By Dr. Gina Fernandez, Small Fruit Specialist at NC State University

Spring 2021 has been WET in North Carolina, at this time, blackberry buds are just beginning to swell (see figure 1). Chores and timing may be somewhat different in your area or for your cropping system.  

For IPM recommendations and general production practices, see the 2021 Southeast Regional Caneberry Integrated Management Guide.

The SRSFC production practices are in the Regional Caneberry Production guide.

Crop phenology for IPM

The IPM guide above lists these stages of growth or planting age. This is the time of year we are now leaving (or have left a while ago!) the dormant period and by the time the next newsletter comes out, we will likely be harvesting in some locations.

  • Dormant (prior to budbreak)
  • Delayed dormant (swollen buds) to green tip
  • Shoots 6 inches long and before blooms open
  • Pre-bloom (when flower buds show white)
  • Early bloom (5-10%)
  • Full Petal
  • Cover sprays
  • Pre-harvest (14 days before anticipated harvest)
  • Harvest
Figure 1. Prime-Ark 45 buds at the Piedmont Research Station, Salisbury, NC. Photo: Katie Sheehan-Lust.

Plant growth and development during the spring/summer

  • Plants deacclimate quickly
  • Bud differentiation (additional flowers can be formed)
  • Bud break
  • Flowering
  • Primocane emergence

Pruning and trellising

  • Finish pruning and make sure all floricanes are tied to the trellis before budbreak
  • Remove canes from field to minimize spread of diseases
  • Rotate shift trellises to horizontal position before budbreak; rotate to upright position immediately after flowering.
  • For crops that are fall fruiting only, make sure canes are mowed to ground before budbreak.
  • Prepare for flower to fruit monitoring (see Damage to blackberry flowers at 27°F.)


  • Weed growth can be very vigorous at the same time as the caneberry crop peaks
  • Weed control is best done earlier in the season, with pre-emergent herbicides before harvest commences
  • Hand-weed perennial weeds in and around plots

Insect, disease and crop ripening

  • Growers with a history of cane diseases and/or mites often find that certain fungicides and oils are most effective just prior to bud break. The period of time in the spring when the plant is flowering is the most important season for control of insects and diseases. Know what your pests are and how to control them.

Water management

  • Test irrigation system and look for leaks
  • Caneberry plants need about 1”-2” water/week. This amount will be especially critical during harvest

Fertility management

Marketing and miscellaneous

  • Service and clean coolers
  • Make sure you have enough containers for fruit in the coming season
  • Prepare advertising and signage for your stand
  • Contact buyers to finalize orders
  • Hire pickers
  • Prepare signage for field orientation; it is easier to tell pickers where to go if rows are numbered
  • Check buds and canes for cold damage (27°F is temperature that kills all stages of flower buds; see Damage to blackberry flowers at 27°F.)
  • Monitor and record (or rather do your best estimate) of peak flowering date for each variety every year. Then later during harvest, check your records for peak harvest of each variety.  Over time, it will help you to determine when your peak harvest will occur.