Carol Klein explains the importance of judicious pruning
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Pruning your plants is essential to maintaining healthy growth and keeping them from looking overgrown. An overcrowded plot for your garden plant, especially fruiting crops like the blackberry bush, can inhibit growth, leaving your blackberries under-grown and sour-tasting. With these top pruning tips, you can guarantee a ripe supply of blackberries throughout the summer of 2022.
With the last of the summer heat blazing through into September, blackberries are soaking up the last of the summer sun.
At their ripest from the end of August, to now, the time to prune your blackberry bush is nearing as the harvest draws to a close.
Why you should prune blackberry bushes
To stop berry brambles from growing too wildly, the best practice is to prune a couple of times a year.
Pruning is a sure-fire way to achieve a strong, tidy and manageable plant which will, in turn, improve the yield of your summer crop.
As a perennial plant, blackberries will be an annual visitor in your garden – but only if pruned correctly.
Once you’ve established a patch, twice-yearly pruning will keep your berries in good stead year after year.
Pruning is done for three main reasons:
- To reduce the density of the plant and free up the sunlight canopy
- To maintain the health of the plant and clear diseased or damaged branches
- To improve the structure of the plant for its long-term health
When pruning a blackberry bush, the aim is to achieve all three of these to ensure the canes grow in a steady and spacious manner.
What you need to know about pruning a blackberry bush
While blackberries are perennials, the individual canes which make up the blackberry bush are biennial.
This is more important than you may think when it comes to pruning as the fruit grows at different times – altering the harvest season and pruning requirements.
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Biennial means the berries grow over a two-year cycle. The first-year shoots are known as primocanes and the second year shoots are floricanes.
Primocanes are vigorous shoots with thick evergreen foliage and bud in the season.
Floricanes are a woody cane that blossom in the Spring and set fruit during midsummer – dying back after harvest.
Primocane and floricane pruning
Identifying the canes of your blackberry bush as floricane and primocane is key to timely pruning – but how can you tell the difference?
Look out for thick, green and fleshy growth to identify primocanes on your blackberry bush, you’ll be able to identify this by the five leaflet growth and long internodes.
Second-year growth on your blackberry bush turns woody and brown before dying back and is much easier to tell when it needs pruning to remove old or diseased growth.
Floricanes are more gappy between leaves on the cane and are characterised by their three leaflet growth.
When should you prune a blackberry bush?
It’s right on time to prune your floricane blackberries as the harvest ends.
Pruning your second-year growth (where berries are more frequent) encourages healthy new shoots.
Spring-time primocane pruning creates strong and well-structured canes that can bear the weight of heavy fruit and foliage.
Use clean, sharp garden shears to cut the canes back to around two feet tall and prune back the sides of shoots to a foot deep.
Gardener’s Path recommends that those that are already shorter than two feet should be cut just an inch or so, to force them to branch out.
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