This list was developed by Dr. Gina Fernandez, Small Fruit Specialist at NC State University. Chores and timing may be somewhat different in your area or for your cropping system.
Plant growth and development
- Fruit development for floricane-fruiting types
- Rapid primocane growth
- Flower bud development for primocane-fruiting types later in summer
- Floricanes produce fruit and begin to senesce
Pruning and trellising
- May need to adjust primocane numbers if canes are too thick (i.e. remove less vigorous primocanes at their base)
- Train primocanes to grow in the middle of the row of fruiting floricanes
- Pinch black raspberry primocanes at 2 to 3 ft. to promote lateral growth
- Train primocanes within a trellis to hold canes erect
Erect floricane -fruiting blackberries:
- Tip the new primocanes when they are about 6” to 12” below the top wire of the trellis to encourage lateral branching, tipping is better than cutting with a pruners to prevent Cane dieback. (Note we are now using a different term for this complex, as there are now several causal organisms that can case cane dieback https://smallfruits.org/2021/04/cane-blight-and-cane-dieback-of-blackberry-causal-organisms-and-management-recommendations/)
- Continue tipping at monthly intervals to maintain desired branching and height of canopy (laterals should reach top wire)
- Control cane dieback after tipping with fungicide treatment
- Prune out spent floricanes after they have produced fruit, do not thin out primocanes until mid-to late winter
- Train primocanes to grow in between the floricane to minimize interference with harvest. Shift trellises or V-trellises make this relatively easy
Trailing floricane-fruiting blackberries:
- Train new primocanes to middle of trellis, on the ground in a weed-free area, or temporarily to trellis outside of fruiting area (depends on trellis type)
- Cut back side shoots to 18” (after dormancy in cold climates)
- Remove spent floricanes after harvest
- Tip canes twice, soft tip once when they reach 1.5 ft and then soft tip the laterals at 1.5 ft.
- Mow along side of row to maintain the width of the bed to 3 to 4 ft.
- Weed growth can be very vigorous at the same time as the crop peaks.
- Weed control is best done earlier in the season before harvest commences.
- Mow middles regularly to allow pickers to move through rows easily.
Insect and disease scouting
- Scout and treat for these pests:
- Spotted winged drosophila
- Raspberry crown and cane borers (canes girdled and wilt)
- Two-spotted spider mite
- June beetle
- Japanese beetles
- Stink bugs
- Fire ants
- Orange felt (orange cane blotch) (blackberry)
- Sooty blotch (blackberry)
- Orange rust
- Powdery mildew
- Double blossom (blackberry)
- Cane blight/dieback (blackberry)
- Powdery mildew
If virus symptoms are present, affected plants may need to be rouged to prevent spread.
- Raspberry and blackberry plants need about 1-2 inches of water/week; this amount is especially critical during harvest.
- For blackberries (not raspberries) in warmer climates only, consider installing an overhead system for evaporative cooling to reduce sunscald. Turn on once or twice a day from 10 am to 3 pm for short periods of time (approx. 15 minutes) at mid day only.
- Give plants a deep irrigation after harvest.
- Take leaf samples after harvest and send to a clinic for nutrient analysis
- Blackberry growers typically use drip irrigation through the spring and early summer to supply about 50 lb/N acre. Growers should ease off N during harvest, but give plants additional nitrogen (about 10-30 lbs/acre) after harvest. Amounts needed will vary with plant health, crop load and soil conditions. Check with your local Extension agent for recommendations.
Harvest and marketing
- The busiest time of the year for a blackberry or raspberry grower is the harvest season. Each plant needs to be harvested every 2-3 days. For larger plantings, that means fruit is picked from some part of the field every day of the week.
- Pick blackberries when shiny black for shipping. Those that are dull black are fully ripe and suitable for PYO only.
- Pick directly into clamshells with absorbent pads, or for PYO use clean cardboard flats, take-home baskets, or sanitized re-usable containers.
- Keep harvested fruit in shade and move into coolers as soon as possible to lengthen the shelf life of the fruit.
- Use forced-air precoolers for best removal of field heat.
- Store at 32 to 34°F and 95% relative humidity.
- Freeze excess fruit for jam, juice, or wine.
- Keep good records of what cultivars are picked, what fields are picked and when they are picked. Good record keeping will help you predict harvest potential in the future.
- Keep your customers informed with social media.
There will be a field day sponsored by the NC Commerical Blackberry and Raspberry Association Sept 24 at Lewis Farm and Nursery in Rocky Point. For registration and other information: https://teamrubus.blogspot.com/2021/06/2021-blackberry-field-day.html.
North American Raspberry & Blackberry Conference. February 21-24, 2022: In Gaithersburg, MD, near Washington, DC, at the DoubleTree by Hilton. In-person AND virtual. Includes an opening reception on Monday, Feb. 21, a full day tour on Tuesday, Feb. 22, and educational sessions and a trade show on Wed-Thurs, Feb. 23-24. Check NARBA’s website for more information. https://www.raspberryblackberry.com/.