How To Harvest Boysenberries – Picking Boysenberries The Right Way

How To Harvest Boysenberries – Picking Boysenberries The Right Way

By: Amy Grant

Boysenberries are sublime with a unique flavor derived from their parentage, part raspberry sweetness and part wine kissed tanginess of blackberry. For ultimate flavor, boysenberry harvest occurs when the berries are mature and at their peak. It’s important for growers to know exactly how and when to pick boysenberries to capture their distinctive taste and aroma.

About Picking Boysenberries

At one time, boysenberries were the crème de le crème of berries growing in California. Today, they are a rarity, located after searching high and low at the farmer’s market, if at all. This is because harvesting boysenberries is time consuming and costly, and because the berries are so delicate that in order to ship them producers ended up picking boysenberries before they were fully ripe, thus, rather tart for eating fresh.

When to Pick Boysenberries

Boysenberries bloom for about a month in the spring and then ripen over the summer. That is, of course, unless there is a rapid increase in temps, in which case the berries ripen more rapidly but, generally, harvesting will run from July to August.

As they ripen, berries change from green to pink, then red, darker red, purple and almost black in color. Prime boysenberry harvest is when the berries are darkest purple. The ones that are almost black should just be eaten immediately while harvesting boysenberries; they will be delicious, but so soft and delicate that they would just become mush if you tried to place them in a container. A true sacrifice on your part, I am sure.

How to Harvest Boysenberries

Depending upon the variety and size of the bush, boysenberry plants can produce 8-10 pounds (4-4.5 kg.) of berries per year. The plant needs the first year of life to grow so won’t produce berries until its second year.

Boysenberries have druplets like a raspberry but a core like a blackberry. You’ll need to monitor the color of the druplets to tell you when to harvest the boysenberries. When they are dark purple, it’s time to pick. The berries will not all be ripe at the same time. The harvest will likely last for a month or so.

When you pick the berries, a small white plug will come off the plant along with the berry. Be gentle as you remove the berries; they bruise easily.

Eat the berries immediately or keep them in the fridge to use later for up to a week. Likewise, you can freeze them for up to four months. If you freeze them, spread them out on a cooking sheet so they don’t freeze together. When the berries are frozen, place them in a freezer bag. Boysenberries also make fabulous preserves.

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Boysenberry Harvest Guide: Learn How And When To Pick Boysenberries - garden

Boysenberries are big, fat, delicious fruits that look like a cross between a raspberry and a blackberry – which in fact they are. They aren’t really a berry at all but they still taste good in spite of this mis-identification. Boysenberry plants behave just like blackberries and produce arching stems that can be as long as a car. In our gardens we generally restrain them by training them against a wall or fence or growing them into a tree or over a shed like a climbing rose. The berries are delicious raw or made into jam, high in antioxidants they are a ‘must’ if you have room for a plant or two.

Companions Marigolds to draw predatory insects like ladybugs and hoverflies

Quantity 1 plant per household – more if you have room.


  • Plants grow into large thorny bushes
  • May need support of trellis or frame
  • Varieties for all parts of country
  • Rich, acidic soil
  • Fat, juicy, delicious berries


There are over a hundred varieties of apple available in New Zealand. The best way to work out what suits you is to order catalogues from growers in late summer and match available varieties with your tastes, growing conditions and climate. Many apple trees are what’s called ‘self fertile’ meaning they can be grown on their own but some need another tree to help with pollination – this information is normally included on labels or in plant descriptions in catalogues. Take a look at some of the old-fashioned heirloom and heritage varieties that are returning in popularity, you’ll find some great apples not only rich in flavour but rich in history too.

Apples are divided into several categories and these may help you on your quest for what’s best:

Crab apple: old-fashioned varieties with small, bitter fruit that are most often made into jams, jellies and sauces. Often planted with other apple trees as a pollinator. ‘Floribunda’ is often planted for its delicate pink blossom and ‘Golden Hornet’ for its decorative profusion of red and yellow fruits.

