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May 26 / Jeff

Growing Blackberries in Arizona

Every May, I always look forward to one of the most successful crops in my backyard. Amazingly enough, the blackberry thrives well here. Of course, you have to give it proper soil, nutrients, and plenty of water. But in the end, it’s all worth the effort and investment.

 

I have tried several varieties of blackberries, including Apache, Brazos, Black Satin, and Roseborough. Out of those, the Roseborough does the best, growing canes 6-8′ tall and producing tons of huge 1+” fruits. Some are almost as big as a golf ball! The only drawback is the numerous thorns that get in the way during maintenance and harvesting tasks. So, in exchange for some sweat and blood (literally), I get rewarded with this:

I should also mention that I have a small row of boysenberries that also thrive very well in this hot weather. The fruit is not as large as the blackberry, but the flavor is much more complex. These also ripen during the same time as the blackberry:

The funny thing is most people have heard of the boysenberry, but have you actually ever seen fresh boysenberries at your local supermarket? Probably not. In fact, i’ll bet you a large sum of money you have never seen them before. Why? These are extremely fragile when picked off the plant. In fact, I usually end up accidentally squeezing about 25% of them during harvest time. Can you imagine a farmer trying to pick hundreds of acres of these by hand and spending extra care in not damaging them? Good luck. If you’re interested in trying a fresh boysenberry, drop me a line during the month of May and i’ll be happy to share. I have plenty to go around!

113 Comments

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  1. Austin / Feb 20 2016

    Hey I just moved to Phoenix Arizona and looking to start a nice garden.

    First, do you grow other things besides Blackberrys/boysenberry? which btw grew in the summer in Minnesota and where amazing. if so what kind of edibles do you recommend to grow in Arizona?

    Second, would you recommend doing a above or below ground garden if so any recommendations on how to keep it at a low cost?

    Third, do you grow gmo free? If so could you give me a few places that happen to be completely natural and gmo free?

    Fourth, the bark scorpion seems to be a pretty big problem around where I’m currently located. it’s a home that hasn’t had anyone in it for while and the back yard is pretty grown in with weeds it has a underground sprinkler system as well but I’m wondering will growing a garden attract more scorpions because of the plants attracting insects if so do you know any way you could naturaly deter them?

    • Jeff / Apr 18 2016

      Hi Austin,
      1. I also grow blueberries (challenging), strawberries (moderately easy), as well as other tree fruits (easy). Pretty much all tree fruits will grow here. It’s just a matter of finding the correct variety.
      2. Both methods work. I like above ground since it looks nicer and it’s easier to maintain. The most expensive component of a vegetable garden is the soil. You can look for bulk compost from places like Singh Farms in Scottsdale.
      3. I don’t plant anything that has been genetically modified. I typically try to find heirloom varieties. A couple of favorite spots to buy plants/seeds – GrowOrganic.com and Johnnyseeds.com.
      4. Bark scorpions will live where they have water and food (insects). So naturally by having a garden, you will have a potential issue. The best advice is to keep your garden area clean. They like to hide underneath rocks and piles of debris. I hear cedar oil is a repellent.
      -Jeff

  2. Cz / Mar 12 2016

    Any luck growing blueberries or cherries?

    • Jeff / Apr 18 2016

      Hi Cz,
      Blueberries – Yes, but only southern highbush varieties like Sunshine Blue, Sharpblue, and Misty. And even then, you have to get the soil correct (low pH of about 5-5.5) and plant it where it gets protection from the hot summer sun. Also, make sure the soil stays consistently moist.
      Cherries – Supposedly there are 2 varieties that will produce cherries here. Minnie Royal and Royal Lee. They both have low chilling hour requirements and they need to pollinate each other. I planted some this year and will see how they perform.
      Jeff

  3. Mindy / Apr 22 2016

    Hi Jeff! Love your blog and your shop at the GFM 🙂 How do boysenberries do in full on blazing AZ sun in the summer? I have blackberries from you that seem to thrive in that climate but wondering if boysenberries are the same?

    • Jeff / May 23 2016

      Hi Mindy,
      Thanks for the feedback! Boysenberries actually need a lot more shade than blackberries. So it’s best to plant them where they get morning sun and afternoon shade.
      Jeff

  4. Dana Koellen / Apr 23 2016

    I’m thinking of growing some black berries next year ! I just want 2 plant I’m going to plant them in a area by my back yard wall in a planter 2.5 ft wide by 10 ft long ! They will get sun from sun up to 3pm. Two plants should be good enough for that size ? And were do suggest getting them from and what variety ? Thanks. ! Dana Koellen,

    • Jeff / May 23 2016

      Hi Dana,
      2 plants will fill in that spot after a couple of years. Blackberries are almost like a weed if given good soil and plenty of water. My favorite variety for the Phoenix area is ‘Rosborough’. It is extremely thorny, but it handles our climate well and produces huge, sweet berries. I am testing a thornless variety now called ‘Ouachita’, but the berries seem to be on the small side. Other than that, it also grows well in our climate.
      Jeff

  5. Kathleen Leonard / Apr 28 2016

    Did you plant your blackberries in an area that gets morning sun and afternoon shade? I have been thinking about planting some, just did not know how much sunlight they prefer.

    Thanks!

    • Jeff / May 23 2016

      Hi Kathleen,
      Yes, blackberries do best when they get morning sun and afternoon shade, as they need protection from the hot afternoon sun in the summer. They actually don’t need a lot of sunlight and do well in shade.
      Jeff

  6. John Bonfield / Jun 4 2016

    I have a thriving blackberry plant, of unknown variety. ( It was suppose to be thornless, but it isn’t. I suspect strongly that it is a Rosenburg).

    I just finished my harvest, and I am going to remove the floricanes this week. I was surprised to see that there is new bud on the Primacanes. This second round of budding did not happen last year. My understanding is that the normal procedure is to top the primacanes when removing the flioricanes, but since this would remove all the new bud, I am not sure what will happen. Will these primacanes also bear fruit next year, or should I wait until this second crop matures and remove them as well? Will it send up a new (third!) batch of primacanes for next year? This extra crop has thrown me a curveball I didn’t expect.

  7. Teresa / Sep 9 2016

    Hi Jeff, I would like to grow some berries and veggies in a small greenhouse. Since they will be in a greenhouse environment when do I plant? I can move plants into house during summer and size up to 10′ is ok.

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