Cut second-year blackberry canes after they produce their fruit

Backyard Q&A

In The Garden

August 15, 2004|By Jon Traunfeld & Ellen Nibali | Jon Traunfeld & Ellen Nibali,Special to the Sun

This is the first year for my blackberries, and they aren't producing. Should I cut them back and when?

Blackberries produce fruit on second-year canes. Prune first-year canes to 3-4 feet to promote the growth of laterals where fruit will set the second year. Next spring you should cut back the laterals to 18-24 inches for better production. After bearing fruit in summer, the canes will die. Then they can be pruned to the ground. This can be done in the fall if you like, but it's easier to do in the spring. By then, the dead canes are brown and easy to distinguish from the green one-year-old canes, which you don't want to cut down.

Patches of my pachysandra are turning brown. I'm not sure if it's insects or mold from all the rain. What would you suggest?

Pachysandra gets a fungal disease called volutella. Brown to black blotches appear on the leaves, eventually coming together and covering the whole leaf. Similar dark spots develop on the stems as well. Masses of pink spores can sometimes be seen on the stem cankers. Infected plant tissue should be removed and thrown away as soon as noticed. In your case, it sounds like many of the plants should be removed completely. Mowing, raking up the cuttings and disposing of them effectively removes infectious material, and the pachysandra can handle it. When only a few plants are affected with spots or cankers, cut them back to several inches below the infection.

Thin overcrowded plants to improve air circulation and avoid overhead watering, which can exacerbate the problem. Rake out decaying old leaves and debris that impede air circulation and hold moisture around stems. You can spray the pachysandra with a Bordeaux fungicide (an organic fungicide containing copper sulfate and lime) according to label directions.

I just found out from a Master Gardener friend that there will be a big gardening conference in Baltimore in October. I always wanted to be a Master Gardener but haven't had the time. Can non-Master Gardeners register for this event?

Yes, registration is open to all gardeners who are eager for new information on cutting-edge topics. The University of Maryland is host for the Northeast Regional Master Gardener Conference Oct. 5-9 at the Holiday Inn-Select in Timonium. More than 100 classes, workshops, and tours are planned. This will be a rare and valuable opportunity to learn from recognized experts and interact with more than 500 gardeners from 20 states. For more information and to register online, go to the Maryland Master Gardener Web site (www. and click on "2004 NE MG Conference" -- or call 888-531-1754 for a free conference brochure.


1. Cover your fig bushes with bird netting before they ripen if you've had trouble with birds and squirrels stealing the fruits of your labor.

2. Fertilize your zoysia or Bermuda grass lawn with one pound of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet of area.

3. Divide and repot hardy water lilies and other crowded aquatic plants growing in your backyard pond.

Jon Traunfeld, regional specialist, and Ellen Nibali, horticulture consultant, work at the University of Maryland Cooperative Extension's Home and Garden Information Center. The center offers Maryland residents free gardening information and answers to plant and pest questions. Call its hot line at 800-342-2507 (Monday through Friday, 8 a.m.-1 p.m.) or e-mail questions to (You can also download or order publications and diagnose plant problems online.)

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