. The turnbuckle's screw pulls the wire taut.


For a raspberry trellis, you need less height and more depth. There are several ways to create the structure — placing one post in the middle with a cross arm or placing two posts about three feet apart.

Raspberries are semi-erect, which means that as they get taller, they need support. Ingels uses four 6-foot posts to form a 6-foot-long rectangle. Lengthwise, each post is strung together with wire through the turnbuckle so that the berries can neatly grow taller and wider. Black raspberries are another variety that's gaining popularity; their growth habit is almost identical to the blackberry types that feature long, trailing shoots.


Once your trellis structure is built, you're ready to plant. Generally, berries love organic matter mixed into the soil, but if you have only so-so soil, blackberries are your best bet. Remember to avoid planting too deep in the soil. Make sure you have a mound of soil so you're planting on a slightly raised area. This way, water can drain away from the plant. "It's really important that water doesn't sit in a hole around your plants because they'll rot," warns Ingels. When planting, space raspberries about 2-1/2 to three feet apart.

Prune & Train Raspberries

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Tall Raspberry Plants Need Adequate Support

Summer fruiting raspberries are tall plants and must be given enough support as they grow. Select the strongest plants, and tie them along wire supports. Summer-bearing canes should be pruned down to the ground after bearing fruit. New canes that have not borne fruit should be left alone: they will bear fruit next year.

©2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited

Loop Taller Raspberry Canes Over Support Wires

Raspberries are usually planted in rows and trained along a post and wire system. Tie in new season, summer fruiting canes, looping taller stems over the top of the wire in spring.

©2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited

Prune Growths Back Hard to Few Buds from Ground

Prune the growth hard back to one or two buds from the ground. Always make straight cuts just above a pair of healthy buds to reduce the risk of dieback.

©2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited

Tie Fall Fruiting Raspberries to Supports

Autumn fruiting raspberries produces heavy crops of large, delicious berries from August until the winter frosts. All the canes should be cut back to just above ground level each February. As new canes emerge in spring they are tied onto wire supports.

©2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited

Pick Raspberries When Ripe and Use Immediately

Pick juicy looking, brightly colored raspberries, as raspberries do not continue to ripen once picked. The plug or core will remain behind on the bush if the berry is ripe. If the hulls stay attached, it means it is too early.

©2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited


Once your plants start growing, it's important to differentiate between the old and new growth. During the first year, your plants may grow five to six feet; as it grows, tie it up along the trellis. "In fact, some years what I've done is tied a string down to the vine, and it'll then grow straight up the string to the wire," says Chuck.

With the summer-bearing types, train the flowering canes along the wires and encourage diagonal growth. Then the primal canes should have plenty of room and sunlight to grow vertically between the two wires.

Don't forget to train the new growth regularly or prune your brambles before they have a chance to ramble out of control. Water your berry plants well, add some organic mulch, and soon, tasty treats will be on their way.

These berries take some extra time and work in the garden, but the outstanding fruit will be your delectable reward.

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