Whether you’re just starting out in farming or are a seasoned pro, growing blackberries in New Mexico is a rewarding experience. All sorts of fruits and vegetables can be grown in the United States, and people actually do harvest them from their own homes.
Blackberries have been cultivated as a food source for humans for over two thousand years. Blackberries are not only eaten, but also used for medicinal purposes and as a deterrent in hedges.
Blackberries are a commercial crop and small fruit crop in the state, with a potential yield of up to 6,000 pounds per acre with proper care and management. This means that a single acre can produce twice as much fruit as it did before. It could take more than a decade for these plants to mature, but you’ll get the best results if you wait until the third or eighth year.
How To Grow Blackberries In Southern New Mexico?
In order to get started growing blackberries in Southern New Mexico, there are some steps and procedures you should take. To begin, have you selected the variety of blackberry you wish to grow?
Now that you’ve made up your mind, you’ll be able to plant these blackberries. It’s best to plan ahead and get the soil ready for these bushes a year before you actually plant them.
Blackberries should not be planted near hot peppers, eggplants, tomatoes, or strawberries as a general rule. Alternatively, any plant that has matured in the last three years will do. Why? You should stay away from areas where such planting practices have been implemented because they may eventually cause issues that would make it possible for you to cultivate such plants.
Find a spot that gets lots of sunlight and has plenty of space for these plants to flourish. No amount of shade or partial shade is going to help these produce a lot of fruit. A pH of 6.5 is ideal, but a sandy loam soil with good drainage is required. You might not be able to cultivate blackberries in the raised bed if the soil lacks adequate drainage.
After deciding on a location, you should amend the soil with organic compost in the summer or fall and then plant blackberries in the spring.
How Long Does It Take For Blackberries To Bear Fruit?
Knowing how long it takes for a specific variety of blackberry to bear fruit is essential when growing blackberries in New Mexico. The blackberries won’t start bearing fruit for another three to four days.
The summer months of July, August, and September are prime time for harvesting fruit. Keep in mind that once a fruit has reached full ripeness, it will no longer ripen any further, so don’t pick it before it’s ready.
You can watch the fruit change from red to black, but waiting to pick them is the best strategy. They can be left in the garden for up to four days before being harvested for culinary use.
How Much Should Blackberries Grow In Their First Year?
Numerous events are possible during the first year of development for these blackberries. You can see the canes growing right away after planting the seeds, and they will begin to produce leaves as early as this year.
Canes have a maximum lifespan of two years, and it is recommended to prune older canes to prevent diseases from stunting growth. The quicker you can produce these canes, the sooner you’ll notice the new shoots emerging.
You can tell that blackberries are ready to pick at the very end of summer. Alternatively, they are in this state at the beginning of autumn and must be harvested when it is cooler so that they can be refrigerated.
What Month Do You Plant Blackberries?
These blackberries should be planted in the spring, when the blackberry canes are dormant. This is because in milder climates you can finish planting in the late fall, but in colder regions you need to wait until early spring because the cold can damage the hybrid varieties.
Where Is The Best Place To Grow Blackberries?
Hydroponic greenhouses are ideal for cultivating blackberries in New Mexico. Use your wires and posts, some garden twine, and a trellis to train the canes so that only the best fruit develops.
The next step is to use your well-drained soil and plant these crops in full sun. You can put as much compost in the planting hole as you like. Be sure to keep watering these until you see a solid root system developing.
Can You Grow Blackberries From Fruit?
Is it possible to plant blackberries from the fruit itself, as is done with the planting of any other crop? Although blackberries thrive in USDA plant hardiness zones 5–10, propagation is typically accomplished through division or cuttings. The berry bush replica is provided by this.
These shrubs can be propagated from either seeds or flowers. You can do this by harvesting blackberry fruits and then collecting their seeds while they are still fresh rather than using dried fruits. When seeds dry out, they germinate less quickly.
Will I Get Blackberries First Year?
From the preceding paragraphs, you now know what happens to a blackberry bush in its first year, but the question remains: will you be able to harvest healthy berries from your bush in its first year? The key is to keep an eye on the seeds and see how they develop.
The seeds will germinate and the canes will grow, but the first year will typically only yield a few fruits and leaves.
Will Blackberries Bushes Spread?
