How to Prune Black Raspberry Bushes

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The vines on blackberry bushes are called canes, and they grow for two years. The first year, they are lush vegetation. In year two, they bloom, bare fruit and then die. Prune away old canes every year and keep new canes so they will produce fruit the next growing season. Black raspberries grow like weeds in the wild, and without pruning or tending they are difficult to eradicate. To maximize fruit yield, treat black raspberries with care. But don't worry too much, the plant will come back just fine the next year if you over-prune or do nothing at all.

Things You'll Need

  • Garden hose
  • Leather gloves
  • Long-sleeved shirt
  • Pruning shears
  • Twine
  • Trash container

Prune Your Black Raspberry Bushes

  • Rinse berry vines off with a garden hose two days before you plan to prune. Rinsing eliminates, dust and spider webs and encourages pests to leave the area.

  • Put on a long-sleeved shirt and leather gloves. Black raspberry vines have sharp thorns of two varieties: tiny thorns on new growth that enter the skin like splinters, and thorns on older canes that are akin to the rigid thorns found on rose bushes.

  • Cut off all canes that produced fruit in the current season at ground level.

  • Tie new canes to a trellis with twine to encourage their stability prior to the next growing season. Cut them down to 12 inches if you do not have a trellis in place.

  • Cut trimmed vines into ten-inch sections and carefully discard them in your rigid trashcan. The thorns on black raspberry vines will slice through plastic garbage bags

Tips & Warnings

  • Prune black raspberry bushes in the autumn when vines are no longer producing fruit. Train new canes and established canes onto different levels of your trellis, or mark the older vines with ribbon or twine as they bear fruit, to keep them separated when it comes time to prune
  • Due to their many thorns, black raspberry bushes are not candidates for composting; it's safer to let them decay completely in a landfill.

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References

  • The New Gardener, Pippa Greenwood 1995
  • The Experts Book of Garden Hints, Fern Marshal Bradley, Editor; 1993
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