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Winter Blackberry Chores

By Dr. Gina Fernandez, North Carolina State University


This checklist was originally developed for blackberry growers in North Carolina. You may have to adjust your work activities either earlier or later depending on your location. For more detailed information, check the Southern Region Integrated Bramble Management Guide and the Southeast Regional Bramble Production Guide at smallfruits.org/ipm-production-guides.

This list is intended as a general guide. However, it can be used to guide you to think about what types of activities occur at various times of the year. Check the items off as they get done. If you would like other items to be added to this list, send them to me and I will add them next time.

Winter

Plant growth and development

  • Plant is not visibly growing during the winter months although many blackberries will retain their leaves through the winter
  • Some floral differentiation is occurring in the flower buds (i.e. they are forming flowers)
  • Low chilling cultivars can break bud in January after adequate winter chilling. You can monitor chilling hours accumulated in eight states in the eastern US by accessing the Blackberry Chill Model

Developmental stages at this time of year as mentioned in the 2021 Southeast Regional Caneberries Integrated Management Guide are: 1. Dormant, and 2. Delayed dormant (swollen bud) to green tip.

Pruning and trellising

  • Pruning should occur in late winter. However, in some areas winter ice storms can do tremendous damage to plants and trellis systems. If you produce blackberries in one of these areas, pruning can take place early winter to help avoid severe damage.
  • Pruning and training videos can be found at:
  • Make trellis repairs after plants have defoliated but before pruning and training.
  • If you have a Rotating Arm Trellis, lay the canes to the ground. If you are in a colder region, have row covers available for protection from cold temperatures.
  • Erect types
    • Prune out the spent floricanes
    • Cut lateral branches back to 12-18”
    • Tie or weave canes to lower and upper wires
    • Thin canes to 4-8 canes/ hill (4 ft spacing)
  • Trailing types
    • Prune out spent floricanes
    • Tie or weave canes to wire so that they do not overlap
    • Prune side laterals to 12-18”
    • Thin canes to 6-8 hill (6-8 ft spacing)
  • Primocane fruiting raspberries and blackberries
    • Prune (mow) primocane fruiting types to ground level

Weed control

Check the 2021 Southeast Regional Caneberries Integrated Management Guide for recommendations.

  • Many summer weed problems can be best managed in the fall and winter using preemergent herbicides. Determine what weeds have been or could be a problem in your area. Check with local extension agent for cultural or chemical means to control these weeds.

Insect and disease scouting

Check the 2021 Southeast Regional Caneberries Integrated Management Guide for recommendations.

  • Scout fields for insect and disease damage and remove those canes
  • Remove wild blackberries and raspberries by the roots if they are within 600 ft of your planting during the winter 

Winter injury from cold

  • Injury from cold temperatures can occur to the canes and buds throughout the winter. Most often the damage occurs in the spring after the winter chilling hours have accumulated.
  • Review types of injury that can occur to the canes and buds. One site for cold injury information is the Team Rubus Blog.

Planting

  • Take soil tests to determine fertility needs for spring plantings. 
  • There are new raspberry and blackberry cultivars available each year. If you have not tried them or it is not known how they will do in your region, it is best to order a small quantity to see how well they will perform in your area
  • For larger growers, prepare list of cultivars for 2022 plantings and order now. Smaller quantities of plants can be ordered in early 2021 for spring planting.
  • Nursery lists can be found at:

Water management

  • Make repairs to irrigation system (check pumps, lines, etc)
  • Plants generally do not need supplemental water in winter 

Marketing and miscellaneous

  • Order containers for next season
  • Make contacts for selling fruit next season

Attend grower meetings

North American Raspberry and Blackberry Association will hold a virtual conference this year. Get conference details and registration information.

This virtual conference February 21-25, 2021 will feature more than 25 hours of educational sessions, plus virtual exhibitors, scientific posters, and networking.

A special seven-session virtual short course, “Getting Started in Raspberries and Blackberries,” precedes the conference during the first three weeks of February and may be registered for separately or with a conference registration. 

North Carolina Commercial Blackberry and Raspberry Association will be holding a series of one hour Zoom sessions through the spring. For more information, contact or .

Please check with your local Extension service to learn of meetings in your state.