Q. We want to give blackberry plants to our son. When is the best time to transplant them and how short should they be trimmed? Is it best to use mostly new shoots? If there is any other information that would be helpful, please advise.
-- F.K. of Columbia
A. When choosing a location to grow blackberries, make sure that tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, melons, strawberries or stone fruits have not been grown there for at least three years. Also, the weeds pigweeds, lambsquarters or nightshades should not have been spotted growing there for three years either. This will prevent a disease problem with Verticillium wilt. The site should also have a good air flow. A winter windbreak to the northwest helps reduce wind chill.
Remove some of the barks and place the tips of the blackberry plants in contact with the soil. Place a brick over this area. They will root easily. You should still have success doing this at this time of year. You can dig them in the spring and leave 2 to 3 feet of stem attached to the roots.
You can plant the blackberries in late fall or early spring, but planting in the spring will avoid winter damage to newly set plants.
When you dig the roots, try to save as much root structure as possible with soil attached. You should plant each plant 3 to 4 feet apart in a row. You can put in posts with wires placed at 4 feet off the ground and a higher one at 5 1/2 feet above the ground.
You can tie the canes to the wires with old bed sheets to make harvest easier, especially if you are growing the thorned-type of blackberries. Or you can let the canes grow naturally, but be ready to train them at 36 to 42 inches tall. This will keep the plants more upright and induce the formation of lateral branches to develop below the cut, which will increase berry production and the size of the berries.
If you have not tested your soil, you can use about 1 pound of a 12-12-12 fertilizer per plant spread out one foot diameter around the base of each plant at the beginning.
Q. I am sending a leaf of a tree coming up in the yard. Could you tell me what it is? I looked in my tree books and the closest it came to was a red mulberry.
-- L.M. of Waterloo
A. You are very close. This tree is a paper mulberry (Broussonetia papyrifera). It's in the Moraceae plant family. The two characteristics of this species that help distinguish it from the other mulberries is that it has a milky sap and also it is hairy on both sides of the leaf. There is even a variegated cultivar -- Variegata -- which has white or yellow colors on the olive green leaves.
P.S. Thanks for your tip that Rural King carries root tone but under a different name.
Charles Giedeman is a local contributing writer. Send your gardening questions to Lifestyle Editor Pat Kuhl, Belleville News-Democrat, P.O. Box 427, 120 S. Illinois St., Belleville, IL 62222-0427. Or email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Do it now
LAWN: Check the lawn after this week's rain to see how the grass is coming back green and how much is weeds and how much is grass. Then make plans for the repair.
BRUSSEL SPROUTS: Brussel sprouts make a better fall crop in the Midwest than a spring crop. Transplanting in mid-August could produce good crops in October.
DIVIDE PERENNIALS: Your peonies, irises, hostas and daylilies can be divided after the middle of the month to increase the number of plants for your flower beds.