Is it possible to restore a blackberry planting that has been neglected for five years? I was able to cut back all dead brambles and also some that actually bore. But with no one to water them during our severe drought the berries burned up. I pruned some last fall and the rest today. There are new leaves on some healthy looking brambles.
The Gardener’s Answer
Hello, Sharon in Missouri: Growing blackberries in the home garden is a great way to provide your family with fresh fruit. A neglected plant may take a couple years to become productive again but it certainly is possible. Pruning your blackberries will depend on what kind you are growing. The two most common kinds of blackberries are semi-erect and semi-trailing. Semi-erect cultivars should be pruned during the winter while they are dormant. They should be cut back where the canes start bending over. They can also be pinched back during the summer months if at any time the canes have put on more than 1 foot of new growth. This will encourage larger fruit. If you are growing semi-trailing blackberries, the best time to prune them would be now (early spring). Choose a few of the most vigorous canes and remove the rest at ground level. It might seem harsh but you will end up pruning pretty hard and it might take a couple of seasons for the vines to concentrate its energy on fruit production. Blackberries should be pruned annually for best results. It may be a good idea to have your soil tested where the blackberries are growing to see if you need to amend the soil. This can be done through your County Cooperative Extension Service. For more detailed pictures and more information on growing/pruning blackberries in your state, go to http://mtngrv.missouristate.edu/assets/publications/B39GrowingBlackberriesinMissouri.pdf.