Learn About Marionberries
How to Sow
How to Plant Marionberries
Planting Potted marionberry Plants:
- Choose a well-drained, sunny location with no standing water.
- Prepare the bed by turning the soil under to a depth of 6-12 inches removing any debris, and lightly raking as level as possible.
- The addition of organic matter (leaf mold, compost, well-rotted manure) benefits all gardens and is essential in recently constructed neighborhoods.
- Space canes 3 feet apart in rows 6 feet apart.
- Dig a hole at least 2 times the size of the root ball.
- Set the plant in the hole so that the root ball is level with the surrounding soil, backfill and press the soil firmly into the hole cavity.
- Water deeply. The water will seal off any air pockets around the root ball.
- Use a stick or marker to indicate where the plant is planted.
- Mulch with 2-3 inches of compost of pine needles to retain moisture and prohibit weed growth.
- Plant marionberries 100 feet away from red raspberries.
How to Grow
- Keep weeds under control during the marionberry growing season. Weeds compete with plants for water, space and nutrients. Control them by either cultivating often or use a mulch to prevent their seeds from germinating.
- Add mulch each year as needed.
- Keep plants well-watered during the growing season, especially during dry spells. Plants need about 1-2 inches of rain per week during the growing season. It's best to water with a drip or trickle system that delivers water at low pressure at the soil level. If you water with overhead sprinklers, water early in the day so the foliage has time to dry off before evening, to minimize disease problems. Keep the soil moist but not saturated.
- In the spring, before leaves sprout, apply a granular fertilizer following the instructions on the label. Most new growth will come from the plant’s crown under the soil. Plants use a lot of energy in spring when growth begins, so do not let plants dry out.
- Remove all wild brambles near cultivated varieties to prevent viruses & diseases.
- Pruning marionberries:
- Do not prune the first year EXCEPT to remove dead, damaged or diseased wood.
- Each spring select 5 or 6 of the most vigorous new canes and cut them back to 30 inches tall. All other canes can be removed.
- Remove and destroy canes immediately after they fruit in their second summer. They will not bear again.
- Add a summer topping to encourage side shoots off the canes to the pruning done in early spring and after harvest. Pinch back 3-4 inches off shoots up to 2 inches tall.
- Remove and destroy old canes immediately after their second fruiting in early summer of their second year. They will not bear again.
- Monitor marionberry plants for Pests and diseases. Check with your local Cooperative Extension Service for pest controls recommended for your area.
- Cane fruits may need support to help prevent wind damage and make for easier harvest. Tie canes to wire that is strung parallel between two posts at either end of the row.
Marrionberry Harvesting and Preserving Tips
- Fruiting season is in summer: July, August or September. Fruit will not continue to ripen after picking so be sure to wait until fruit is ripe before picking. The fruit will ripen from red to black, but do not pick them as soon as they turn black, wait 3-4 days and pick when the color has a dull appearance. These will be the sweetest fruit. Pick in the morning or evening, when temperatures are coolest.
- Expect to harvest at least twice per week for several weeks.
- Fruit damages easily so handle with care. Store in a shallow container in the fridge as soon as possible after picking.
- Wash berries and allow them to dry on a clean paper towel for 10-20 minutes before storing.
- Fresh marionberries last a day or so, but may be frozen or used for preserves.
Planting Fruit During Fall
Common Pests and Problems
Anthracnose: This fungus causes spots on the canes with purple margins that can spread and cover the stem. Spots may appear on young leaves that are yellow with purple margins, and may cause holes in the leaves. Canes and stems may die back. Burpee Recommends: Remove and destroy infected canes and any leaf debris.
Crown Gall: Rough, wart-like growths or galls appear on the crown at or just below the soil surface. These can also form on the stems or canes of marionberries. Plants can become stunted, subject to drought stress and wind damage. Large enough galls may cause girdling which results in plant death. Burpee Recommends: Examine the canes prior to planting for any indication of galls. Avoid injury of the plant. You can remove the gall if it is small enough by cutting around it into healthy wood allowing that area to dry out, cutting into healthy tissue as little as possible. If plant is severely infected, remove it.
Orange Rust: This fungus causes plants to become stunted and weak with poor fruit production. Shortly after new growth appears in spring new shoots are weak and spindly, leaves are pale green to yellow. In a few weeks lower leaf surfaces are covered in bright orange powdery spores. Affected leaves wither and die by early summer. The disease is systemic, and remains throughout the plant so just removing infected leaves will not improve the health of the plant. Burpee Recommends: Dig up and remove infected plants and destroy nearby wild brambles. Remove plants before the spores are discharged if possible.
Phytophthora Root Rot: This soil borne disease thrives in poorly drained soils and can live in the soil for years. Above ground symptoms include pale or reddish leaves, small leaves, defoliation, branch die back, stunting and death. Burpee Recommends: Remove infected plants.
Powdery Mildew: This occurs on the top of the leaves in humid weather conditions. The leaves appear to have a whitish or greyish surface and may curl. Burpee Recommends: Avoid powdery mildew by providing good air circulation for plants by good spacing and pruning. Contact your Cooperative Extension Service for fungicide recommendations.
Common Pest and Cultural Problems
Aphids: Greenish, red, black or peach colored sucking insects can spread disease as they feed on the undersides of leaves. They leave a sticky residue on foliage that attracts ants. Burpee Recommends: Introduce or attract natural predators into your garden such as lady beetles and wasps who feed on aphids. You can also wash them off with a strong spray, or use an insecticidal soap.
Borers: Larvae are worms with whitish bodies with brown heads about 1 inch long. The adults are clear-winged moths with black and yellow bands on their bodies. The larvae tunnel in canes and cause lateral growth to wither and canes to die. Burpee Recommends: Prune and destroy infested canes.
Japanese Beetles: Burpee Recommends: Hand pick early in the morning into a bucket of soapy water.
Leafhoppers: These appear in varying shades of green, yellow and brown, and are very active and slender and wedge shaped. They can leave foliage pale and curled and leave secretions on the plants and fruit. They can spread disease. Burpee Recommends: Try insecticidal soaps. Contact your Cooperative Extension Service for control assistance.
Spider Mites: These tiny spider-like pests are about the size of a grain of pepper. They may be red, black, brown or yellow. They suck on the plant juices removing chlorophyll and injecting toxins which cause white dots on the foliage. There is often webbing visible on the plant. They cause the foliage to turn yellow and become dry and stippled. They multiply quickly and thrive in dry conditions. Burpee Recommends: Spider mites may be controlled with a forceful spray every other day. Try hot pepper wax or insecticidal soap. Check with your Cooperative Extension Service for miticide recommendations.
Is a marionberry a blackberry? Yes it is a cross between ‘Chehalem’ and ‘Olallie’ blackberries.
Do I need two different varieties to get fruit? No, marionberries are self-fruitful.
Will I get fruit the first year? No, expect fruit two to three years after planting with full fruiting in 3-4 years.
How many harvests will I get each year? Expect one harvest per year.
How far from red raspberries should I plant my marionberry? Plant at least 100 feet apart to avoid disease issues.