Fruit and Vegetables

Bramble, Blackberries - Rubus


Rubus is a perennial, sarmentose, semisempreverde shrub, native to central-southern Europe. It constitutes a large stump, from which numerous thin, ribbed and arched stems branch out, covered by many small arched spines; every year the rubus produces many suckers, which can develop even for a few meters in a single season; the stems are densely branched and sometimes prostrate, forming a thick and impenetrable tangle. The rubus leaves are composed of small oval, toothed, dark green leaves on the upper side, white on the lower side. The stems of one year produce, at the end of spring, or at the beginning of summer, terminal panicle-shaped inflorescences, made up of small white or pinkish flowers; in late summer it produces small green fruits, which become black when ripe and edible. They are roundish, made up of some small round drupes, which contain a single seed; after fructification the stems dry. Blackberries are very popular raw fruits, or used for the production of jams or liqueurs; R. fruticosus is much cultivated also in the gardens for the particularity of not having thorns, the fruits of this bramble are not very sweet from raw, but they are ideal for preparing jams. Some brambles are cultivated as decorative plants, presenting very showy blooms, such as R. spectabilis and R. odoratus.

The blackberry

The blackberry is part of the so-called "small fruits": various perennial or slow-growing shrubs that produce soft and juicy fruits. This category includes currants, gooseberries, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, grapes and blackberries. Unlike fruit trees, which need a large space to grow well, these crops are ideal for a sunny or slightly shady location in a small garden. Some can even be grown in containers and are perfect for patios or balconies.

Family and gender
Rosaceae, rubus idaeus, rubus ulmifolius (in cultivation)
Type of plant Shrub, perennial
Exposure Full sun, half shade in the South
RusticitŠ° Rustic
Ground Rich, subacid or neutral
Irrigation Generally not necessary
Composting Good amount of potassium, little nitrogen
fruits Shiny black or purple drupes, acidulous. There are also red varieties
Collection From July to October, depending on the varieties
Purposes Fresh consumption, for pastries or jams, jellies, syrups and juices


The brambles prefer sunny places, in nature they develop at the edges of the woods, along slopes and in sunny glades; they do not fear the cold and adapt to many conditions, sometimes becoming weeds.


Generally they can endure even long periods of drought, being content with the rains; to obtain a better harvest it is however advisable to supply water regularly from May to August, always allowing the soil to dry well between one watering and another. For a correct development of the plants it is good to bury at the foot of the stump a mature organic fertilizer, in autumn and early spring.

Blackberries should be planted between the end of autumn and the beginning of spring, except for periods when the soil is frozen or too wet. The less vigorous varieties must be spaced about 2.5 m from each other, while those of medium vigor need from 3 to 5 meters one from the other.We choose a sunny and sheltered place so that the branches are not damaged by the wind.As for raspberries, fruiting occurs on the branches of the previous year. These, therefore, must always be preserved to the maximum.The best way to support the stems in a small space is to create a single fence using poles about 2.2 meters high and distancing them by 4. The poles should be inserted at a depth of 60 cm. They will then be connected by rigid galvanized iron wire with a diameter of at least 2 mm, if not more. The individual wires should be spaced about 75 cm in height from each other. The stems will be tied and directed horizontally since this favors the slowing of the flow of the sap and the activation of the intermediate buds. As a result there will be more abundant and better distributed fruiting.Multiplication

Generally it happens for offshoots or for cutting; the new suckers root very easily when separated from the main stump in late winter or early spring. The blackberry multiplies with great ease both with the branch cuttings of a year, and with the offshoot or edge layering. The most practical method is to interrupt branches of the year during the summer period. The rooting takes place within two months and the plants can be transferred to jars or directly to their home before the arrival of winter.

