This is the latest in a series of posts that I’ve done about my favorite varieties of fruits, vegetables and herbs we grow at Happy Acres. To see my other Spotlights, and those from other garden bloggers, visit the Variety Spotlights page.
I’m venturing out of the world of vegetables and herbs for today’s variety spotlight, which is all about one of my new favorite fruits: Natchez Blackberry. Regular readers will know that I was a big fan of Apache blackberries back a few years ago. I even did a spotlight on it in 2013. But I decided to give Natchez a try back in 2014 and grew it side by side with Apache. Once it started producing, Natchez quickly became my favorite. I’ve trialed a couple of new varieties since then, but Natchez is still the one to beat in our garden.
Natchez is is one of the many varieties developed out of the University of Arkansas blackberry breeding program. Released in 2007, Natchez is a truly outstanding berry in many ways. The fruits are large and very sweet, and in my garden it is high-yielding with attractive, glossy purplish-black berries. Once established, the thornless canes grow erect without the need for trellising, though in the first couple of years some support may be necessary. I tied mine to short stakes for the first two years, until they could stand on their own. The plants are disease resistant, and hardy to at least USDA zone 5.
Blackberry plants send up new shoots every spring. These canes are biennial, and live for just two years. They grow through the first season (primocanes), then flower and fruit the second year (floricanes). Shortly after fruits mature, the floricanes die and should be cut back to the ground. After cutting back the old canes, I like to ‘top’ the new canes (primocanes) when they are about three to four feet high. That cause them to produce lateral shoots, and overall yield is increased. If the lateral shoots get too long, I sometimes nip them back too to keep the plants tidy.
Natchez offers both commercial and local market shipping quality, but it’s also an excellent variety for the home gardener. The berries are early to mature, and ours usually start blooming here in early May. The berries begin ripening in mid-June, and generally give us berries for about a month. We enjoy eating them fresh, and freeze extras for use later on.
If you’re looking for a great tasting, high-yielding thornless blackberry for your garden, you might consider planting a few Natchez plants like I did. I hope you’ve enjoyed this Variety Spotlight, and I’ll be back soon with another variety.