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Given space, sun, water and support, blackberries can thrive

va farm bureauOne merit of home garden blackberries is that picking them can be safer than picking along the side of a road.

“These plants can be a great addition to the home garden,” said Chris Mullins of Virginia Cooperative Extension. “A home grower can probably get 10 to 20 pounds of fruit from each plant over the growing season, and they’re a perennial crop so they’re going to be here for a long time in the garden.”

Mullins hosts a home vegetable and fruit gardening segment on Real Virginia, a weekly television program produced by Virginia Farm Bureau.

He said one thing to consider before planting blackberries is site selection.

“You’re going to need a site that gets full sun, and you need to think about having plenty of room. You don’t want to put them too close together.” He recommended planting blackberry plants 4 to 5 feet apart in rows that are 10 feet apart.

“They can be put in soil that’s got a pH of 6.5 to 7. Sandy soil is very good. Heavier soils, if you can amend with some sort of organic matter, will do very well,” Mullins said.

Because blackberries can require as much as an inch of water per week during their growing season, he recommended using a drip irrigation system and a layer of mulch to hold moisture in the soil. The mulch also will help keep weeds down.

Mullins also noted that blackberries need a trellis system. “These plants will grow up, but they will fall over,” he noted, adding that a trellis allows for better air circulation within the plants, which can help prevent disease.

Gardeners will be able to find both thorny and thornless blackberry plants, as well as varieties with different bearing seasons.

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