Blackberries in Alaska; sounds farfetched I know. Many growers of berries in this state don’t have much luck with blackberries in most of the state (forums). They say the berries needs warmer summers with more sun and that winter temperatures usually kill the new canes that grow during the summer. In most blackberry varieties these canes will produce the next summer but have to over winter successfully to produce (motherearthnews). In the lower 48 growers usually mulch the plants heavily if they are in a colder state and keep the plants pruned to keep them from taking over adjacent plots and garden areas. Blackberries usually fall into two categories: trailing and upright both require different methods of pruning and if this is neglected the plants can quickly get out of hand (motherearthnews). Blackberries also are a very thorny plant even worse than raspberries and the trailing ones can create large brambles that are very difficult to pick. Overtime new and better varieties of blackberries have been created with certain traits being bred out and others becoming more prominent (motherearthnew). One of these traits was a faster maturing berry which would grow on the first year wood; this variety is a possible option for colder climates as one could conceivably get berries from young wood that summer (almanac.com). The reason I am writing about growing blackberries in Alaska is because I have seen it done and successfully. Years ago I was visiting a farm not far from where I live. The farm had a large vegetable garden, hay fields for the small herd of cows being raised there, and a nice greenhouse. The lady who ran the green house was an excellent gardener and coxed more yields out of her tomatoes and other greenhouse crops than most others could have managed. I liked her greenhouse set up; it was simple and very productive, but the one thing which stood out the most in my mind was the very large blackberry bush that was growing up one wall. The trailing vines grew nearly 12ft in either direction and was trellised to the wall for support. This plant grew out of a 5-gallon bucket set against the wall. I had never actually seen a blackberry bush in living color so I took some time to inspected the branches and ripening berries with interest. The branches were loaded with ripening berries. I have since then asked around and it seems the lady who ran the greenhouse was and is still known for her abilities in plant growing and knowledge of greenhouse growing and berry cultivation. Some of the people who talked tome mentioned her blackberry bush. The bush it seems was a bit famous.
Perhaps growing blackberries in a hightunnel, or greenhouse is the only way to really get good production in my area. I did not know much about her methods of how she cared for the bush so to find out I asked around, got her phone number and called her up. She was more than happy to share her experience of growing the blackberry bush with me. She said that she bought the berry through a catalog which advertised the berry as being (grow-able in Alaska). The variety was a thornless blackberry sold by Doyle; the plants are still for sail online and I found many favorable reviews though most were in the lower 48(yelp.com). Even Amazon sells them and says they can be grown in all 50 states though I am sure that can be taken with a grain of salt. My friend also said that the berry was very easy to grow as far as yearly maintenance. When the plant arrived it was about a foot tall with a long root system. She planted the small bush in a bucket with holes in the bottom for drainage and filled it with half potting soil, half topsoil from her garden plots. She placed it by the greenhouse wall and used it as a trellis when the bush began to put out larger branches. The fertilizer she recommended is made by (spray-n- grow.com) called Bill’s perfect fertilizer. She fertilized the bush at the beginning of the year and kept it well watered. She pruned early spring and transplanted the bush the second year into a larger container than the bucket. Every fall she stored the whole plant unpruned in the farm’s rootcellar and watered it once a month with about a quart of water to keep it alive but dormant. The first year the bush produced a handful of berries and the second year it produced a gallon. It would have produced more but the third year she moved and had to give the plant and her propagated cuttings from the bush away. I asked if she had any issues with diseases or pests on the bush and she said no. I also asked if she had any pollination issues and again she said no. I guess because it was growing in the summer and the greenhouse was well ventilated, bees or flies must have pollinated it for her. She felt the whole experiment was very much worth her time and effort. I was glad to get this information straight from her. I also enjoyed finding out how, a little blackberry bush for sale in a catalog was grown, propagated and is still growing in this part of Alaska thanks to her efforts. AB Delta Junction
Spray-N-Grow. 2016. Spray-N-Grow Garden Products. Available online:. https://www.spray-n-growgardening.com/ Accessed Oct. 5 2016.
Amazo. 2016. Doyle’s thornless blackberry plant. Available online: https://www.amazon.com/Doyles-Thornless-Blackberry-Ordinary-Annually/dp/B00GLEBN2S. Accessed Oct. 5, 2016.
Yelp. 2016. Recommended reviews for Doyle’s thornless blackberry. Available online:
Accessed Oct.5, 2016
Heidenreich, C., M. Pritts, K. Demchak, E. Hanson, C. Weber and M J Kelly. 2012 rev. High tunnel raspberries and blackberries. Department of Horticulture Pub. No. 47. Available online: http://www.fruit.cornell.edu/berry/production/pdfs/hightunnelsrasp2012.pdf
Accessed Oct. 3, 2016
Pleasant, B. 2016. Plant low-maintenance blackberries. Mother Earth News. Available online: http://www.motherearthnews.com/organic-gardening/plant-low-maintenance-blackberries-zmaz07djzgoe Accessed Oct. 3, 2016.
The Old Farmers Almanac. 2016. Blackberries. Available online:
http://www.almanac.com/plant/blackberries. Accessed Oct. 3, 2016