How to Prune Blackberry Canes
Properly pruning your blackberries can reduce disease, insect problems, and it can encourage fruit production and overall health.
Late winter or early spring is a good time to do your pruning. Just make sure you get it done before bud break. It is also a good idea to prune out the canes that fruited immediately after harvest in the fall. Those canes will not fruit again.
1. Remove any dead canes. Many times these canes will have a dull bark versus the live canes that will have a brighter bark. Sometimes it is hard to tell if a cane is dead or not. If you are not sure, cut a small amount off the cane and check if the inside is green or not. Make sure to haul away the dead canes so as not to spread disease back to the live canes. This step is probably 80-90% of the pruning you should do.
2. Remove any thin or short canes. A good blackberry cane should be the width of a pencil.
3. Remove any broken or diseased canes.
4. Remove any canes that are growing outside of the area you would like them to be. I don’t use a root barrier with my blackberries, because they do not spread by rhizomes near as aggressively as my raspberries.
5. Prune any side branches on remaining canes back to about 1 foot.
6. You really don’t want more than 6 nice sized canes per blackberry plant. If you have done a good job with step 1, 2 and 3, then this is usually not a problem.
7. Many orchardists tie their canes to their trellis. I don’t bother, unless a cane is unruly. It’s a lot of work to tie every cane to a trellis then remove the ties every year.
***Canes were cut back by 50% in the pictures because I will be transplanting the plants back against the existing fence. No need to do that for a maintenance prune. A proper trellis will be installed in the next few weeks. I will detail the trellis on the blog.