I was so excited the other day when the kids and I were walking to my dad’s house and we came upon a huge patch of wild blackberries in full bloom along the dam beside his lake.
We’d looked all through the woods the other day, trying to find blackberries, without any luck. Looks like we’re gonna have plenty of berries to pick this summer after all!
I plan on transplanting a bunch of these bushes to my front yard. They are so beautiful when in full bloom, and having the berries a few steps from my front door will be a nice treat.
I think I’ll wait until after we’ve harvested the berries from this patch before I move them, so as not to lose any fruit. I’ve been reading up on the best time and way to transplant blackberry bushes. Here’s what I’ve learned…
Transplanting Blackberry Plants vs. Starting from Seed
Dark, sweet, and delicious, the blackberry is the perfect mid- to late-summer treat. A blackberry bush is super easy to grow at home, too, and hardy from zones three through nine.
As long as you carefully prepare a new spot and handle your transplants appropriately, you shouldn’t have any trouble getting started.
Most people choose to transplant blackberry plants versus starting them from seed. This is a matter of personal preference. It is usually easier to propagate blackberry bushes from propagation or division.
This way, you will know exactly what you are getting and you don’t have to mess around with the hassle of growing plants from seeds. It shortens your time to fruiting dramatically.
However, if you want to grow blackberry plants from seed, it can definitely be done. It will need to start about six months before you transplant an adult plant – so if you plan to transplant in September or October, you would need to start during the winter months.
Best Blackberry Plants for Transplanting
You can grow just about any type of blackberry plant from a transplant. Essentially, there are three main “categories” from which you can choose:
- erect thorny,
- erect thornless,
- and trailing thornless.
The differences between the three are pretty clear-cut. Erect blackberries are bushes that are more or less self-supporting while trailing blackberries have long canes that need to be trellis. Then you have a choice between plants with or without thorns.
All of these types are perennials, with the roots surviving year to year. However, the tops of the plants are biennials, growing vegetatively for one year, bearing fruit the next year, and then dying.
Each year, though, the plant will shoot up new canes to replace the ones that died. In order to avoid a messy appearance and to ensure good fruit production, you need to prune back the plant regularly.
All blackberry plants are self-fertile. You do not need multiple plants in order to produce fruit.
There are countless varieties of blackberry bushes for you to consider. However, some of the most popular options include Navaho and Arapaho (both erect thornless cultivars) and Cherokee, Shawnee, Brazos, and Cheyenne (all erect thorny).
If a semi-erect thornless is what you have in mind, then Black Satin is a good choice. For a trailing variety, you might want to consider Olallie.
No matter what, make sure the cultivar that you select is appropriate for your growing zone and preferences.
When to Transplant Blackberry Bushes
The best time to transplant blackberry (or raspberry) bushes is in Fall, after all of the berries have been picked. You should wait until the canes, or the branches that comprise the blackberry bush, have finished fruiting and have undergone some specific changes.
Keep in mind that only two-year-old canes are the only ones that produce fruit and at the end of the season, all of them will eventually die. One year old canes will stop growing at the end of fall but will begin growing after a dormant period that lasts through to the following spring.
This is why it’s best to plant blackberry bushes in the late fall or early winter. Depending on where you live, you may also be able to plant them in the early spring after the last frost date. Just wait until they are totally dormant but haven’t quite started growing yet.
Preparing for Transplanting
You should start by selecting the ideal site for your blackberry plants. In many areas, blackberries grow like weeds – they are almost invasive at times! Nevertheless, you should select a location where the soil is well-draining and rich in organic matter.
Avoid planting your blackberry bushes in an area that is mostly clay soil. This will hold too much water and can cause the roots of your plant to rot. Instead, add plenty of organic matter to the soil, which will add good structure and drainage to the soil. It will also help to feed the berries.
You will want to make sure the site gets plenty of sun, too – at least six to eight hours each day during the growing season. If you plant your blackberry bushes in a shady site with little sunlight, you will find that your plants grow okay – but that they don’t put on too many berries.
Prune the vines down to about 5″ tall before uprooting them. This will make them easier for you to transplant, but will also cause less stress to the plant. If you leave the long canes, and don’t trim anything back, these older branches will begin trying to bloom and create fruit again in Spring.
All of the plant’s energy will go toward growing the berries, and won’t be focused on the newly transplanted root system. If the plant isn’t able to establish strong, healthy roots, it could die as a result of focusing all nutrients on the longer fruit-bearing canes.
If you are transplanting multiple bushes, keep in mind that your plants will need to be spaced between five and eight feet apart. Some erect cultivars can get by with just three feet between them, but it’s better to err on the side of caution and allow for more space. There aren’t many benefits associated with planting blackberry bushes densely.
How to Transplant Blackberry Bushes
Begin digging about a foot from the plant all the way around, so as not to disrupt the root system too much. Dig about a foot deep as well. You don’t want to pull the plants up, or yank on the roots, but gently lift them out of the ground.
