In this video, Beverly Welch is joined by Angela Chandler from The Garden Academy. They show us how to prune blackberries, which take minimal maintenance and care and should be in every garden!
♪ [music] ♪ – [Beverly] Hi, welcome. I’m Beverly Welch here at The Arbor Gate in Tomball, Texas, joined today by my dear friend Angela Chandler… – [Angela] Good morning, Beverly. – …at the Garden Academy. So, we’re here to talk to you today about one of the most prolifically growing and producing fruits that you can do on the Gulf Coast with minimal maintenance and care, and that would be blackberries. – Blackberries, wonderful, wonderful fruit full of antioxidants, easy to grow, should be in every garden. – Well, I can taste the cobbler right now. – That’s right. – So, we’re going to show you today the easy method that there is, the how, the when, the why of pruning and maintaining your blackberry patch. So, this is a great example of what not to let occur. – It happens from time to time. – It does. – People get busy, and so what happens is your blackberries grow to be sort of a bramble, and a bramble is very difficult to maintain. It’s difficult to harvest. It’s also difficult to take care of the living material that’s in here. So what we want to do is kind of tame this today and get it back to where we can take care of it well. – Sounds perfect. So, we do need a good pair of clippers. – We do. – We need to clean our clippers for clean cuts. – We do. – And you can do that with a simple bleach water solution. – You can. Bleach water or 91% alcohol. It’s real inexpensive, and one good thing about alcohol is it’s not corrosive on your good tools. – Perfect, and I would also recommend a really great pair of gloves. These gauntlet-type gloves that are typically sold as rose gloves are perfect. Definitely a long-sleeve shirt. This is kind of light fabric, but it wouldn’t even hurt to have a heavy denim shirt on. You just want to protect yourself against the thorns. – Yeah, they’re going to fight back a little bit. – Just a bit. And, okay, so, I’ve got my new plant. It is a one-gallon plant. I’ve planted it. It’s the first year in the ground. I really don’t need to worry about too much pruning the first year. – You really don’t. The only thing you’re going to do the first year is watch for the new canes that start to sprout, and you’re going to start training those canes for production next year. – All right. So these are obviously much older. – Right. – So after the second year, my cane that has produced berries, is the cane that I will go back and prune? – And remove, yes. So, you’re going to have vegetative growth the first year. It’s just going to grow green, beautiful. Kind of they’re related to roses, so it’s going to have sort of a rose bush appearance to it. Then the following spring, April, May, it’s going to produce berries. After that cane produces berries, it’s going to die back naturally, so we really want to get in there fairly soon, early summer, and remove those canes and allow the new fresh canes to grow. Those will grow, and we’ll start training those. And so it’s that constant cycle of renewal. – Okay. So when you see canes dying like this, it’s not to be alarmed. – No. – It’s exactly the process of a blackberry. – They’ve just finished their life. – Perfect. So, where do I start with this, Angela? – Well, the first thing we want to do is remove all the deadwood first. If we get the deadwood out, then we can be selective about the live wood we’re going to keep. – Perfect. – So, just to get back into it, I like to work back to it so that I don’t have to tear the bush up while I’m pulling a lot of long canes. – Okay. – So I’m going to work slowly into this by just removing everything that is obviously dead or dying. This cane here is dying. – It does make it easier going in pieces like that. – It does. Just work your way back. And now I know that this one is dead to the ground or that I’m going to remove it, and so I’m just going to come in and just pick it into little pieces. It doesn’t have to be all at one time, and they do kind of cling to each other. – Yes, they do. – Until I can work myself down to the base. And once I’ve done that, I want to take it down as low as possible. – Perfect. So we’re just going to go through this and prune… – First the dead wood. – …prune the deadwood first and then groom… – And then groom our live wood and get ready for next year’s harvest. – All right, we got a big job ahead of us. – Sounds good. Let’s get started. – Let’s go. ♪ [music] ♪ – Wow, Angela! What a transformation. – It really is. Just getting that deadwood out made a big difference. – Oh, it absolutely did. We can see what we have now. As you said earlier, we got this center clean. We restrung our wire at two different levels. – Right. Generally, one at about 4 feet, no need to measure, and one about 2 feet below that is sufficient. Two wires is good enough. – Perfect. So on this plant, you want to show us kind of in detail what you decided to cut and why? – Okay. Well, after removing all of the deadwood, we did remove some of the larger canes that we know produced earlier this spring and that we wanted to remove. And you can sort of tell that, even though this one still has some green leaf on it, it’s pretty woody at the bottom. – Yes, it is. – And so, normally, we