It is possible for the bushes to spread underground and take root wherever the vines make contact with the ground. When animals eat these berries, they transport the seeds through their digestive systems to new areas. A small seedling has the potential to grow into a very thickety forest.
Have you thought about finding out more information about growing these crops? Keep checking back because we will be adding to this blog.
The blackberry is a member of the same genus as the raspberry.Rubus), which is part of the family of shrubs and small trees collectively known as brambles. The canes of a bramble plant grow every other year because its roots persist for much longer. Fruit (floricanes) is produced on canes (primocanes) formed/grown in the first growing season the following summer. As winter sets in, the canes wither and die. While most blackberry canes feature numerous small to large thorns, thornless cultivars have been grown for decades, and more recently, a few new thornless varieties have been introduced.
The blackberry’s fruit is an aggregate made up of many individual fruits (called “drupelets”) that are juicy and contain tough seeds. Unlike raspberries, blackberries’ core (receptacle) is included in the final product that is consumed by humans. The raspberry’s hollow interior is the result of the receptacle remaining on the cane after picking.
Types of Blackberries
Blackberry plants can be either upright or semi-erect, or even trailing. Blackberries that grow upright have squarer stems than trailing varieties, which are more typically rounded. By virtue of their arched, self-supporting canes, erect cultivars typically do not require staking, especially if they are topped in the summer (Especially, look at the section on Training and Trimming down below.Trailing varieties must be trained to a trellis. Cultivars that fall somewhere in between, such as semi-erect varieties, benefit greatly from trellising.
Compared to upright cultivars, trailing blackberries are more drought-resistant and produce higher yields. However, erect blackberries are better able to withstand cold temperatures. Since trailing blackberries flower and ripen before erect cultivars, they are more likely to be damaged by late frosts. As a result, central and northern New Mexico are not good locations for growing trailing blackberries.
Historically, all blackberry cultivars (known as “floricane-fruiting” cultivars) have a 2-year production cycle, with the first year being the non-fruiting “primocane” and the second year being fruit production. Blackberry ‘Prime-Jan’ and ‘Prime-Jim’ were the first “primocane-fruiting” cultivars (sometimes called “fall blackberries”) to be released in 2004 by the University of Arkansas. These cultivars complete their production cycle in a single year by bearing fruit on the current season’s canes. Three additional primocane-bearing cultivars were introduced later (for details, see theCultivarsin the next section). Cultivars of the primocane-fruiting type can be managed as though they were of the floricane-fruiting type, allowing for two harvests in a single year. All fruiting primocane cultivars we know of so far are erect types (for more information, see theCultivarspart below).
Although most blackberry varieties are self-fertile, cross-pollination usually results in higher yields and better quality. It is recommended that at least two colonies of bees are kept per acre for the best pollination results.
Cultivar evaluations conducted in Alcalde, New Mexico have shown promising results for the following well-established and recently released cultivars:
‘Ouachita’:Published by the University of Arkansas in 2009. Excellent mid-season cultivar for yield. Excellent tolerance for New Mexico’s high-pH soils. The University of Arkansas’s best-selling and most-planted cultivar.
‘Natchez’:Exited the University of Arkansas in 2007. Arrives at full maturity before ‘Ouachita. Berry size and flavor are both above average, and they ripen early.
‘Osage’: The latest offering from Arkansas’s alma mater (which was left out of the Alcalde case). Size- and time-wise, a match for ‘Ouachita. The yield is comparable to or even greater than that of the ‘Ouachita’ variety, and the size is just right for most uses.
‘Navajo’:Exited the University of Arkansas in 2006. Alcalde trial results showed dwarfing effects on both plant size and fruit size. This is a no-go zone
State of New Mexico.
‘It’s a ‘Triple Crown,’Large, thornless berries that are more productive than ‘Chester’ and ready to pick earlier in New Mexico.
‘Chester’:Non-prickly and partially upright. When compared to the larger and softer fruit of the ‘Triple Crown,’ berries are a smaller but distinct subset. Triple Crown’s productivity pales in comparison.
In terms of cold tolerance, trailing cultivars are not as sturdy as their erect and semi-erect counterparts and are more likely to be damaged by late spring frosts. It is not suggested that you bring them up to or around the central region of New Mexico.
