Last spring we made our first attempt at learning to prune blackberries. Honestly, I held out little hope that it would go well because I was so confused by all of the different methods for the different types of blackberries to choose from. Erect, Semi-Erect, Trailing, Semi-Trailing… er.. are the Semi-‘s the same? Which canes are the floricanes or primocanes? We didn’t even know where to start because we hadn’t a clue what type they were!
From examining the habits of the blackberry’s canes, to the color of their flowers, to even looking at the seeds under a microscope because different varieties have differently shaped seeds, I tried everything. I never came to any definitive conclusions. So we made a shot in the dark and did our best.
A year later, and I’m not any closer to determining the variety, nor can I remember what method of pruning we even settled upon (not that it did the brambles any favors for our harvest was incredibly meager.)
So we settled on doing it the way all the Amish in our area prune their thornless blackberries, regardless of cane habit. It is incredibly easy to do (and remember!) And since we had a bumper crop the year we moved in here (when the brambles had been Amish-pruned blackberries), I hoped they would do much better!
Since we first began to prune blackberries using this method, the years where the flowers weren’t weather-damaged we have had fantastic harvests. Last year, I had so many berries I had enough to eat fresh, make into a beautiful jam, and ferment into the most amazing Blackberry Melomel.
How to Prune Blackberries
• Select 4-6 healthy, thick-stemmed canes to keep and then remove the rest. Show above is before of one blackberry plant, below is after where I saved the best 5 canes.
• Remove all laterals between 12-18″ from the ground. (See above photo.)
Shorten the height of long canes by cutting them back to 5-6 feet tall. (Not pictured.) That’s pretty easy. For most of us, we can just trim them back to our body height. Unless you’re over 6 feet tall. Either way, I bet my canes will be shorter than yours.
• Trim back all remaining laterals to 12-18″ long. (Pictured above.) So that would be any and all laterals on each cane that are above that 12-18″ mark in Step #2.
Now to get the raspberry pruning figured out…