Raspberries are popular garden fruits. Black raspberries, Rubus occidentalis, initially grow a red color that changes to black as the berries ripen on the vine. Native to North America, many black raspberry cultivars have smaller berries with more seeds than the other raspberry color varieties and a sweet and strong aroma. The tops of the black raspberry leaves are green while the underneath and stems are white with many prickles. Some black raspberry plants are called Blackcaps in the northern states.
Area Location and Hardiness
Black raspberries are not as cold hardy as other color varieties of raspberries. While varieties of black raspberries grow in most states, they grow better in warmer climates. Most black raspberry plants are summer bearing plants that are hardy in USDA Zones 5 through 7. If you live in areas with harsh winters, plant your black raspberries after the last frost and protect the plants in subsequent years from cold winter weather. Temperatures that dip below five degrees Fahrenheit may cause the plant to become damaged or die.
Position in Your Yard
Choosing a garden area for black raspberries in your yard may require a little planning. These raspberries enjoy a sunny location that has a slightly acidic soil with ample nutrients and good drainage. Before you plant the black raspberries, collect and analyze soil samples from your yard to determine the best location. If none of your potential garden areas have the correct pH and organic matter content you can amend the soil. Ideally, your garden soil should have a pH of 5.5 to 6.5 with at least three percent organic content. If necessary, you can add organic matter such as sphagnum peat or lime to raise the pH and sulfur to lower the pH. Add fertilizer if the nutrient levels in your soil is low according to the soil test. Generally, a 10-10-10 fertilizer is appropriate for black raspberry gardens.
The garden area in your yard should be large enough to accommodate the plants. Black raspberries grow suckers from the base of the plant and, therefore, do not spread as other color varieties of the fruit. Before you plant the black raspberries, measure your garden to ensure that you have adequate spacing to plant the raspberries 2.5 to 4 feet apart and in rows that are approximately 8 to 12 feet from one another. If desired, you can use a low, hill system trellis to support the plants and improve production.
Popular Black Raspberry Cultivars
New varieties of black raspberry plants were introduced in the early to mid-1900s. Today, you can plant several popular cultivars in your home garden. Popular varieties include the “Jewel,” “Early Sweet,” “Blackhawk,” “Allen,” “Haut,” “Bristol,” and ‘Munger.” Black raspberries produce crops in the summertime and ripen just after many of the red varieties. These raspberry plants produce sweet tasting fruit that is medium in size, attractive, and good for recipes and freezing.
Image courtesy of USDA.gov