Primocane-fruiting cultivars (fall blackberries)
“First-Class Traveler”:The most recent addition, introduced in 2015 by the University of Arkansas. This thornless primocane-fruiting blackberry was the first variety to be released by the University of Arkansas for commercial cultivation. High quality, medium-large fruit is produced by healthy plants that produce abundant harvests. more suitable for field planting in northern New Mexico because it matures 7-12 days earlier than ‘Prime-Ark 45. The fruit is more firm than ‘Prime-Ark 45,’ and it does, in fact, ship well. ‘Prime-Ark 45’ does not produce quite the same level of yield.
“Prime-Ark Liberty”:To date, this thornless primocane-fruiting blackberry, introduced in 2013, is the first of its kind. Extremely mature for its size, very early. It’s not shippable, so you should only make it at home.
Prime-Ark 45Debuting in 2009. Produces well in high tunnels despite its thorniness, thanks to its massive fruit size. In comparison to ‘Prime-Jan’ and ‘Prime-Jim,’ ‘Prime-Ark 45’ had more robust flavor and larger fruit. Farmers in northern New Mexico should be wary of field planting ‘Prime-Ark 45’ due to its late maturity. Plenty of green fruit will ripen before the season is cut short by frost. Most popular primocane-fruiting variety in the States.
A Prime-Jan and a Prime-Jim:The University of Arkansas introduced the world’s first thorny primocane-fruiting blackberry cultivars in 2004. Fruit size is limited, and production is lower than with ‘Prime-Ark 45. Their use in New Mexico is not suggested.
Although they prefer full sun, blackberries can also be grown in the backyard if given enough shade. Shade is not good for growth.
Planting blackberries on a hillside protects them from late spring frosts more effectively than planting them in a valley. Temperatures lower than 26 degrees Fahrenheit can be harmful to blossoms. Spring fruiting canes are sensitive to cold temperatures, and temperatures between 20 and 24 degrees Fahrenheit can cause damage. Cane damage or flower bud damage may occur when winter low temperatures drop below 0 degrees Fahrenheit, and especially below -5 degrees Fahrenheit. If you want consistent blackberry yields, you need to find a sheltered location.
Canes and berries are susceptible to damage from dry, hot winds in the spring. Commercial activities may benefit from windbreaks built on the southwest side of the planting.
Considering the available market and labor force is essential when choosing a commercial site. A good location for a pick-your-own business would be close to a sizable metropolitan area.
Field planting vs. high tunnels
New Mexico State University’s Sustainable Agriculture Science Center recently compared cultivar performance in a blackberry field and a high tunnel (hoop house, unheated greenhouse) planting in Alcalde, New Mexico. High tunnels doubled the yield of semi-erect cultivars compared to field planting. Also, the ripening time was sped up by two to three weeks thanks to the use of high tunnels. In addition, canes fared better through the winter in high tunnels. High tunnels consistently yielded abundant crops of the primocane-fruiting cultivar ‘Prime-Ark 45. Combining high tunnel and field planting/production systems is an option for commercial growers. See NMSU Extension Circular 606 for instructions on building a high tunnel/hoop house.Installing New Mexico’s Hoop Houses (https://pubs.nmsu.edu/_circulars/CR606/).
Soil and Site Preparation
Although they can be grown in a wide range of soil conditions, blackberries do best in acidic, well-drained sandy loams with a pH of 6.5 to 7.5. Above a soil pH of 7.5, iron chlorosis (yellowing) of leaves can appear in plants (see the ).Fertilizationpart below). Don’t plant in sandy soils because they don’t retain water. Unfortunately, blackberry roots are easily destroyed by prolonged exposure to water, so proper drainage is crucial.
Organic matter added to soils prior to planting blackberries increases crop yields. At a rate of 10-15 tons per acre (2.5-3.75 cubic feet per 100 square feet), livestock manure can be worked into the soil in the autumn. Two to three tons of chicken manure per acre can be spread in the fall. Green manure crops, such as Sudangrass in the fall or winter wheat, barley, rye, or oats in the spring, can be incorporated the year before planting to add a substantial amount of organic matter. Before planting, it’s best to till the soil to a depth of about 9 inches, then use a disk and a harp to break up any clods. Before planting, fields should be irrigated to promote healthy soil moisture levels.
