Wednesday, February 16, 2011

A Berry Good Trellis

I hate to admit it, but prior to 2009 I had never eaten fresh raspberries or blackberries off the vine.  At least not when I was old enough to remember it.  I had only eaten berries from the store with a flavor I would describe as "meh, average".  Two years ago I decided to visit a nearby pick-your-own berry operation (Barry's Berries and Jan's Jams at Rose Tree Hill Farms) about an hour from the house.  I thought it would be fun to pick berries.  I was absolutely blown away when I tasted fresh raspberries and blackberries right off the vine.  I knew at that moment I would one day plant cane berries in my backyard.  I didn't have a choice.  The flavor of the berries compelled me!

Last spring, I planted a few different varieties of berries down one side of my yard.  I selected Heritage Red raspberries (3 plants), Fall Gold raspberries (2 plants), Ouachita blackberries (3 plants), Arapaho blackberries (1 plant), and Triple Crown blackberries (1 plant).  They were young plants from small containers, and they grew fairly well. The raspberries even produced a few handfuls of berries.  The blackberries did not because they only fruit on second year canes. They are also thornless varieties.

As they grew, they started to bend over.  Most of them were either growing along the ground or close enough that when it rained they would be covered in mud.  I had other projects to work on at that time, and building a berry trellis was low on my priority list.  I just wanted the plants to establish a good root system.

Last weekend I set three 4"x4" posts 30" deep in the ground.  I placed a shovel-full of coarse gravel at the base of each hole to help with drainage and used a bit of quick setting concrete in each hole.  I pre-drilled the edge posts with holes for hardware and drilled holes all the way through the middle posts where I could run the wire rather than attaching more hardware.

Three-tier berry trellis for blackberries and raspberries.
I used galvanized wire (can't remember what gauge) and turnbuckles to put appropriate tension on the wire.  It's nearly impossible to hand-tighten 30-feet of fairly substantial wire.  Just can't do it.  The turnbuckles make it an easy chore and I can adjust them at a future date if I need to. Why wire, turnbuckles, and other heavy duty stuff? The plants will eventually be so heavy with fruit that anything less would sag and eventually fail.

Additional hardware to keep the other end of the wire from slipping.
I repeated this same setup for each strand of wire.  The first wire is roughly 18" off the ground, the second is close to 36", and the third wire is close to 60" high to provide even support.  I then carefully lifted the blackberry canes and loosely tied them to the wire.  I did the same with the raspberries (which grow shorter than the blackberries), and was careful with them to avoid the tiny little spines/spikes all over each cane.  I still need to paint the posts to protect them from the elements.  Aside from that, the trellis is basically complete.

Heritage Red raspberries loosely tied to the first and second tier of the berry trellis.
Ouachita blackberry plant attached to the trellis.
Although I call it a "berry good trellis", it may not necessarily be the best trellis.  The varieties of blackberries I planted are biennial.  This means that the first year of growth for each cane doesn't produce berries.  They only flower and fruit the second year.  How does that impact the trellis design?  Well, it would probably be easier if I had two separate sets of wires.  I would tie new canes to one set and harvest fruit from second year canes on a separate set of wires and repeat each year.  I will probably end up letting the new canes grow and trail, and I'll only tie them to the trellis after I have harvested berries and removed the second year canes in the fall.  The raspberry varieties I planted are everbearing, meaning they produce fruit in the summer on second year canes, and in the fall on first year canes.  I will tie all raspberry canes to the trellis.

There's one additional advantage to the trellis.  It'll be alot harder for my dogs to pull berries off the plants.  I caught both dogs eating raspberries off the canes last fall.  The sweet berries must've been worth the pain because those raspberry canes are sharp!

And here's one last thought.  If you've never eaten a fresh yellow/gold raspberry, try to find a place that grows them.  Your taste buds will thank you.


Kim said...

I remember when I was growing up my grandfather grew blueberry trees. I've never tasted blueberries that were as good as they were. I guess that's why I want to grow my own. You have either very brave dogs or very hungry ones to withstand thorns lol

Veggie PAK said...

The trellis looks great! I put in five Heritage Red Raspberry plants last year and got a couple handfuls of berries. The pruning directions are confusing to me. Some guidance says to clip some of the growth. Others say to run a lawn mower over the canes. That's a little too drastic for me. My grandmother didn't do ANYTHING to hers and the bush was about six feet by eight feet, and it had the BEST raspberries! That's what compelled me to plant some.

This year, I would like to plant blackberries, and I was thinking as you have about the thornless variety. I think I'm going to give them a try this year.

Keep up the good work, and thanks for the link to the berry picking farm!

Vincent R. Loges said...

Really a nice idea for the trellis using items that I can find in the local stores with out any trouble. Over the years, I have always lived in areas where the berries grew wild and were plentiful. I am now living South Carolina and there are not that many around here. The ones that are seem to be in areas where you have to be careful of the many snakes that are here. Your article has made realize how much I miss the fresh berries I use to pick.
You are right about the taste difference from ones purchased in the stores; the fresh picked berries are so much tastier. Thanks for the great post I will be back to read more of your work.


Mr. H. said...

That is a nice trellis, excellent job, much better than the one we are using...perhaps it's time to upgrade.

.09 Acres said...

Kim, some southern blueberries can grow over 10-feet tall, so I know what you mean when you talk about blueberry trees. Veggie_PAK, let me know what thornless varieties you plant. Triple Crown is apparently the standout of the group for overall performance, but I'm still waiting on my first harvest. Vincent, thanks for visiting my blog. Like you said, I tried to use readily available materials. I'm glad you enjoyed the information. If you become a "follower" of the blog, you'll receive automatic notifications when I post new info. Mr. H, remind me what types of berries you are growing up there. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Have you had to net your berries to protect your harvest from the birds (to say nothing of the dogs)?
How about your fig trees?

.09 Acres said...

Birds are definitely a concern. They love berries and figs. I plan on netting my figs later in the year. I may do the same with the berries, but I will hopefully have enough on the canes to share a few with the birds. Ants were a huge menace to my figs last year. I used a product called tangle foot. It was highly recommended by Sybil, a fig expert and former owner of Paradise Nursery. It worked very well.

foodgardenkitchen said...

Nice job on the trellis and what a great use of the space! I've been scrolling through your blog and you should be proud of your .09 acres!