would take this one out. – We’re going to remove this one. – So we’re going to take this out, and what we’re going to do is try to cut as low as possible so that we leave a clean base. – Okay, great. – And then, occasionally, you’ll find that you need to break these up into pieces, just prune the edges off, so that we can get them out. – More easily. – More easily, yes, and around the wire and around the rest of the berry vine there. I think up and over. Watch your eyes there. ♪ [music] ♪ – Wow, that’s a big branch. – It is. – So, a lot of people would be a little reluctant to cut this. – They would be, but we know that that’s probably on its last leg. So we’re going to take that out and favor this very tender new green growth here, is really what we’re looking for. So that’s what we want to save. Then our next step is we allow the new canes to grow past the wire a bit, so that… And then, when that material hardens off, we want to tip them off just above the wire. So, really, when we do that, what’s going to happen is it’s going to encourage lateral growth all the way down the stem, and then we’re going to tie it off. We have some really interesting twist ties here because these are repositionable. We really only need… – Just a little. – …about this much. – And these are great too, because they don’t girdle the stem so easily. They’re soft. They’re pliable, and they’re reusable. – Right, and we always tie to the wire first. – I love that tip. – It keeps things from… And you can even do two wraps if you want to. It keeps thing from sliding, and then we don’t have to wrap so tightly around the vine. So, we’ll continue to do that with the rest of the canes that we’ve decided to keep. These that are a little too short won’t be for long. Like this one right here, it won’t be long before it reaches the bottom wire, and we have some back here as well. One thing we do want to do is keep our berry rose about 12 inches wide. If they get wider than that, that’s how we end up with brambles. They’re not manageable, and they’re a little frustrating. So when you see a new vine pop up like the one we have right down here, we don’t have to remove that. We can actually dig it and replant it either in a space in our row or expand our row or share it with a neighbor. – Perfect. – Then the next thing we want to do is, for every stem that we tie up, we want to encourage lateral growth because where the sun shines, the berries get sweet. So we’re really looking for that, so we don’t want this lateral growth to get away from us, either. So we’re going to shorten it to about 12 to 18 inches long, and I just use my pruners. There’s no reason to bring anything measuring out here. And say they’re about 6 inches long, so one, two, or three, and I say, okay, maybe about 14 inches. That looks like a good spot. And I’m going to do that with all the laterals, and all season long, I’m going to keep them trimmed back… – You’re going to keep it all season. – …to 12 to 18 inches long so it doesn’t get away from us again. So… – And that will not decrease production. In fact, it will increase. – In fact, it increases production. – Right. – Because just by tipping it back and stimulating more laterals and then keeping those laterals short, what we really want is lots of big, juicy berries. When the vines get much longer than about 6 or 7 feet, we start losing production. And when we don’t have good lateral growth, we get berries that are smaller and not as juicy and sweet. So by managing it and getting all that energy in that really tight column of berries, that’s when we’re going to have our best-quality berries. With [inaudible] wood, you should be producing about close to a gallon per plant. – Well, they don’t make it to the kitchen too often. – No, they really don’t. Another little thing that we can look for here is, as you’re pruning, if you see a swelling in the cane, that’s an indication that a cane borer has gotten in there. And during the right season, it’s kind of interesting because you can just split the cane and peel this open and you can actually see the borer there. But there’s really not anything you need to do for this. Just, when you see them, prune that out and toss it away, and you’re vines will be fine. We don’t have a lot of trouble with it in our area. – Perfect. So now that you’ve got these managed…and, again, they look gorgeous…we’re going to put down a layer of food. – Yes. We need to fertilize, a little bit of minerals because we know that minerals add to the sweetness. – Yeah, the mineral [inaudible] makes a huge difference in flavor. – Wonderful stuff. – Yes. – And then one time this dormant season, we’re going to spray them with lime sulfur. The only thing that ever really bothers berries is anthracnose, and if we hit them one time while they’re dormant before they bud out, it generally takes care of it for the year. So they’re really low-maintenance, especially considering the production that you get out of them. – Oh, right. So, they do need to be mindful, though. They want to make sure this is done before they set buds. – Yes, before they set buds. – Perfect, perfect. Well, thank you, Angela. – Absolutely. Well, we have a little bit of work to do to finish. – Yes, we do, but it won’t take long. – It won’t take long. – Thanks. – Thank you so much. ♪ [music] ♪