Navaho Blackberries Solve Some Thorny Problems

Sick of getting pricked and poked just because you want to enjoy the deliciosity of fresh blackberries? Plant some Navaho blackberries in your backyard

One of my fondest memories as a child was picking blackberries in the summer -- and man, I wish we'd had some Navaho blackberries back then. As sure as a catfish loves a Catalpa worm, I'd end up with a network of fine scratches on my arms from the thorns, even if I wore a long-sleeved shirt.

Back then, blackberry picking and thorns went together like Paris Hilton and yappy little dogs. But we humans are crafty, our plant geneticists more so than most -- and today, those thorns don't have to be a problem.

Enter the Navaho

Despite the name, the Navaho blackberry hails from the University of Arkansas, most of a continent away from the Four Corners. Revealed to the world in 1989, this blackberry variety has several characteristics that differentiate it from normal blackberries.

Most obvious is their lack of thorns, both of the solitary large sort and the little fields of tiny prickly ones. This is rather unusual in any rose-related shrub. In addition, these thornless blackberry canes don't become viney; they grow upright, another unusual feature for blackberries.

Still familiar, though

Otherwise, Navaho blackberries are just like what you're used to. They don't grow the biggest berries ever, but you'll get a moderate harvest of medium-sized berries from canes that grow a maximum of 4-5 feet high. The seeds are small (another positive note), and the vines are hardy down to a temperature of -9ยบ F.

Requirements

Given their ability to tolerate cold and frost, Navahos can be grown in just about any temperate climate. Full sun is preferred and well-drained soil is a must. Like most blackberries, they can handle very hot summers as well as cold weather, and should be watered at least twice a week.

As with their cousins Arapaho and Apache, these erect blackberries don't require a latticework or trellis to keep them up off the ground (that's a big difference over the wild ones most of us are used to). However, they do need a little support when they're young, so some staking is in order.

How the Navahos stack up

If you like blackberries in general, you'll love the Navaho kind. The five-gram berries consistently rate as excellent in flavor, with a sugar content of 11.4%. They start ripening about June 15 in southern latitudes, and will be fully ripe within 5-6 weeks.

On top of all that, this variety is tough, resists double-bloom issues that plague other varieties, and doesn't have anthracnose problems. It's hard to go wrong with Navaho blackberries!

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