primocane blackberry Reuben
- Position: full sun or partial shade
- Soil: any soil
- Rate of growth: fast-growing
- Other features: deliciously sweet and juicy fruit (late July to the end of August)
- Hardiness: fully hardy
Bred at the University of Arkansas, Reuben has been heralded as the first primocane blackberry - ie. it produces fruit on the current years growth. Not only that, but the fruits, which are produced in abundance, are the size of a plum (weighing up to 9g each). They have a glossy skin and sweet, slightly fruity-flavoured flesh and can be eaten straight from the bush, or used to make jams, pies or coulis.
- Garden care: Prepare the ground well before planting. Remove all weeds and dig in plenty of well-rotted manure and then plant at 2m intervals. Each spring, mulch well with well-rotted manure.
Cut back all the canes to just above ground level in late winter or early spring each year. As soon as the new growth starts to emerge, you should start feeding them with a good fertiliser and begin spraying for pests and diseases if necessary. When the canes have reached 1m tall, 'soft-tip' them by removing the top 2 to 5cm of growth. This will encourage the stems to branch and therefore increase the yield. Ideally this 'soft-tipping' should be done before the flower buds are produced as removing the flowers will delay the crop and reduce the yield.
To grow as a primocane (ie producing two, smaller crops each year), cut back the new spring stems, which have produced fruit at their tips in autumn, to a point just below where the blackberries were produced, soon after they have finished cropping. These half-canes can then be left to overwinter, will put on new top growth in spring and will then go on to produce the first crop of berries in early summer. After these two year old canes have finished fruiting they should be cut right back to their base. In the meantime, new canes will have emerged from the base of the plant in spring and these should be tied onto their support as they grow. These new canes will then produce the second, later crop and should have their tops lopped off after fruiting. This then creates a repeating cycle.