Best Blackberry bushes for USDA Zone 4
find the best blackberry bushes zone 4 that were easy to care for and provided a good harvest. We have planted test beds of Prime Jim/Jan, PrimeArk, Chester and Black Satin. We’ve have had the best success over the years with Black Satin, which is an old cultivar from the University of Illinois. The Black Satin has had a better survival rate than the other blackberry bushes we’ve planted and good production. The berries are sweet and large.
Of course this has to do with location, climate, etc. Our area has its own micro-climate known as the snow belt, we are located directly behind Silverwood Theme Park, the USDA puts us at a zone 5 but we almost never grow anything higher that Zone 4. We tend to get cold, windy weather in the winter and are consistently 6°-8° below Spokane, Washington’s forecast temperature.
We don’t like to grow any material that requires us to babysit likening it to raising children; toddlers require much attention while teenagers are somewhat self sufficient and don’t require so much input, :-). We do weed, support, fertilize etc. but it isn’t in any strict sense. Even when neglected the Black Satin have done well.
Thorny varieties are always going to be the hardiest variety, thornless are bred/cultured plant material so they don’t have the stamina (although the cultivars are getting better) as the natural parent plant.
|Common Name||Fruiting Season||Flavor||Berry Size||Growth Habit||Zones|
|Thorny||Illini Hardy||4||Very Good||M||Erect||4-10|
|Prime Ark 45||Primocane||Very Good||M-L||Erect||4-7|
|Typically thorny berries are hardier & higher yield than the thornless varieties.|
|Protection||Good for areas with protection, mulching, etc.|
|Fruiting Season||1=Earliest 5=Latest|
|Primocane||Produces fruit on first year cane, fall crop in colder climates where mowing of prior year canes is practiced.|
U.S. plant pending. (NY 95 x Chester)
Illinois blackberry, released 1988
Survived -24ºF at Urbana, IL (1989-1990), hardiest of currently available cultivars.
Extended harvest season, but not as long as Chester.
The berry is medium in size, attractive, shiny black, and of good flavor. The plant is vigorous, erect and thorny. In comparison with Darrow, it is more vigorous, hardier, and a more consistent producer of quality fruit.
3rd PRIMOCANE release from the University of Arkansas.
Tests indicate that Prime-Ark 45™ yields better than previous primocane blackberries. Berries 6 grams, medium when grown in Arkansas but larger when grown in more moderate summer climate such as Oregon and California.
Sugar levels averaged 10% — just under Ouachita. Berries stay firm and black without much leak and not prone to mold which makes them well suited for storage and shipping
PRIMOCANE fruiting blackberry is for temperature sensitive areas.
This variety will grow a cane and produce fruit in the same growing season (similar to Heritage red raspberry). Maybe possible to mow canes in winter and have a fall crop on the new growth. This blackberry has good upright growth and if tipped should not require any trellising. Yield is not influenced as much by high summer heat. Berry size can be considerable larger than Prime Jim(3.2g) with lower sugar content(10.3%)
(Thornfree x Darrow)
Released by the USDA-ARS and Southern Illinois University in 1985
SIUS 47 x Thornfree
Tested as SIUS 68-6-17
— Most winter hardy of the thornless. It is a late season, large fruit, mild flavor. Most resistant to caneblight. Fruit is of high quality, does not soften or leak color on hot sunny days.
Released by the University of Arkansas in 2007
US Plant Patent #20891
A-2205 x A-1857 (A-1539 x Arapaho)
Tested as A-2241
Ripens early, about the same time as Arapaho, but with higher yields. Fruit size is comparable to Apache, approx. 8-9 grams per berry. Sugar content averages 9.5%. Canes are semi-erect so would benefit from trellising. Yields are twice that of the Arapaho in field trials.
Released by the USDA-ARS in 1996
SIUS 68-2-5 (Black Satin x SIUS 64-21-4) x Ark 545 (Darrow x Brazos)
Large, sweet. Triple Crown, newest thornless blackberry, three crowning attributes-flavor, productivity and vigor. Ripens from about July 10 to about August 10. The plants yield large, glossy black fruits, firm and able to withstand shipping. Attractive and flavorful, it ripens later than the popular Hull and a week or so earlier than Chester.
Triple Crown berries are larger than both of Hull/Chester, a constant supply of big, flavorful thornless blackberries throughout the ripening season. Yields are not as high as the Chester, but the flavor is better than Chester.
Released on the East Coast; USDA
tested. Large, firm,glossy black berries. Sweet flavor and excellent quality for jams, jellies, fresh eating and pastries. Heavy yields, semi erect, thornless vines that does not give rise to the occasional sticky cane like so many of the other thornless blackberry types.
Highly resistant to Septoria Leaf Spot and Anthracnose. Also mildew tolerant. Excellent in the Pacific Northwest. Winter hardy in the Midwest and South. Ripens in July. Hardy to approximately -15 degrees F. and in zones 5-9.
In the summer remove the top 4 inches of the primocanes when they grow taller than the desired height. This means cutting unsupported “Black Satin” plants when they are 44 inches tall, supported plants when they are 65 inches tall and trellised plants when they grow 8 inches above the trellis. This type of pruning is called “tipping.”
The lower laterals of “Black Satin” do not usually produce many blackberries, and leaving them on the bush can diminish fruit production on the rest of the plant. Remove these branches after trimming the higher-growing laterals.