Having grown up in north Florida, blackberries were a staple in my summer diet. They always grew wild along the fences that separated our pastures. Today, we have a wide variety of cultivated blackberries that are thornless and much sweeter.
When planting in containers, use media that allows for good drainage. Blackberries are not forgiving of heavy, saturated soils. These plants were potted in December 2015 with pine bark fines and garden soil. We inserted a drip irrigation tube to every pot, and they receive water daily. Fertilizer needs have been minimal. For more help with planting recommendations, check out our blackberry EDIS publication.
As part of a demonstration experiment, we tested the use of ‘Ouachita’ in 25 gallon barrels at our extension center in Hastings. Is it necessary to use such a large container? Probably not, but we did not want to have to transplant them down the road. As you can see in the photos, we created a permanent metal trellis on either side of the barrels. This blackberry has a erect growing habit, so the trellis has helped the plant climb, while eliminating the need to bend over to harvest. The container set up has made weed pulling easy. So far, we have been fortunate with no disease issues. Providing plenty of space for air flow prevents many pests from taking over. However, we will be keeping an eye out for the orange felt algae, which has plagued blackberries locally in the past.
The erect, thornless blackberries with Native American names are self-fruitful, such as ‘Ouachita’. Berries form on the current year’s canes, so seasonal pruning will be helpful. Aim for 6 canes per plant, and prune back after every year’s harvest. This cultivar is ready for harvesting in June, and we are currently picking. ‘Ouachita’ yields large fruits with an average of 10 °Brix.
Please feel free to check out our blackberries if you find yourself in the Hastings area! The Master Gardeners and I would be happy to show you how well they are performing.