Once the plant is up, wrap the roots with a plastic bag to keep them safe until you’ve given them their new home. Try to get them in the ground again ASAP.
When digging a new hole for your transplant, make sure to make it twice the size of the root ball. This will give the roots lots of room to be able to spread out and take hold. You don’t ever want to cram them into a hole. Trim the roots a little if you need to.
Before putting your blackberry (or raspberry) bush into its new hole, add a little bit of barn litter or compost to the bottom of the hole. Berry bushes love acid soil, and manure or compost really help! Our soil here is mostly clay, and they do fine. Blackberries usually do well in most soil types.
Also before planting, you will want to carefully inspect your blackberry plant. Look out for any roots that appear to be dead or have any damage.
You can prune these back or trim them off entirely. This will help the berry canes overall and will not hurt them as long as you don’t trim too much.
Simply remove any stragglers that poke out from the plant at odd angles or seem to be growing in an unnatural way.
Soak the roots in a bucket of water for about an hour before planting. Don’t leave the roots in water too much longer than that though. You can also wrap the roots in damp newspapers for a bit if it’s going to be a while before you transplant. Make sure not to over-water once it’s in the ground.
Place the plant in the hole, and fill it in with soil. Tamp it down lightly; then water. Make sure no air pockets are left remaining around the roots and be sure to prune the canes so that they are no more than four inches tall.
After planting, be sure to mulch well. This will help protect the plant in its first year of growth and beyond.
Caring for Your Blackberry Plants After Transplanting
New growth will appear about 4-6 weeks after the plant has been trimmed and replanted. There is not much you need to do in order to care for your blackberry plants after you have planted them – usually they are pretty self-sufficient as long as they are planted in fertile soil.
However, your plants will get a healthy boost if you feed them with organic matter like compost. You can also use a commercial fertilizer that is formulated specifically for this purpose.
Watering your plants regularly can also help boost their health and improve their fruit production. Don’t water your blackberry plants so much so that they are sitting in water, but instead water until the soil is evenly moist. Generally, blackberry plants need about an inch of water each week – sometimes more in super hot weather.
You can also support your plants by using a trellis or a fence. The support needs to be super strong so that you don’t have to worry about the weight of the plants tipping over the support.
You can make more of your new transplant by “tipping” it. This term describes a process in which you use a long cane off of one plant to create a new plant beside it.
To do this you would leave one of the canes long when pruning. Then once it’s transplanted, bend the long cane so that it touches the soil wherever you want the next plant to grow, and cover it with a couple of inches of soil.
It is helpful if you leave the end tip sticking up out of the dirt so that you can see where the new plant is growing. The tip will begin growing its own new roots and will be the start of a new blackberry bush.
Trellising and Pruning Blackberries
You can trellis blackberries, or espalier them. I’m not sure how I’m going to train mine yet once they are in my yard. I just need to make them easily accessible for harvesting time.
You have a few options for how you support them. A two-wire system works well, particularly when you are able to run a top wire at six feet with a second line about eighteen inches beneath that. This will give you all the support you need.
You also need to regularly prune your blackberries. Trailing blackberries should be pruned to the ground, but you might want to wait to prune until the canes have died back considerably. This will give the dying canes time to transfer nutrients back into the roots.
For erect blackberries, you can prune them in the summer. You will remove about two inches of new primocanes when they are four feet tall. You can also remove dead fruiting canes during the winter months. Semi-erect blackberries should be pruned in the summer, too.
Without a doubt, harvest time is the most exciting time when it comes to growing blackberries! You will know that your plants are ready for harvest when the fruits are completely black.
They will be plump yet firm. It’s important that you don’t harvest your berries too soon – they won’t ripen anymore after they are removed from the plant.
You may find that all the berries on your plant do not ripen at once. This is okay – just keep coming back to harvest until the ripening has finished.
Harvest at the coolest times of the day, and then place berries in the shade as quickly as possible. You can then store your blackberries by freezing, preserving, or canning them.
Can’t wait till these bushes are loaded and I have plenty of berries to fill up my harvest bowl!
Blackberry Bushes FAQ
If the plant has been established for a while, it can be difficult to dig up the whole root system without doing some damage. But if you must move the bush, take a portion of the root system along with the plant to make sure that it will grow well in its new home.
Blackberries prefer deep and well-drained soil, but they can grow well in shallow soil too. The key to success when growing blackberries in shallow soil is to add enough organic matter, such as compost or well-rotted manure, to improve the soil structure and its ability to hold nutrients and moisture.
Begin by making a cutting from the tip of the plant, approximately 6 inches long, then remove all but the top 2 or 3 leaves from the cutting. Dip the cutting into rooting hormone powder and insert it into a container filled with a mix of peat moss and perlite.
Make a cutting on a healthy plant with sterilized equipment, making a cut that’s 6 inches long with a couple of leaves at the top. Insert the lower end of the cutting into a small pot with fertile soil.
A city girl learning to homestead on an acre of land in the country. Wife and homeschooling mother of four. Enjoying life, and everything that has to do with self sufficient living.