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

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

Blackberries are wild fruits, i.e. they can grow spontaneously in the field. That is precisely why growing blackberries in the garden is easy and does not require too much effort. Planting blackberries is a good way to have a small crop of strawberries while benefiting from all the advantages of having wild fruit hedges in the orchard. 

Benefits of planting blackberries and other wild berries in the orchard

Wild fruit hedges, such as blackberries, are a very good option to increase biodiversity, a very important aspect if we want to make an ecological and sustainable vegetable garden.

We have already seen in posts such as 10 reasons to put hedges in the orchard, that many of the hedges with flowers, such as blackberries, raspberries or blueberries, favor pollination in the orchard as they attract bees, bumblebees and other pollinating insects.

In addition, these hedges can attract mammals or birds that could become pests of our crops, so that they come to the hedges to feed on their fruits instead of spoiling the vegetables and greens of the garden (If you have several blackberry plants you can cover them with nets so that the birds do not spoil them and leave one or two uncovered for this purpose).

Wild fruits, also known as “red fruits” or “fruits of the forest” are a good substitute for fruit trees if we do not have too much space in the orchard. They will give us throughout the year small fruits rich in fiber, antioxidants and vitamins, and do not need great care or as much sun or heat as fruit trees.
Types of edible blackberries: blackberries with thorns and blackberries without thorns

Blackberries are the fruit of the blackberry (Rubus fruticosus), a plant of the rose family. Like many rosaceae, blackberries have thorns on their stems and branches (a protection against predators for many wild plants like this one).

But years ago, seeds and seedlings of improved varieties without thorns began to be marketed. In general, the varieties WITH thorns give more and larger fruits, but if they are too much of a nuisance and you don’t need kilos and kilos of blackberries, you can choose a thornless variety that will be easier to prune and harvest.

Some varieties of thornless blackberries are: Smoothstem, Navajo, Arkansas, Black Satin, Géante des jardins, Apache, Triple Crown, Arapaho….

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.


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. 

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.

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.