Growing Blackberries in the Orchard: With thorns or without thorns?

Last updated on October 23rd, 2023 at 08:19 pm

When deciding whether to grow blackberries with thorns or without thorns in your orchard, there are a few factors to consider. Each type has its advantages and disadvantages, and the choice ultimately depends on your preferences, the intended use of the blackberries, and the specific conditions in your orchard. Here are some considerations for both thorned and thornless blackberry varieties:

Blackberries with Thorns:

  1. Advantages:
    • Resistance to Birds: Thorned varieties may offer some protection against birds, as they might be less inclined to perch on thorny canes.
    • Natural Deterrent: Thorns can discourage animals and even human trespassers from damaging the plants or stealing fruit.
    • Traditional Appearance: If you prefer a more natural and traditional look in your orchard, thorned blackberries may be more appealing.
  2. Disadvantages:
    • Harvesting Challenges: Picking fruit from thorny plants can be more difficult and may lead to scratched hands and arms.
    • Pruning and Maintenance: Thorns make pruning and maintenance tasks less pleasant and more challenging.

Thornless Blackberries:

  1. Advantages:
    • Easy Harvesting: Thornless varieties make harvesting much more convenient and comfortable, which can be a significant advantage if you plan to pick large quantities of fruit.
    • Pruning and Maintenance: Pruning and maintaining thornless blackberry plants is less of a hassle and more user-friendly.
  2. Disadvantages:
    • Bird Damage: Thornless varieties might be more susceptible to bird damage, as there are no thorns to deter them from perching and feeding.
    • Potential for Theft: Thornless blackberries may be more tempting to human thieves who can pick fruit more easily.

Considerations:

  • Intended Use: Think about how you plan to use your blackberries. If they are primarily for personal consumption and convenience is essential, thornless varieties might be the better choice. If you plan to use them for a barrier or need to protect them from wildlife, thorned varieties might be more suitable.
  • Maintenance: Consider the amount of time and effort you are willing to invest in pruning and maintenance. If you want a low-maintenance option, thornless varieties are more practical.
  • Bird Control: If bird damage is a concern, you may need to implement bird netting or other protective measures for thornless blackberries.
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Ultimately, the choice between thorned and thornless blackberries depends on your specific goals, the level of maintenance you’re willing to undertake, and your tolerance for the potential challenges of each type. Both thorned and thornless blackberry varieties can produce delicious fruit, so your choice can be tailored to your orchard’s needs and your personal preferences.

Growing Blackberries in the Orchard: With thorns or without thorns?


Climate and soil 

It adapts well to any climate as long as it has sun and is quite hardy: it tolerates cold and drought. It prefers a soil with a slightly acid pH (although it adapts to soil pH up to 7.5 as well), rich in humus, moist and loose (not waterlogged).
When and how to plant blackberries

Planting in spring from cuttings from other plants or seedlings (can be planted in autumn if winters are mild). Blackberries can be planted in pots, but they should be at least 50 cm deep.

The first thing to do is to provide a good amount of manure or mature compost before planting (5-6 kg per square meter). With the soil clean of weeds, place the plants at a distance of 1 to 3 meters, depending on the size of the variety.

Irrigation 

The blackberry plant needs about 800- 1,300 mm per year, an amount of water that in most production areas is covered by rainfall, so it does not need much watering. 

Be careful not to overwater because the roots are sensitive to excess moisture and fungal diseases or plant decay due to root asphyxia can occur.


Fertilizing and other tasks

Although it is quite resistant, it is advisable to mulch it with straw, especially if frost is expected in winter. In addition to the initial fertilization, it will not be necessary more than a maintenance fertilization with compost or manure every 2-3 years. 

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They can be affected by fungal diseases and pests such as fruit flies, spider mites and thrips, so try to control them so that they do not become a pest in your orchard (you can enter the category “Pests and diseases” or use the search engine to read other articles on prevention and ecological methods against pests and fungi).


Trellising of cultivated blackberries

Supports or stakes are necessary for the plant to grow well upwards and sideways.

Growing Blackberries in the Orchard: With thorns or without thorns?
Trellising blackberries in upright (top) and creeping (bottom) varieties. Source: Cultivated Blackberries,

Thanks to trellising, light and air will reach the whole plant better and there will be less fungus risk. A good way is to place two wooden posts with horizontal wires that go from one to the other and to which the branches will be tied. I leave you a photo with an example of trellising.


Blackberry pruning 

In late summer or early autumn, when all the blackberries have been harvested, remove the branches that have borne fruit to make room for the new ones (the branches of blackberries, like those of raspberries, come out and grow the first year, bear fruit the second and then die giving way to other new branches). A general pruning in mid-summer is also advisable, leaving the plant 1-1.2 meters high and more or less the same width.
Uses and benefits of blackberries

Blackberry leaves have medicinal properties (astringent, diuretic, antidiabetic…), so they are used to make natural infusions.

The fruits or blackberries are rich in Vitamin A, C, potassium and phenolic compounds very beneficial to health, mainly anthocyanins. They are also high in fiber and low in calories, like most fruits.

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Blackberries can be eaten raw as a healthy dessert or snack. They are also ideal for making desserts and jams or jellies to accompany meats. Many wild berries combine well with aromatic herbs such as mint or can be used to flavor wines or spirits.

There are many health benefits of blackberries and, in addition, they are delicious and can add a touch to our dishes. As we have seen, blackberries are very easy to grow, so there is no excuse for not planting blackberries in the orchard or garden. 

Author

  • James Jones

    Meet James Jones, a passionate gardening writer whose words bloom with the wisdom of an experienced horticulturist. With a deep-rooted love for all things green, James has dedicated his life to sharing the art and science of gardening with the world. James's words have found their way into countless publications, and his gardening insights have inspired a new generation of green thumbs. His commitment to sustainability and environmental stewardship shines through in every article he crafts.

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