It is imperative that all perennial weeds, such as bindweed, be removed from potential blackberry planting locations. It is extremely challenging to eradicate bindweed because its seed can remain dormant in the soil for up to 30 years. Other perennial weeds, such as Bermudagrass and Johnsongrass, need to be eradicated a year before planting.
When starting a new blackberry patch, make sure to use plants that have been verified to be free of nematodes and viruses. Once you receive your plants, you should immediately put them into the ground between the end of February and the beginning of April. If the temperature stays between 36 and 38 degrees Fahrenheit, dormant plants can be kept for up to a month during a weather emergency. Keep the soil moist to prevent root rot. Even if the weather isn’t right for planting, you can “heeled in” your plants and keep them safe in the garden until spring. Dig a trench large enough to hold the roots in a shady part of the garden. Plants should have their roots buried in the moist soil and spread out along the trench. Maintain a moist environment in the trench.
You should soak the roots for a few hours before planting if the plants are dry when you receive them. Before planting, tops should be trimmed to a length of about 6 inches. The remaining stems and leaves serve two purposes: as planting handles and as markers in the garden or field. Remove any damaged roots before planting new ones. You can use a shovel or mattock to dig individual holes for planting. Using a tractor, commercial growers may create a furrow in the field that is four to six inches deep. Only right before you’re about to plant should you cut furrows so that the soil has time to absorb the water. Replants should be placed at the same or slightly deeper soil levels than they were in the nursery. Soak up excess water, firm the soil around the plants, and then water them right away.
Training methods, equipment widths, and individual preferences all contribute to a range of optimal row distances from 8 to 12 feet. Row spacing for semi-erect cultivars should be between 4 and 5 feet, depending on the cultivar’s vigorousness. Plant upright blackberry cultivars for a hedge 2-3 feet apart. Plant vigorous erect or semi-erect cultivars as individual plants 4-8 feet apart and train them to a trellis or stake.
Suckers and root cuttings are both viable methods for expanding erect blackberry plants. Ideally, root cuttings would be between 3 and 6 inches in length and have a diameter of about a half an inch or less. Dig planting holes that are a couple of inches deep in compacted soils and up to six inches deep in sandy ones. You should keep your hedge rows at a distance of a couple of feet. Press the soil firmly over the cuttings, then water right away. In the early spring, you can gather root cuttings from established upright blackberry plants by digging up roots about 2 to 3 feet away from the plants. It is possible to dig and replant suckers in the late autumn or early spring without affecting the parent plant’s yield.
The thornlessness of blackberries can be maintained through “tip layering” propagation. Sometimes called “chimeras,” trailing thornless cultivars have thornless outer cane and root tissue but retain thorniness characteristics in the inner tissue. As a result of root damage, the plant will send up sharp suckers.
To perform tip layering, a hole or trench three to four inches deep is dug around the plant in the fall, and the growing tips of primocanes (first-year growth) are inserted vertically into the hole, with the growing tip facing the opposite direction. Firm the soil around the tips before watering to cover them. The following spring, rooted cuttings up to 6 inches in length can be severed from the mother plant and moved to a new location.
Training and Pruning
Blackberries can either grow upright or trail down a trellis, so both types need to be trained to one. It is possible to grow upright cultivars without any trellising, but doing so will make the process of tending and harvesting the plants much more difficult. Trailing blackberry cultivars require trellises to be built the same year the plants are first planted in the ground. In late winter or early spring, you should secure the canes to the trellis. Carefully handling canes can prevent them from breaking or forming right angles, both of which can reduce the cane’s ability to absorb water and nutrients. Cane yields are unaffected by cutting off the canes at the tips. Although the number of berries produced might decrease, their size could potentially increase if half or more of the cane is removed.
In most cases, a vertical two-wire trellis is used to support trailing blackberries. Space the uprights 16 to 24 feet apart along the line. Two galvanized wires, one at 5 feet (#9 gauge) and the other at 3 feet (#10-11 gauge), should be strung between the posts. Allow some slack in the wiring by stapling it loosely to the posts. Most commonly, trainers will arrange individual canes along the wires to form a fan (see Figure 1). Growers of semi-erect cultivars can increase branching and fruit area by pinching the cane tips just as they reach the top wire.
