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The luscious blackberry is known for being nutritious and perfect for making jams, delicious cobblers, and homebaked pies. While the store-bought variety may suffice, there seems to be an extra delight to the taste buds when they’re picked fresh off the bush. If you’ve decided to have blackberries in your garden, the good news is that it’s relatively easy to care for them. But when you’re growing blackberries in your aquaponics gardens, there are some tips you need to know to make sure you enjoy a bountiful harvest.
In this article, you will learn how to cultivate blackberries in your aquaponics setup.
Why Grow Aquaponic Blackberries
The blackberry is a perennial shrub belonging to the Rosaceae family, which makes it a relative of strawberries and raspberries. A blackberry shrub has a variable lifespan, but it is usually able to live for up to ten years. and can reach a height of up to 10 feet.
Breeding programs have developed different varieties of blackberries suited for home gardening. Some of these varieties don’t have thorns but still produce large and tasty fruits. And since they don’t have thorns, harvesting berries from your aquaponics garden would be a lot easier. Best of all, the plant can produce up to 10 pounds of delicious fruits every year, promising you a good supply that’s perfect for your culinary needs.
Health Benefits of Blackberries
Enjoying a cup of blackberries means you’re supplying your body with the nutrients it needs. According to the USDA, 100g of blackberries, you get:
- Sodium: 1mg
- Protein: 1.39 g
- Carbohydrates: 9.61g
- Fiber: 5.3 g
- Sugars: 4.88 g
- Fat: 0.49g
- Calories: 43
In addition to the basic nutrients, studies have shown that blackberries are rich in antioxidants, which help fight cancer and cell damage. Other impressive benefits of eating blackberries include better digestive health, healthier heart, good bone health, and strengthened immune system. Being a versatile and nutritious fruit, it is easy to add blackberries to your diet.
The types of blackberries you can grow in your aquaponics garden can be grouped into two basic categories: trailing and erect (which also includes semi-erect). Both categories have thorny and thornless cultivars.
The trailing varieties grow out long canes that may require structural support, like a trellis. An example of this type you can check out is the Ollalie. On the other hand, the erect and semi-erect varieties have strong stems that don’t need extra support during the fruiting season. Examples of erect thorny varieties include Cherokee, Cheyenne, Shawnee, and Brazos, while the thornless cultivars include Chester and Black Satin.
Fruit size and flavor profile will vary between cultivars. Taking into consideration the purpose of growing berries will also help you decide which cultivar to choose. Thornless erect or semi-erect types may be easier to tend to, but generally, they produce small to medium-sized fruits that taste a bit bitter. On the other hand, trailing (thorn or thornless) varieties produce bigger and more flavorful yields, which make them a popular choice in home gardens across the U.S.
If you need more help, check out this guide on different blackberry cultivars and their fruiting characteristics.
Growing Requirements for Aquaponic Blackberries
Here are the factors you need to consider when growing blackberries in aquaponics gardens.
Aquaponics System Types
Standard media-filled beds will suffice when growing blackberries. Make sure to provide structural support or trellises for your plant, if you’re growing the trailing type.
Blackberries prefer neutral or mildly acidic soil, with an ideal pH range between 5.5 and 7.0. Use a high quality pH meter to help ensure accurate readings.
Water and Air Temperature
The ideal temperature range for growing blackberries should be kept between 72 and 76 F.
Let your blackberry bush get 10-12 hours of light daily to ensure optimum growth.
There are different fish types that can be considered a great match for your aquaponic blackberries. These include koi, crappie, guppy, and tetra fish. All these species can thrive well under climate and pH conditions required for growing blackberries.
It is ideal to buy canes from your local nursery instead of growing blackberries from seeds. The canes are best planted in early spring, just after the threat of frost has passed. Trailing types should be planted 4-6 feet apart in rows, while erect types should be planted 2-3 feet apart.
When harvesting, keep in mind that you need to wait for the berries to be entirely black. Ripe ones are plump and easy to pull out. Another tip for harvesting tastier and juicier berries is to do it in the morning before it gets too hot.
You can use gravel for your aquaponic blackberries.
Fruit-boring larvae, scales, mites, and aphids are some of the pests that may attack your blackberries. However, keeping your plants happy and healthy should help them avoid serious infestations.
Common Problems When Growing Blackberries
Sunburn of blackberries can happen, resulting in some drupelets (individual fleshy fruit) to turn tan or white in color. While they love sunshine, blackberries should still be protected from too much exposure to the sun.
Pruning is required when maintaining blackberries to help manage their size and improve fruit quality. Old canes that have born fruit previously should be pruned so young canes can emerge. Also, when growing these plants, don’t be easily discouraged if you don’t get amazing fruits during the first few years of harvests. It would take about 2-3 seasons before your plant can bear plump and juicy berries.
If you’re using your blackberries for processing, such as in jams or jellies, do not wait too long. These fruits are delicate, and they start to deteriorate after a couple of days.