I have some blackberries and red raspberries, and I'm not sure how to winter-prep them. After pruning (which I'm skipping this year, since the primocane raspberries are only in their first year), how should I mulch them?

Should I take them down from the trellis and lay them flat on the ground, and pile straw, leaves, and woodchips on them by about an inch?

I'm in USDA zone 6a.

And if I get cow manure, should I put it under the mulch? Likely I won't get cow manure until spring. I don't have compost.

Do I also need to add mouse-traps/rat-traps around to kill rats as some suggest? Will the rats damage the plants? If not, the plants are far enough from my house that I don't care if the mice are there. Are poison traps alright (the bait stations with solid blocks they munch on), despite it being near plants I care about?


3 Answers 3


I am zone USDA zone 3 b to 4 and you can't kill blackberry plants. I have mine growing with morning sun in a raised bed beside a concrete foundation. Every year, dead to the ground, every year eight to nine feet tall in the autumn. Don't bother with any extra work, cut them back to the ground in the fall and stand back in the spring.

I do top dress with shredded leaves every fall but otherwise there is no pampering. These plants don't need it.

  • I wish mine grew half as well as yours! =P They only are four feet long after three years, and I lost half of them the first year. I probably need to prune them, but am afraid I'll damage them. This year was the first year I got any blackberries - and only a small amount, at that. My raspberries are growing like crazy though.
    – Jamin Grey
    Commented Sep 16, 2017 at 2:19
  • Thank you, mate, I cut them to the ground last fall, and they jumped up 18" after only a month or so out of dormancy. Not your eight feet tall, but I think I can expect (and be happy with) five feet this year.
    – Jamin Grey
    Commented May 25, 2018 at 2:16

I never mulched reds, yellows or blacks in the Chicago area. The only problem was the rabbits ate them when there was snow cover on the ground.

  • Did they do any longterm damage to the plant, or just individual canes?
    – Jamin Grey
    Commented Sep 14, 2017 at 16:12
  • 1
    When the snow was heavy , the rabbits ate everything above the snow; they even ate top-set onion stems- the nastiest onion I know. With light snow they nibbled a few canes. Commented Sep 16, 2017 at 15:23

I discourage the idea.

The moment a cane's tip touches the ground, the plant is seriously tempted to grow roots. Plus, the canes bend easily while young, once they mature, they tend to break or get otherwise damaged. So while you can easily bend them down now, it might be not so easy to get them bach up again.

Note that many gardeners see at least their wild ancestors as weeds - they are really robust and hard to eradicate. Even if they freeze to the ground, they will push out new canes in spring. So no need to pamper them.

You can of course mulch them and they will also like some fertilizer, but don't overdo it - you want to encourage flowering and fruiting, not just more and more canes.

I suggest you bite the bullet and read about proper pruning. Especially if you had only few fruit this year. The "spent" canes should be removed to encourage the plants to "push" their energy into the new growth.

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