North Florida raspberries and blackberries

Hawthorne, FL(Zone 8b)

I'm on flatwoods between Gainesville and Hawthorne, Florida; most of the land is former farmland now taken over by various trees, grasses, and weeds. ("Ruderal" or "disturbed land," I suppose.) I have multi-acre patches that are largely some variety or varieties of blackberry. The plants vary from ground cover (in places where I've mowed a lot, those are the survivors I suppose) to head high, are very thorny, and bear small fruit that varies from bitter if conditions are dry, to seedy but palatable, to insipid if there's been a great deal of rain. I have mostly clay soil, and in low spots after prolonged rains I sometimes hve standing water.

What bothers me is that any time I plant any sort of cultivated bramble, blackberry or raspberry, the plants usually die soon. I realize now that probably I should try raised beds, and I know that raspberries are marginal here and do best if one chooses a fall bearer and mows the canes to the ground after the first frost, but here I have these persistent weeds that I can't eradicate, yet their cultivated relatives invariably die on me. I've been told that the wild brambles may be hosts to viruses and other pathogens that they can tolerate but that cultivated brambles can't, but I have not seen anything in print that confirms this. The Cooperative Extension people around here seem even less knowledgable than I am about everything I've sought help on, from weeds to cover crops to these bramble fruits.

(One nurserywoman in Indiana told me when I tried to order by phone that she wouldn't sell me blackberries or raspberries unless I promised to eradicate all wild brambles within a few hundred yards of where I intended to plant the cultivated ones! Another data point: a few years ago I bought fresh raspberries in autumn, supposedly grown organically near Lake City, Florida, which is not much colder than here, but I haven't seen them offered since then and have not been able to find out anything about the grower.)

Any ideas?

Mark., wasting away again near Alligatorville...

Bradenton, FL(Zone 9b)

I live further south than you and I have had good success with Red Heritage Raspberries. Mine have completely flushed out by now and I have even harvested some berries already. I also grow ‘Arapaho’ and ‘Apache’ blackberries they are still flushing out and have started to flower.

I grow mine against a large trellis built with 4 X 4 posts with 2 X 4 frames and 5 foot high utility wire. The trellis stands about 7 ½ feet high. Blackberries and raspberries like a slightly acidic soil (5.0 to 6.0). I water at least 2 X weekly if no rain. Since we get so much rain in the summer I have taken to fertilizing most of my plants every two month at half recommend strength. All I do for pruning is in the winter I look at the stalks and limbs and if they are brown and withering I cut back the limbs to the stalk or the stalk to the ground. The plants are larger now I should probably be thinned out even more this winter. Good luck with your berries.

Hawthorne, FL(Zone 8b)

Thanks for the information. Various people would inform you that you are doing the impossible; it's good to hear the results of experience. Interesting that you are getting the smaller spring crop that appears on last year's raspberry canes: I have heard claim after claim that without a lot of hours of chilling there simply isn't one -- no blooms, no fruit -- but you certainly get less chill than I do. "Heritage" is one of the suggested varieties for places where it doesn't get quite cold enough-- but the U Florida Cooperative Extension Service flyers claim that Bababerry (huge plants, insipid fruit) is the only raspberry apart from the tropical Mysore raspberry that will thrive in any part of Florida. They also suggest a variety of blackberry, Ocklawaha I think it's called, that I have never seen offered for sale anywhere.

(Chill hours do seem to matter for some plants. I have a gigantic rambling rose [forget the variety, could be Leontine Gervaise maybe] that is supposed to flower once in the spring, and it has yet to flower at all after many years. The prostrate wild blackberries, however, always flower early, right after the Carolina-jessamine; then the taller ones follow suit; I would expect cultivated blackberries to do well here whether or not raspberries do.)

The U Arkansas blackberries named after native tribes have been suggested for warm areas, so I'm not surprised that you have two of those varieties.

Just curious: do you have any wild blackberries nearby, namely within a few hundred yards? Maybe my problems really are related to disease and not climate.

Mark., thanks again

Bradenton, FL(Zone 9b)

I had a ‘Brazo’ blackberry growing in a pot near by. It flowered and fruited once but I got tired of getting caught on it every time I walked by and last week I removed it.

Three of the Blackberries are in there second year and are going strong. I bought a dozen bare rooted Blackberries (6 of each Arapaho & Apache) to fill in the trellis I am growing it on since I also use the trellis as a living privacy fence. I planted the blackberries in December and they are already flowering.

I bought a nice healthy Tropical Mysore raspberry which I put in the ground. It declined and I decided to pull it out of the ground and pot it but it was too late and it just died.

I have four blueberry bushes (2) ‘SharpBlue’, Millennia’ & ‘Misty’ that have not grown much in the last two years. They fruit nicely for 2 foot plants but I expected them to be 4+ feet by now. I pulled them out of the ground and planted them is my raised vegetable bed. They get more sun and acidifying the soil should be easier in a raised bed.

I also grow over 20 varieties of tropical and sub-tropical fruit plants, trees and vines so we usually have some fresh fruit most of the year. Many of my plants/trees are young so we still get a lot of new surprises.

Good luck with your fruit


Post a Reply to this Thread

Please or register to post.

Upload Images to your reply

    You may upload up to 5 images