North Georgia Blackberries

20170501_172110Grassy Mountain Berries started growing North Georgia Blackberries in 2015. We had been dreaming of starting a U-Pick blackberry farm for several years but kept putting it off because life was just too busy. We have just a few children (11) and they keep us busy with school and sports. Between kids and work, who had time to plant a few acres of berry bushes? But, the dream wouldn’t die, so finally we just decided to go for it.

In 2015 we planted six one-hundred-foot rows of blackberries. Three of the rows were a variety called Triple Crown, and the other three were the brand new Arkansas Freedom type. Triple Crown is a relatively new, but proven, variety that excels in three areas, (it is a vigorous producer, with excellent flavor, and is hardy and disease resistant) hence its name “Triple Crown.” This was a variety that we had tasted before and knew we wanted to grow.

The Arkansas Freedom was only just available for commercial sale and hadn’t been tried as thoroughly as the Triple Crown, but the early reviews were fantastic. Arkansas Freedom is a great tasting, really large berry that has the capability of bearing two crops per year.

Most blackberries are floricane bearers, meaning that they only bear fruit on the second year growth. This means that they grow one year, bear the next. And, while they’re bearing, they send out new growth that will produce the following year. Blackberries that are capable of bearing fruit on the primocane, or first-year growth, are called Primocane Bearing. That’s what the Arkansas Freedom are; they bear fruit on first-year growth beginning in August and continuing until frost. BUT, they also bear on second-year growth, early in the spring.

By planting both Triple Crown, a late-season bearer, and Arkansas Traveler, an early and continuous late-season bearer, we hoped to provide berries from the beginning of June until frost. However, things didn’t quite go as planned.

Spring in 2016 came on early and then cooled off, as North Georgia springs normally do. The Arkansas Freedom blossomed but the bees were still hibernating and nothing got pollinated. We missed our early crop. But, the Triple Crown made a phenomenal showing, by late June, the berries were beginning to ripen. The Triple Crown came on heavy and we had a great first-year crop. Our customers were supportive and understanding of our limited offering, but it was easy to see that we needed more berries if we hoped to satisfy the need for blackberries in the North Georgia region.

Three New Kinds Of North Georgia Blackberries

Arkansas Travelers after the Blackberry Winter
The berries are setting on nicely here, on these Arkansas Traveler Blackberries. The Blackberry Winter didn’t slow these babies down, at all! Look at all those juicy berries we’ll be enjoying around the middle of June!

We got to work and planted approximately two more acres of blackberries, and sought out varieties of blackberries that would give us a longer production season without sacrificing on flavor. We finally settled on Ouachita and Sweety Pie, two floricane bearers that promise great flavor, with an early-mid-season crop, and added some Arkansas Travelers, as well.

This year, 2017, will be the first year we’ll see a crop out of everything we planted in 2016. As yet, it’s too early to tell for sure just how things will go, but it’s looking good! The Arkansas Freedom bloomed too early again, this year, and we won’t get an early crop from them. But the Arkansas Traveler budded at just the right time and are setting on in an impressive way, for a first-year crop. The Ouachita and Sweety Pie have made a good showing and are still blooming up a storm. Only time will tell, but we hope 2017 will be a great year for blackberries in North Georgia!

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