Berries and grapes are ideally suited to many of Idaho’s growing areas. Regardless of where you live in the state, there are small fruits that you can grow successfully. As with all other crops, however, success largely depends on selecting crops and varieties that are well adapted to your climate and soils.
Blackberries are suited to Idaho’s warmer growing regions, preferably in USDA Plant Hardiness Zone 6, although they can be grown with some success on a few Zone 5 sites. www.usna.usda.gov/Hardzone/hzm-nw1.html. They are best adapted to southwestern Idaho from Mountain Home west and in the Lewiston and Orofino areas of northern Idaho. Even in these locations, select cold hardy, early ripening varieties. You can grow blackberries in other areas, but expect occasional to frequent winter injury and you may have difficulty getting the fruits to ripen before fall frosts.
Blackberries grow best on moderately acidic, deep, well drained soils but will tolerate neutral soils that are somewhat heavier and less well drained than are required for raspberries. If soil drainage is a problem on your site, grow blackberries in raised beds that are about 12 inches high and about four feet wide.
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Growing Raspberries and Blackberries in the Inland Northwest and IntermountainWest
Expected Yield: 6 to 7 pounds per hill
Age to maturity: 3-4 years
Productive life: 8-12 years
Hardiness: +5 to -20°F, depending on variety
Optimum pH: 6.2 to 6.8
Erect varieties: 5 feet apart in rows 10 to 12 feet apart
Trailing varieties: 5 feet apart in rows 8 to 10 feet apart
Blackberries are divided into two types: erect and trailing. Erect blackberries are generally more cold hardy than trailing types and are better adapted to Idaho. Even the most cold hardy blackberries, however, cannot tolerate temperatures lower than about -20 to -25 °F. Erect blackberries can be grown free-standing, although one or two trellis wires can help keep the bushes more manageable, particularly in snow country. For a list of recommended thorny and thornless blackberry varieties, click here.
Trailing blackberries (also known as dewberries) include such varieties as ‘Marion,’ ‘Logan,’ ‘Hull,’ ‘Bababerry,’ ‘Tayberry,’ and ‘Tummelberry.’ Trailing blackberries are not reliably cold hardy in Idaho growing conditions. Most are injured or killed by winter temperatures around 0 to +5°F. Although not recommended for commercial production in Idaho, gardeners in the warmest locations can grow trailing blackberries by giving them some extra attention. Details on how to do this, as well as how to select, plant, and care for blackberries in Idaho is in our free guide, Growing Raspberries and Blackberries in the Inland Northwest and Intermountain West.