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Growing Ouachita Blackberries: A Complete Guide

heading - ouchita Blackberries

A Complete Guide

Welcome to our comprehensive guide on growing Ouachita Blackberries in the North Central Florida region. These luscious berries are not only a delight to eat but also relatively easy to cultivate. Whether you’re a seasoned gardener or a novice, this article will provide you with all the information you need to successfully grow and harvest Ouachita Blackberries in your backyard.


Ouchita Blackberry on Wire
Ouachita Blackberry on Wire

Ouachita Blackberries (Rubus fruticosus ‘Ouachita’) are a thornless variety known for their exceptional flavor and high yield. Developed by the University of Arkansas, these berries are large, sweet, and perfect for eating fresh, baking, or making preserves. They thrive in the warm and humid climate of North Central Florida, making them an ideal choice for home gardeners in the region.


Planting Location

Choosing the right location for your Ouachita Blackberries is crucial for their growth and productivity. Select a site that receives full sun exposure for at least six to eight hours a day. Ensure the soil is well-drained, rich in organic matter, and has a slightly acidic to neutral pH level. Consider planting blackberries in raised beds or mounds to improve drainage if your soil is heavy or poorly drained.


Pre-Planting Preparations

icon Soil amendmentsBefore planting your Ouachita Blackberries, it’s essential to prepare the soil adequately. Follow these steps…
Clear the area: Remove any weeds, grass, or debris from the planting site.
Soil testing: Conduct a soil test to determine its pH level and nutrient content. Adjust the pH to the recommended range of 5.5 to 6.5 for blackberries.
Soil amendment: Incorporate organic matter such as compost or well-rotted manure into the soil to improve its structure and fertility.
Spacing: Leave approximately 4-5 feet between each plant and 8-10 feet between rows to allow for adequate air circulation.


Fertilizing Ouachita Blackberries

Proper fertilization is essential for the growth and development of Ouachita Blackberries. Here are some guidelines to follow:
Early spring: Apply a balanced slow-release fertilizer, following the manufacturer’s instructions. Avoid direct contact with the fertilizer with the plant stems.
Mid-summer: Apply additional nitrogen-based fertilizer to promote healthy foliage growth.
Avoid excessive fertilization: Over-fertilizing can lead to excessive vegetative growth at the expense of fruit production.


Pruning Ouachita Blackberries

AI Icon pruningPruning is crucial for maintaining the health, productivity, and shape of your Ouachita Blackberries. Here are some key points to remember:
First year: In the first year, focus on establishing a strong root system. Remove any dead or damaged canes.
Second year and beyond: Prune in late winter or early spring before new growth begins. Remove all weak, diseased, or damaged canes. Retain the strongest, healthy canes and thin them to approximately six per plant.

Here are some additional tips for training Ouachita blackberries:

  • Start training the plants when they are young. This will help them to develop a strong structure.
  • Use sturdy materials for the trellis or hedgerows. This will prevent the vines from breaking.
  • Tie the vines loosely to the trellis or hedgerow. This will prevent them from getting damaged.


Harvesting Ouachita Blackberries

Basket of BlackberriesThe delicious moment of harvesting your Ouachita Blackberries is undoubtedly rewarding. Here’s what you need to know:

  1. Fruit-bearing: Ouachita Blackberries typically bear fruit on second-year canes. After fruiting, these canes will naturally die back, and it’s important to remove them to make way for new growth. Carefully pick the ripe berries, avoiding any excessive pressure that may damage the plant.
  2. Ouachita blackberries are a “primocane” type of blackberry, which means that they produce fruit on the current year’s growth. This is in contrast to “floricane” type blackberries, which produce fruit on the previous year’s growth.



Post Harvest IconCareAfter harvesting your Ouachita Blackberries, it’s essential to provide post-harvest care to ensure healthy plant growth and maximize future yields. Here are a few key points to consider:

  1. Remove spent canes: After fruiting, the second-year canes will wither and die. Prune them back to the ground to make space for new canes to grow.
  2. Mulching: Apply a layer of organic mulch around the base of the plants to help retain moisture, suppress weeds, and regulate soil temperature.
  3. Irrigation: Provide regular irrigation to keep the soil consistently moist but not waterlogged. Blackberries require about 1 inch of water per week, especially during hot and dry periods.
  4. Winter protection: In North Central Florida, where occasional frost can occur, consider protecting the plants during winter by covering them with blankets or row covers when freezing temperatures are expected.


Harvesting Months

Gardening plannerIn North Central Florida, you can typically start harvesting Ouachita Blackberries in late spring, around May, and continue through early summer, usually until June or July, depending on weather conditions and plant maturity.


Unique Ways to Train Ouachita Blackberries

Ouchita Blackberry Row
Ouachita Blackberry Row

Training your Ouachita Blackberry plants can optimize space usage, improve air circulation, and make harvesting easier. Here are a couple of unique training methods you can try:

  1. Trellising: This is the most common method of training Ouachita blackberries. Trellis training allows the vines to grow up and along a trellis, which makes them easier to harvest and prevents them from getting tangled.
    Install a sturdy trellis system using posts and wires. Train the blackberry canes to grow vertically along the wires, ensuring proper support and easy access for maintenance and harvesting.
  2. Espalier: Espalier is a technique where the canes are trained to grow in a flat, horizontal pattern against a wall or trellis. This method is ideal for limited-space gardens and can create an attractive display.
  3. Hedgerow training: This method of training Ouachita blackberries involves planting the plants in a row and then training the vines to grow along the ground. Hedgerow training is a good option for small spaces or if you want to create a privacy hedge.
  4. Single-stem training: This method of training Ouachita blackberries involves only allowing one main stem to grow from each plant. Single-stem training is a good option for producing high-quality fruit.

By following these training methods, you can maximize the productivity and visual appeal of your Ouachita Blackberry plants.


Growing Ouachita Blackberries in North Central Florida is a rewarding endeavor. With proper planting, care, and harvesting techniques, you can enjoy a bountiful harvest of these delicious and versatile fruits. Embrace the joy of homegrown blackberries and savor their sweetness straight from your garden.