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Blackberries are a Southern favorite
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Blackberries are one of the South’s favorite fruits. At one time, there were almost unlimited wild blackberries and dewberries (the blackberry’s trailing cousin) to be had growing along fence rows and in abandoned fields.

Many of these sites have been destroyed or are now posted. But each spring I still see couples along the roadsides pickin’ berries.

Fortunately, there are breeding programs all across the Southeast that produce larger fruit than their wild counterparts and are fairly easy to grow. Some varieties that work well in Georgia are Natchez, Kiowa, Arapaho and Navaho.

Blackberries can grow in a wide variety of soils and tolerate clay when soil pH is around 6.0-6.5. The one thing to keep in mind about the site is to make sure there is plenty of sunlight to encourage fruiting.

To make big berries, the plants need water. When it is possible, plant near a water source in case irrigation is needed. Apply enough water to wet the soil at least 8-10 inches below the ground surface.

However, do not plant in low areas where water stands after a heavy rain. Blackberries under these conditions would have a tough time growing.

Blackberries are ripe and at peak flavor when they lose their high glossy shine and turn slightly dull. Harvesting is best during the late morning hours after the dew has dried. This is generally when they are at their juiciest.

Depending on the weather, picking season is from mid-June through July 4. You can easily extend the picking season by getting a variety of cultivars that come in at different times of the harvest season.

There are a few diseases that affect blackberries, but with proper fertility, training of the canes and sanitation when you prune, disease should be kept to a minimum.

For more information about blackberry care and management, give the office a call.

Michael Wheeler is county extension coordinator for the UGA Cooperative Extension in Hall County. You can contact him at 770-535-8293. His column appears weekly and on gainesvilletimes.com/life.

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