The trellis’s end posts, shown in Figure 1, should have a diameter of four to six inches and be set two feet into the ground. Use fence posts that are at least 18 inches in the ground to serve as the intermediate stakes. Use a wood preservative on all the wooden posts. Metal trellis posts can be used by organic farmers.
When growing upright blackberries, spaced at roughly 3–3.5 feet apart, two single-wire trellises can be used to contain the canes for easier management and harvesting. Rows of either erect or trailing blackberries shouldn’t be more than 300 feet in length to facilitate easy access for pickers.
After summer fruiting is complete, cut down any old canes that have grown to ground level. Cane removal from a garden or field can be an effective method for reducing pest populations. Canes are either burned or shredded for compost.
In the summer, when the canes of upright blackberry varieties reach a height of 3 feet or slightly more, they should be topped. The ideal height of a plant varies with its cultivar and its overall health and vitality. To encourage fruit production from side shoots the following season, growers often “top” (also called “tip”) their canes at the end of the growing season. Canes that have been topped grow stronger and can carry more fruit than those that haven’t been pruned.
In the spring, you should trim your laterals to a height of 12-18 inches. Fruit produced from these laterals will be larger and of higher quality than that produced from unpruned laterals. When a tree has been pruned, the lateral branches become more manageable to select.
The spring pruning of trailing blackberries should leave 6-12 strong canes per plant. Blackberries that have been trained to grow upright as a hedge should have their cane density reduced to about five or six per square foot.
Primocane-fruiting (fall) blackberries can have their canes cut to the ground in the spring before harvesting season begins if only the fall harvest is desired. In order to get fruit in both the summer and fall, growers should remove the tops of the canes that bear fruit and leave the bottoms in place.
Weeds can be kept in check in new plantings by regularly but shallowly (about 2–3 inches) cultivating the soil to get rid of them without uprooting the plants. Alleys between hedge rows should be inspected for unwanted suckers and pruned as necessary.
In the final stages of preparing land (or a garden), 50-80 pounds per acre of P2O5 (1-2 pounds per 1,000 square feet) of preplant phosphorous fertilizer should be broadcast, rototilled, or banded into the center of potential hedgerows. An insufficient amount of potassium in the soil necessitates the addition of potassium. The NMSU Extension Guide A-114, which can be found here, has more information on soil testing.Try the Soil in Your Garden (https://pubs.nmsu.edu_a/A114/).
A nitrogen fertilizer application of 10 to 20 pounds per acre of elemental nitrogen (1/4 to 1/2 pound per 1,000 square feet) should be made as the first year’s growth of new plants begins. After the plants have had time to root (about 4–6 weeks), you can apply nitrogen. Intense or premature nitrogen applications can damage developing roots. A band of nitrogen fertilizers 9–12 inches wide and deeply tilled into the soil (about 2–4 inches) will promote healthy plant growth. Drip irrigation is also a great way to apply soluble fertilizers to your plants.
Each year in the spring, you should spread 50-80 pounds of phosphorus per acre. Half of the nitrogen should be applied in the spring before bud break (1 to 2 1/4 pounds per 1,000 square feet), and the other half should be applied in the fall after the crop has been harvested. Apply fertilizer in a band 12-16 inches from the perimeter of the hedgerow, digging it in deeply (2-4 inches). Drip irrigation systems can be used to apply soluble fertilizers as well.
In order to treat iron chlorosis, plants can be given foliar or soil applications of chelated iron products containing FeEDDHA. Using fertigation, chelated iron products can be easily applied if drip irrigation is used for watering. It is not recommended to apply these substances via foliar spray while flowers are open. To get the best results, farmers and gardeners should use the amounts recommended on the packaging. See NMSU Extension Guide H-171 for more information on iron chlorosis.Chlorosis of Iron (https://pubs.nmsu.edu/_h/H171/).
You can water blackberries with a flood, furrow, sprinkler, or drip system. Although furrow and flood irrigation are typically the most cost-effective methods, they cannot be used on unleveled fields or gardens.
Sprinkler irrigation is commonly used by gardeners because of its convenience. However, it has been found that sprinklers actually increase the prevalence of foliar diseases in plants. The use of furrow, flood, or sprinkler irrigation techniques, as opposed to drip irrigation, results in a greater number of weeds growing in the spaces between hedgerows.
