Califonia Bountiful

Gardening Q&A

September/October 2018 California Bountiful magazine

We planted blackberries a few years ago and have tried to train the vines on a trellis, but it is a tangled mess. How do we make it neat and productive again?

The vine that produces this year's crop won't produce any next year, so cut it to the ground. That should take care of some of the spiny, tangled mess. A berry farmer I know uses a two-wire system. The canes produced this year, he ties to the wire on one side, so he knows which ones produce fruit for the year and to make it easier to keep the berry patch organized. As the canes come up for next year's fruit, he ties them to the other wire. If your berry patch is really out of control, you might just want to cut the whole thing back and start over, keeping things more organized in the future.


We want to plant several types of fruit trees this coming bare-root season, but don't know which are best for beginners.

Apple and pear are good bets for beginning orchard gardeners because they are easy to prune. Others, such as plum and peach, bear on new wood or year-old wood, so it can be tricky to know how to prune them to keep them producing. But the best advice is to plant what you love and will eat, and learn how to take care of them. There are several books on home orchards. I had several types of fruit trees, and when it came time to prune, I took the book out with me and followed the directions for each type of fruit tree. Pretty soon, I could identify fruit trees just by their bark.

This is a good time to plan your orchard and research what types of trees you like. Rather than buy something based on a description of its taste, try to sample varieties of fruit while they are in season, and then find and plant those varieties you know you like. I mistakenly planted a Rome Beauty apple once, and while it produced beautiful apples, no one in my family liked them.

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