Brambles is the general term used to cover a range of thorny berry fruit from the Rubus family such as black berries, raspberries, logan berries, boysenberries etc. Bramble bushes send up long, arching canes that flower and set fruit in the second year of growth. Thus the current new shoots (canes) in a season from spring to autumn will be the canes that will fruit the following season.
After fruiting, these old canes should be removed at the base. This would normally be done late autumn or early winter as some brambles will provide a second autumn crop. Normally this is the only pruning needed, but if canes get too tall they can be tipped by cutting the ends off. This can be done at any time. If you are not sure what has fruited and what is new then tie a little length of coloured wool to all canes that bear fruit in a season, which makes it easy to identify them later on. Some brambles have nasty re-curved thorns that dig into clothing and flesh when you try to pull away from them, where others are near thornless, only having hair-like thorns.
Raspberry, blackberry and dewberry are recognised as original brambles and the likes of loganberry, boysenberry, tayberry, youngberry and marionberry are hybrids which were developed from the originals. The New Zealand Berryfruit Propagators Ltd (found at www.berrypropco.co.nz), lists a wide range of named hybrids that are grown commercially. Some of these are available through garden centres for the home garden market. These are usually berries that can be grown successfully in most locations throughout NZ.
One of the problems with most of the berry fruits is they do not keep well and thus you only find them occasionally in supermarkets for sale in a fresh state. They normally are fairly expensive also. Commercially they are grown for canning, juicing, freezing and ‘pick-your-own’. Frozen berries are very reasonable in price and are ideal for making your own jams, baking or desert toppings.
Blackberries are often seen on the side of country roads where they have ‘escaped’ and become a wild thorny menace but often produce good crops of berries for the more adventurous food gatherers. Likewise in the home garden berry fruit can easily become a problem if allowed to get away on you.
If planting out into open ground make sure you are planting into an area that is not anywhere near existing gardens. Planted against a fence that has a good buried footing and lawn up to the fence is normally ideal as you can cut off new shoots as they appear in the lawn area.
I prefer to keep my berry fruit well under control by growing them in 45 litre containers in a rich compost mix.
Berry fruit are subject to two main diseases, downy mildew called dryberry and botrytis.
Liquid Sulphur is ideal as a protection against Botrytis and Liquid Copper for Downy mildew (Dry Berry). It is also a good idea to add Mycorrcin to these sprays to assist the natural biological control. The copper and sulphur can be mixed together in a diluted form and thus the three products can be applied together. Raingard should be added for its rain protection and MBL for the added benefits it provides. Two weekly sprays of Mycorrcin during the season will assist in better yields and all four sprays above can be mixed together.
Berry fruit have a fibrous root system that grows near the soil surface and from this new shoots will appear (hence the spread capabilities). Mulches of animal manure based compost over the soil are ideal for feeding. Also you can apply sheep manure pellets, blood & bone, Fruit and Flower Power before covering them with the compost.
A monthly spray of Perkfection during the season would also assist in disease control. Rust can be controlled with a solution of potassium permanganate. Powdery Mildew with a spray of Baking Soda. (1 tablespoon per litre with Raingard added). Brambles are sensitive to chlorine and so they should be watered with non-chlorinated water and do not use chloride fertilisers including potassium chloride. Avoid excessive applications of phosphate. High levels of soil phosphorus have been associated with zinc deficiency in brambles. Gardens using poultry manure as a maintenance fertilizer should take care, since poultry wastes are especially high in phosphates.
Insect pests can be controlled with sprays of Neem Tree Oil (15 mils per Litre) and Key Pyrethrum (1-2 mils per litre) sprayed late in the day just prior to sunset. If borer attack, the canes then water Neem Oil into the root system at the rate of 25 Mils per Litre of water. This same method can be used to assist in the control of pests in the foliage with Neem Tree Granules added to the mulch as well.
Birds love the fruit when it ripens so you need to place Bird Repeller Ribbon strips on the canes once fruit has formed before ripening. Another way would be to cover the canes with Bird Netting which has to be placed in such a manner that birds cannot enter the fruiting area. The best way to do this is to make a wooden frame that encloses all the canes inside it and then place the netting over the frame and secured at soil level. Small gauge wire netting is best for this as it is more permanent and a hinged entrance can be on one side for access to the plant and fruit.
Container-grown, the brambles can be supported with four stakes placed at the cardinal points then garden twine wound around the outside of the stakes in a upward spiral.
This should keep the canes inside the stakes and still allow good access to pick and care for the plant. The leaves of brambles are often used to feed stick insects in captivity.
Some of the brambles available to the home gardener from garden centres grown by Incredible Edibles are Blackberry, Black Satin; Boysenberry, Burlee; Loganberry, Waimate; Orange Berry (Amazing ground cover but difficult to get to fruit well); Raspberries, Aspiring, Ebony, Ivory & Waiau. From Subtropica Nursery by mail order on the Internet the following; Blackberry Thornless; Raspberry (no name) From Diacks mail order on the Internet the following: Bramble Blackberry Black Satin, Bramble Boysenberry Brulee, Bramble Boysenberry, Bramble Karaka Black, Bramble Loganberry, Bramble Ranui Berries, Bramble Tayberry, Bramble Thornless.
Garden Centres will likely have other name types and these are normally available in the winter when the nurseries lift their stock for sale. Potted plants maybe available anytime of the year dependant on stocks.