Pests and diseases

This plant is very rustic and resistant, but often the inflorescences are attacked by aphids, and sometimes the leaves are affected by white mal.
The bramble is basically a very rustic and hardy plant. In fact, it lives spontaneously almost everywhere, succeeding without difficulty in bearing fruit and multiplying. It defends itself very well from parasitic attacks and is therefore an excellent choice for those who want to practice organic farming.
Unfortunately it is rather sensitive to various cryptogams, in particular to rust and gray mold. Especially the latter can heavily compromise the harvest in the presence of particularly humid vintages due to rain or morning dew (and perhaps with not too correct exposures).
To avoid this problem it is important to avoid the excesses of nitrogenous fertilizers in order to keep the vegetation always open and airy. The soil must also always be cleaned of grass and splinters on which the fearsome spores could settle and survive.
Other hazards
It happens quite frequently that in summer these fruits become a very strong point of attraction for birds, in particular for sparrows and magpies. To protect our cultivation it will then be advisable to set up special nets covering the specimens to the ground. Let us remember, however, to check often to free up those specimens that may have become entangled.

Planting and setting of the back

You will have to start in the autumn by digging a furrow in a soil that is already prepared, 80 cm wide and 60 cm deep. The base must be covered with 8-10 cm of mature manure. Let's put the soil back in the groove and draw it. We insert the fork several times in the ground and let a slow release granular fertilizer penetrate in the dose of 85 grams per square meter. Let the soil settle for a few weeks before planting.
At that point we will insert the plants at a distance of 45 cm from each other, widening the roots of each one. The ideal depth of the collar is about 8 cm. The stem will then be cut at the height of a bud about 25 cm from the ground level.
We mulch with garden compote to protect from the first winter.
As spring arrives, the stems will be cut to ground level to stimulate the birth of totally new ones. In summer these new branches will bind to the supporting wires. At the end of the first winter, they should be cut to the highest wire level. The secondary branches should also be trimmed.
At the end of the following year these branches will be cut at ground level (since they will have borne fruit) leaving room for new ones.

Climate and terrain

The brambles grow on any soil, preferring stony soils, very well draining. The cultivated varieties vegetate and produce well in the hilly or piedmont soils as long as they are well exposed and very sunny that allow a complete ripening of the fruits also in September and October. The most appreciated substrates are light and rich in humus, neutral or subacid (pH 6-7).
They adapt well to both mild and cold climates. They tend to have a position in full sun throughout Northern Italy and slightly shaded in the South.


The fruit because it is sweet and juicy must be harvested perfectly ripe. In fact, once detached from the branch it will not mature further. The presence of groups of small unripe drupes at the collection point, besides causing resistance to detachment, can cause an excessively sour taste and therefore not very palatable. Generally the fruit is ready for harvesting when it tends to detach spontaneously, without effort from the operator. Usually the steps for harvesting must be done every 4-6 days (depending on the time of year and the variety).
Frutticino is characterized by scarce pulp. It should therefore be harvested with the utmost delicacy to avoid injuries and crushing which will cause premature deterioration and depreciation.
It is also advisable to proceed only when the drupes are completely dry. If they are wet with dew or rain molds will almost certainly develop inside the packaging or in the place where we store them.

Bramble, Blackberries - Rubus: Cultivars in cultivation

One of the most popular and widespread varieties in cultivation is black satin: it combines all the good features already listed for domesticated varieties with the advantage of starting production very early in the year. Its fruits are medium in size and have a very glossy black-violet color, whose taste is distinctly sour.
The harvest if the climate is optimal can start already starting from July and lasts for the whole month of September.
Another highly sought-after cultivar is thornfree. As the name says, it is characterized by the almost total lack of spines. It produces very large and very abundant drupes. The ideal climate is warm and sunny. Also suitable for drought areas as the lack of water is not an insurmountable problem for her, as is not a poor or inadequate terrain. It also tolerates clayey and heavy substrates. As we have said, it has elongated fruits of a deep black color, juicy, acidulous, but pleasant when fully ripe. Unfortunately it is hit with a certain assiduousness by gray mold and therefore special care must be taken and a certain prevention done if we live in an area where humidity is very high. The collection in this case begins at the beginning of August and ends at the end of October.
Other interesting varieties to consider are: Dirksen, Lucrezia, Boysenberry, Longaberry, tayberry.
Blackberries are loved by a multitude of wild animals and their leaves are also vital to the environment. In the shelter of these plants, in fact, ladybugs and many types of butterflies develop. Dorms, squirrels and foxes make the den. It is also an irreplaceable vegetable for a multitude of birds.
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