Backyard blackberries

This week we are going to look at the thorny issue of blackberries – that’s the garden variety not the cell phone variety!

Blackberries are a very oily rag berry. For one thing they grow in the wild and are free – and they have lots of uses: from pies to smoothies or as delicious desert toppings. The other thing is that they are easy to grow in an oily rag garden.

They don’t all come with prickles. Two such thornless varieties are Black Satin and Navaho. Black Satin has large berries. They are non-suckering and grow fast. They need a growing frame, like a fence or trellis. They are our preferred variety.

Navaho is less common. It is self-supporting so more of a shrub than a climber, so it is good for those with smaller gardens.

Here are some basics about growing blackberries.
• Now’s the time to plant blackberries – as well as raspberries and boysenberries.
• Grow them in a sunny spot, preferably one facing the sunrise. They are not keen on windy locations, but having air circulation helps keep away disease.
• They like compost rich, free-draining soil, with lots of organic matter like cured animal manure.
• If you have heavy clay soil, plant them in a raised bed.
• Apply a general balanced fertiliser about now.
• Mulch in the summer to keep the soil moist.
• They can be grown from cuttings, so you can get a plant for free – as long as you know someone who already has one! Cuttings should be taken during winter when the plant is dormant.
• Pick the berries when ripe, which is usually from February to March. They do not continue to ripen after picking.
• Watering the base of the plant when it is fruiting will produce really juicy berries.
• Pruning is done after fruiting – so in the late summer or autumn.

It’s as easy as that. The biggest job will be protecting the berries from birds – and children!

We love blackberries mixed with apple in a pie, so here’s a quick and easy recipe – cheating a little because we use flaky pastry. All you need is: a couple of sheets of pastry, two apples (peeled, cored and thinly sliced), three or so cups of blackberries (raspberries and boysenberries can also be mixed in) and half a cup of sugar. Use one sheet of pastry to line the bottom and sides of a pie dish, add the apples as a bottom layer, sprinkle over half of the sugar, add the berries, and then add the remaining sugar. Cover with the second sheet of pastry. Preheat the oven to about 200C and cook for about 15 to 20 minutes. Enjoy!

The berries also freeze well, which makes them great for smoothies.

Doing things for yourself, like growing blackberries as a treat, is what frugal living is all about – it’s a ‘let’s give it a go’ attitude, rather than waiting for others to do things for you.

There is so much that can be home-grown that having a garden patch is a pretty basic sort of thing for a frugal family to do. It’s also fun, and it saves heaps of money – which means you have more money left over at the end of each week, which means you can save more, which means you have more for investment, which means you will have more money when you put your feet up and spend less time working!
The important thing to appreciate is that frugal living is an ‘attitude’ – even wealthy people can live an oily rag lifestyle.