Thornless Blackberries

comments (6) September 25th, 2008

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Ruth Ruth Dobsevage, Web producer
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Chester thornless blackberries are large and juicy. Fruit ripens late in the summer.
Posts and wires help support the canes and keep this thornless blackberry patch manageable.
Chester thornless blackberries are large and juicy. Fruit ripens late in the summer.Click To Enlarge

'Chester' thornless blackberries are large and juicy. Fruit ripens late in the summer.

Photo: Ruth Dobsevage

Wild blackberries are a treat, but unless you encase yourself in protective clothing, your arms and legs will be bloodied by the thorns. So when I noticed thornless blackberries in a catalog a few years ago, I was eager to give them a try.

I decided to order plants from Nourse Farms in Deerfield, Massachusetts. Unable to settle on a variety, I asked them to send me the one best suited to my region (southwestern Connecticut), and they chose 'Chester'.

My five plants arrived in early spring, and I planted them about 4 ft. apart, as recommended in Nourse’s planting guide. I built a simple trellis of metal fence posts and wire to support them. Incredibly, my resident deer took a fancy to the new canes, so I hastily enlarged my orchard fencing to include them. My fence won’t win any design awards, but I can live with that, now that the deer are on the outside looking in.

Both thorny and thornless blackberries bear fruit on second-year canes. But that’s where the similarity ends. 'Chester' forms huge arching canes and astonishingly large berries.

To keep the plants accessible and productive, a little pruning is in order. In late fall or winter, you remove canes that bore fruit the previous year. In early summer, you can trim the ends of the first-year canes to encourage the formation of fruit-bearing side shoots.

At my place, fruit starts to mature in late August and continues for several weeks. The fruit may look ripe, but it isn’t really ready unless the berries come right off with little pressure. You don’t need to pick every day, just two or three times a week. Picking, sans thorns, is painless and relaxing.

What to do with these tasty berries? We turn them into jam (a specialty of my son’s), cobbler, coolers, and smoothies, or just eat them fresh. Blackberries can also be frozen for use in the winter (spread on a cookie sheet in a single layer, then transfer to a plastic bag).

 


posted in: berries, blackberries

Comments (6)

saw99a writes: Hi, I've planted a thornless blackbery and it is producing beautiful berries. Only problem is we're not able to pick any of them because the birds are picking them clean. The ones that remain look like they are drying from the inside out (I'm assuming insects?) We have ant problems in our raised bed but I'm not seeing many other insects. Ideas or suggestions for keeping these critters away? I've tried mylar ribbon to deter birds and they are unphased. I obviously want to keep it organic and shy away from chemical pesticides. Any help would be appreciated! Thanks!
Posted: 1:16 pm on June 5th
flfrey writes: I planted Chester blackberry plants in 2011. This year, I think I pruned them too late (May or June) because there was no fruit, although the plants have taken over the entire side of the garage. Now, we have had our first frost and I have no idea how to prune them, as I don't want to ruin the potential for a crop next year. Suggestions?
Posted: 10:43 pm on October 29th
Ruth writes: When I get confused by pruning instructions (which is often), I tend to be conservative and either do nothing at all or prune some of the bushes/canes and not others. In this case, I think that's what I'd do. Growth hasn't really started yet in my blackberry patch, so I'm thinking that cutting back a little might still be a good idea to encourage branching. You could also give Nourse a call; they're a family company, and you'll get good advice.
Posted: 9:17 am on March 17th
KarenBudnick writes: Hi Ruth!

Okay - based on your article, I bought and planted Chester. I didn't prune last year because I'd just planted them and wanted to wait until they got established. Spring is here and I guess I have to wait? I want to cut them back now but I have a feeling I have to wait until they produce fruit? I read the information from Nourse and I'm still not clear. Any ideas would be helpful.

Thanks


Posted: 6:32 pm on March 16th
Ruth writes: We had a huge crop this year as well (Connecticut). I'm interested in your wine recipe. Can you post it? Do you need a large quantity of berries?
Posted: 4:55 pm on October 28th
Schatzi writes: I live in western WA/Puget Sound area. I bought 3 Chester thornless blackberry plants a number of years ago, and I have been giving away berries and plants ever since. The berries are large and sweet and very prolific. We have made blackberry wine (excellent!), syrup, pies, cobblers and jelly and still have more than we need. My favorite thing is to eat them right off the vine. In this area, if you do not keep them well pruned, they will take over the area. I have seen canes 30 feet long the first year, before I learned. They went across the driveway and into the next field. But being thornless, they are easy to handle. A great berry. Now to find a thornless raspberry...
Posted: 3:50 pm on October 28th
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