Blackberries are one of the most widely used and cultivated bramble fruits in the world. They are not particularly tender plants; however, attention to climate regarding planting and harvest helps to generate a bounty of ripe fruit and promote a strong return of these perennials.
Blackberries have been around for thousands of years in either natural or cultivated varieties. They are extremely climate friendly, with varieties growing on every continent but Antarctica. Blackberries have long been a source of nutritious food for humans and animals alike. They grow on canes that have thorns and are separated as either erect canes (more cold-tolerant) or trailing canes. The trailing variety is called a dewberry in some regions. Other hybrid varieties include the loganberry, youngberry and boysenberry.
Find out what zone you are in. The USDA Gardening Zone Map is an excellent guide for planting, growing, and harvesting. The zones range from 1 to 11, with zone 1 being the coldest climate and 11 being warmest. According to the National Gardening Association, the zone map is more predictable in the eastern area of the continent. Zones in the west must also allow for winter lows, elevation, and other topographical considerations. You can view of the zone map at garden.org/zipzone/.
Planting and Harvesting
While blackberries are hardy and in many ways self-sustaining, you can improve results by planting blackberry bushes according to regional zones. In zones 1 through 6, plant in early spring, after the risk of hard frost. In zones 7 through 11 you can plant in spring but also in late fall. In all climates, be careful not to let the roots dry out prior to planting.
Typically, the fruits are ready for harvest from July until October. In warmer climates you may be able to harvest ripened fruit as early as June. In all regions, harvest when the fruit is soft and turns dark purple or black.
Drought and Rain Considerations
Blackberries can handle drought conditions well after they are established. It is important to keep newly planted bushes moist until they root. Cut back the canes in the first year of growth to encourage strong, established roots.
If you live in a region with more than average precipitation, protect young bushes against too much moisture when possible to discourage the spread of disease. Additionally, planting blackberries in a low lying area can cause too much water to collect without adequate drainage.