The bramble is the plant that produces blackberries, which together with raspberries, blueberries and currants are part of the category of small fruits, today increasingly cultivated and consumed because they are very healthy, versatile and tasty. The management of the bramble plant is rather easy and lends itself well to organic cultivation, both amateur and professional, since it is a rustic species, which adapts to different soils and various climatic conditions.
Although the cultivation of the bramble is relatively simple and manageable with natural fertilizations, occasional irrigation and sporadic ecological treatments in case of need, it is important to dedicate time to this species too, especially to perform pruning, which plays a role of great importance among the cultivation treatments.
In this article we will therefore see how the pruning of blackberry bushes is carried out and which periods of the year are the most suitable for doing so, in order to obtain good productions and keep the plants always healthy and balanced.
The plant of brambles
The bramble is a perennial bush, formed by numerous branches lasting two years that develop from the stump and roots in a continuous renewal and with a tendency to expand laterally. The fruiting cycle of the bramble is similar to that of the uniferous raspberry, that is the one that bears fruit only once in summer, therefore the pruning in the two species is rather similar to the pruning of this raspberry.
Recently, however, varieties of remontant bramble are spreading that produce twice with fruits that ripen in the summer on the shoots of a year and then in the autumn on the shoots that have developed during that same year.
Bramble breeding pruning
Blackberries, like raspberries, are bushy plants, which is why they must be managed in a very different way compared to other rosaceae which appear instead as fruit trees such as peaches, apricots and apple trees.
The breeding phase, or the period from planting to the actual entry into production of the plants, is short but is of great importance: the success of the crop in subsequent years depends on its correct setting. The plant is carried out on rows arranged with poles and metal wires, in autumn or at the end of winter, so that the plants are reared in espalier.
In the spring that follows planting, the lateral buds of the astones emit fruiting shoots along which the fruits will develop, while the new shoots will be emitted from the roots. These must not be cut because they will be the productive shoots of the following year. The shoots are opened like a fan and tied to the galvanized wires of the structure, so that they are distant and in this way all receive sufficient light.
Bramble production pruning
Every year from the base of the stump, shoots are issued with buds destined to germinate and produce in the following year. One-year-old shoots must be shortened to 180-200 cm to favor the formation of fruiting shoots in the middle part of the shoot in the following spring-summer.
The thinning of the shoots is equally important in order not to create too much crowding of the foliage and must lead to leaving 4 or 5 for each plant. The shoots that have already produced dry out and must be eliminated at the base of the plant.
When to prune
The operations described above can be performed immediately after the blackberry harvest, in summer-autumn, or even throughout the winter, while carefully avoiding the freezing periods. The months suitable for pruning the bramble are therefore from September to February, excluding periods of intense cold.
Prune remontant brambles
In general, blackberries are found as a uniferous plant, with a single flowering period, however, varieties of re-flowering bramble also begin to be found. Given that in the years to come the remontant brambles will be able to spread increasingly, we give indications on how to prune these too. In this case we are faced with a choice between two alternatives.
- If you prefer to favor only autumn production on the shoots of the year, after harvesting, everything is cut to the ground. In this way, the brambles act as uniflors, giving abundant fruiting in late summer-early autumn. This is the choice adopted by professional farmers who intend to have a more abundant and quality production, but concentrated in a period, after having harvested the summer blackberries from uniform varieties.
- If, on the other hand, you opt to have both productions, that is the summer and the autumn one, after harvesting in autumn the shoots that have fructified are cimulated and the shoots are thinned, leaving 4 or 5 per plant, and these will bear fruit in the following summer. This is the recommended choice for private productions, because it allows you to have more in a longer period, even if in less quantity.
How to prune blackberries: criteria and precautions
When pruning the blackberry plant there are some precautions that it is important to always keep in mind.
Choose suitable tools
The pruning of the bramble is carried out with shears and sometimes with scissors in the case of very strong and large-diameter branches. These tools must be of good quality: it is useless to save money by buying cheap models, because then these will soon break and a new purchase will be necessary. The tools must be sharp, clean and in the event that any fungal pathologies have been noticed in some specimens, they must be disinfected before pruning healthy brambles.
Regularity in plant care
Never skip a year of pruning because the brambles would be much more difficult to manage, very intricate and with the varieties equipped with thorns the chances of hurting us would increase. The cuts of the dry shoots must be made close to the ground, while the shortening cuts of the one-year shoots must be inclined: this favors the fall of raindrops that would stagnate on them with a straight cut;
Handle pruning remains
All the branches that are eliminated with pruning can be composted, preferably after shredding with a good shredder. It is not recommended to leave the remains to decompose between the rows, especially in the case of previous fungal diseases, because these would be the inoculum of diseases for the new shoots. The new suckers that are eliminated to thin out the crop can be extracted from the ground with part of the root system and used to independently propagate the crop thus avoiding the purchase of new seedlings.