In the quest to convert your yard from a water-hungry (albeit lovely) sprawl of green St. Augustine grass to one which is less demanding, you could consider growing edibles in a portion of that space. How about blackberries for a start? They are naturally occurring along fence lines along the walking path at the Chris Quinn Soccer Fields and in lots of rural fields around town. How delicious to pick and eat!
The world of blackberries is roughly divided into three major types: erect, semi-erect and trailing. The biggest difference is the growth habit of their canes. Erect blackberry types have stiff, arching canes that will often support themselves. Erect blackberries are considered more cold-hardy than trailing types. Although semi-erect and trailing can use some support, their blackberries are considered the sweeter.
Want blackberries? Choose a sunny place in your yard that has good air circulation and good water drainage. They are tolerant of a variety of soil acid conditions and will even tolerate some shade. Of course, mulch well and water if there is little rain. You may want to trellis for cane support and to keep the blackberries from spreading where you don’t want them. Container grown blackberries can be planted anytime from spring to late summer.
Remember that not much of anything (not even a blackberry) wants to grow in heavy, clay-like soil. Shovel in mulch, aged manure or even leaves to begin to aerate this kind of soil. Spray on diluted fish emulsion to begin to improve these areas.
According to Texas Blackberries article on the Aggie Horticulture Web site, blackberries are well adapted to most areas of Texas and easy to grow. One problem: blackberries are biennials and begin bearing berries the year after planting. What’s a year to wait for your own blackberries?The Aggies suggest a few excellent varieties. Brazos (released in 1959) is an erect thorned blackberry that has been the standard in Texas for 35 years. These are great blackberries for cooking. Rosborough (released by A&M in 1977) is erect and thorned with large sweet fruit. Shawnee is a new variety released by the University of Arkansas that has large, sweet fruit. The fruit is soft so they don’t store well, which shouldn’t bother the home gardener. Arapaho (released in 1993 by University of Arkansas) is a highly recommended variety. It produces a medium sized firm fruit in four weeks. It is very productive, has no thorns and is disease resistant.
Now that you will have blackberries where some of that grass used to be, how about an herb bed in another reclaimed area?
Joette is an avid gardener and prides herself on staying up-to-date on the latest gardening activities and tips. To share your gardening news with Joette, call (409) 832-1400 or fax her at