Drip irrigation is the most cost-effective way to apply water and fertilizer, but it can be pricey. Alley weeds are less prevalent because most of the water is not reaching the foliage. Drip irrigation systems are more efficient because they distribute water slowly and reliably, but they are vulnerable to rodents and cultivation because of their exposed nature.
During our five-year blackberry trial in Alcalde, New Mexico, we saw winter cane damage, especially in the field planting, but we only found spotted wing drosophila as a pest in the latter years. The following are some of the diseases and pests that may affect blackberries in New Mexico.
Caused by verticillium, a type of algaeis a fungus that lives in soil and can cause problems in certain parts of New Mexico. In extreme cases, the canes that bear fruit may take on a bluish-black hue. Near the time of fruiting, the leaves turn yellow and the canes wither and die. Planting certified, disease-free plants in Verticillium wilt-free soil is an effective method of disease control. In addition to pre-plant fumigation and resistant cultivars, growers have other options.
Anthracnosecauses damage to canes and leafy plants. The disease manifests as tiny, purple, slightly raised spots on young shoots. The oval-shaped spots grow in size and develop grayish, sunken centers and raised purplish edges. There’s a chance that the merging spots will take on an unnatural form. You can keep it under control by applying liquid lime sulfur in the late winter when the plants are dormant and by engaging in good sanitation practices (such as removing diseased plants from your garden and burning them).
This fruit has gone bad.the Botrytis fungus is usually to blame. Symptoms can vary from minor drupelet discoloration to total berry rot. Gray or black mold commonly covers berries that have spoiled. If berries dry out and harden on the canes, they may shrivel and lose their flavor. Remove diseased fruit and use fungicides that have been approved for use to prevent fruit rot.
Royal venomis an infection caused by bacteria that manifests as warty galls at the plant’s base or its roots. Mechanical stress on the plant from activities like pruning and cultivation is a major vector for the disease’s spread. Do not replant blackberries in the same location after removing infected plants from the garden. A 10% chlorine bleach solution should be used regularly to disinfect pruning tools and other equipment.
Nematodestiny parasitic worms that occasionally become a problem, especially in sandy soils. As a result of nematodes, cane growth is stunted, and the leaves and fruit are much smaller than normal. In addition, when temperatures rise, leaves may dry up and fall. The best way to prevent infestation is to fumigate the soil in the summer before planting.
Insectscause issues with blackberries every once in a while. Mites, thrips, aphids, leafhoppers, cutworms, and stink bugs are among the most common. Application of a registered insecticide is typically used. For proper identification and appropriate control measures, consult your county Extension agent (http://aces.nmsu.edu/county/).
Drosophila simulans, or spotted-wing,is the fruit fly. The fruit flies lay their eggs inside the fruit, and the maggots then feed on the fruit. In 2013, it was discovered in Los Lunas, New Mexico, and in 2014, it was discovered in Alcalde. Farmers need to be on guard against this pest. Adult males, as their moniker implies, sport a spot on each wing. This pest primarily targets soft fruits, so farmers should harvest early and completely before any of the fruit has had a chance to overripen. Spraying should begin as soon as these flies are discovered in the field. You can find additional information at http://spottedwing.org.
Chlorosis of leaves is typically brought on by iron deficiency in high-pH soils. Applying a chelated iron product containing FeEDDHA to the foliage or soil can help keep it under control.
Harvesting and Storage
Picking should begin before the air gets too hot in the morning. Gather berries that are all the same size, firmness, and color. It takes about 2-3 days before fully mature blackberries turn completely black. When fully ripe, blackberries lose their luster and turn a dull black color. Due to the widespread presence of the spotted wing drosophila, no overly mature berries should be left in the field. Berries need to be picked at least three times a week, if not more frequently than that. So that they don’t get in the way of their picking, harvest containers can be hung from the picker’s neck or belt.
Be gentle when picking berries. Avoid crushing the berries by using shallow containers for picking. If the berries are going to be stored at 75 degrees Fahrenheit or higher for more than 24 hours, you need to get them into the fridge as soon as possible to prevent rapid quality loss. Store berries between 32 and 35 degrees Fahrenheit and 90 percent humidity for four to five days.