Beautiful berries in disguise
THERE are many plants we refer to as brambles – including tayberries, boysenberries, loganberries and silvan berries – but it might be a shock if I told you none of these are technically berries.
These brambles and many more varieties are all the result of crossing raspberries, blackberries and dewberries – the great- grandparents of the group.
They are easy plants to grow, requiring little work. An individual plant can produce ridiculous amounts of fruit and winter is a great time to plant them. They tend to be bitey plants and you may lose some blood but the reward is well worth the pain.
Good soil preparation before planting is the trick to having well- established, healthy and therefore productive plants.
They like a fl uffy, well- drained, slightly acidic soil containing plenty of organic matter.
In light soils, they can tend to dry out, and in heavy soil there is the risk of plants rotting if the ground is not well- drained. If you have either of these soil types, the solution is organic matter in the form of compost and animal manures, although I save the latter for spring when the plant needs the extra nutrients.
In heavy soils, it is best to cultivate deeply, then mound up the soil and plant in the top and, in light soils, you can do the opposite by digging a shallow trench and planting in the base.
They prefer a soil with a lower pH level, although they tend to be fairly tolerant of slightly sweeter soils.
It is generally not a major problem as many of our soils are slightly acidic naturally.
If you are worried, test your soil’s pH. It may be that you need to add some sulphur or you can throw your used coffee grounds over the
When it comes to selecting a position for your plants, an open sunny area is usually best for good fruit production, although they will thrive and produce in part shade
plants, which is slower- acting but works just as well.
When it comes to selecting a position for your plants, an open sunny area is usually best for good fruit production, although they will thrive and produce in part shade. In fact the thornless blackberry prefers it.
They are generally hardy to most conditions although severe frost can damage plants, extreme heat can dry out the canes and strong winds will damage the growing tips.
Although they can be very vigorous plants, if they get crowded by weeds their growth will be slowed and the likelihood of pest and diseases attack is increased.
Although using a hoe to chip the weeds out is the easy solution, it will injure the roots and weaken the plant, so I am sorry to say hand-weeding is the best control method.
The good news is they grow well under a layer of mulch, which helps slow down the weeds. I put a thin layer of pine needles to help acidify the ground, then some straw, then I throw a couple of shovel loads of compost over the top to help hold it all in place.
Although the canes of most varieties grow fairly upright, they will need some support. This can be as simple as a single pole that you tie the plant to or an elaborate wire trellis.
It is worth noting any support for your plant will in most cases act as a frame for netting the plant during fruiting periods so it needs to be moderately sturdy.
Brambles tend to be pretty resilient when it comes to pests and diseases.
They can suffer from fungal attacks such as rust and botrytis, although this is usually easily controlled by good pruning and training practices such as keeping the plants weed- free and mulching. Netting is essential if you want any of the fruit for yourself, otherwise fl ocks of birds will happily oblige by gobbling up the crop in record time.
FRUITS OF THE FOREST: Loganberries, above, and silvan berries, right, are relatively easy to grow.