Dessert apple: the common eating apple with sweet tasting juicy fruits – some of which are also good for cooking. Divides into three groups –
Early – Fruits start to ripen in early summer. Good varieties – ‘Oratia Beauty’, ‘Winesap’, ‘Devonshire Quarendon’.
Mid – Fruits ripen from late summer into autumn. Good varieties – ‘Freyburg’, ‘Golden Delicious’, ‘Egremont Russet’.
Late – Fruits ripen from mid autumn and are produced through winter. Good varieties – ‘Granny Smith’, ‘Braeburn’

Cooking apple: large fruits with thick skins and a tart bitter taste. Usually cooked and preserved. Trees often grow into large, spreading shapes and fruit ripens mid-to late season. Good varieties – ‘Bramley’s Seedling’, ‘Mayflower’ and ‘Sturmer’.

Getting started

The best time to plant boysenberries is from autumn into winter when plants are dormant.


Plant boysenberries in full sun. Good for growing countrywide, they can handle winter frosts down to -5 degrees centigrade. They are often trained against trellis or fences.

Boysenberries like a rich, free draining soil with lots of organic material in it. Soil should be slightly acidic – so look for lots of organic material as an indicator. If your soil is sandy or slightly sticky then you’ll need to add peat and well-rotted compost at the time of planting and continue to mulch with rich compost as your plants get established. You can always grow a boysenberry plant in a container or raised bed filled with peat and well-rotted organic compost if you have a sticky clay soil.



Plants should be spaced two strides apart. Soak plants in water before planting them.
Prepare the planting area. Soil should be weed-free and well dug through to at least a full spade’s depth. Add well-rotted compost and peat if necessary and mix with surrounding garden soil. Carefully remove boysenberry plant from container by turning it upside down and holding the plant across the base of its stem with a spread hand. Tap the bottom of the container until the plant and its root ball come loose. If it is in a plastic plant bag simply slit it down the side whilst the plant is standing in the planting hole, you can then slip the plastic bag from underneath. Handle plants by the root ball to prevent damage to stems and shallow roots. Place boysenberry plant in a hole that is just larger than the container it came in. Back fill around root ball making sure there are no air pockets. Water well and mulch with a finger-thick layer of peat, pine needles, shredded bark or untreated sawdust.
If planting in a container ensure it is large enough. Half barrels look good with boysenberries and they are the right size too. Use a rich compost with peat in it and plenty of organic material. Add slow release granules or sheep pellets before planting. When boysenberries are grown in containers they should be constantly monitored to ensure soil is moist – particularly in dry weather. Plants are often placed against a wall with trellis on it to which they can be attached or with a metal training pyramid or cylinder standing above the pot.


Keep plants weed free and maintain constant moisture levels – this is especially important during spring and summer when plants are growing and crucial once plants have formed fruit. Always water at the base of plants – avoid splashing foliage as this can spread fungal disease.

Feed: Depending on how well you have composted the ground you might want to give your developing plants an extra boost with some liquid seaweed or worm juice every 6 weeks. If you maintain a nutrient rich layer of mulch around their base this should give them all they need in the first few years as they become established.

Flowering: Boysenberries flower in spring, they are self-pollinated but bees will help to increase yields.

Care: Tie stems to training wires or trellis as they grow. Keep plants open and ensure good airflow – especially in warmer areas where humidity can result in fungal diseases like mildew.


Fruit are formed in spring and early summer when they start to ripen. Harvest does not last that long - normally between 4 and 6 weeks. Regular picking keeps fruit ripening. Fruits are ready when they turn from red to a deep, rich purple. They should come away from the stems easily when they are fully ripe. Taste is, of course, the ultimate test of readiness – boysenberries have a rich, sweet, rounded flavour. Don’t wash fruit as this causes them to deteriorate quickly. A mature plant can yield up to 4kg of fruit in a season.
Storage: Boysenberries keep in the fridge for up to a week as long as they are not piled high in a bowl. To freeze, pop freshly-picked, unwashed berries onto a plate or tray in the freezer. When they are frozen add them to a bag. Repeat this process over a period of time until you have frozen and stored all you want. When they are defrosted they will collapse due to excess moisture and are best used in puddings and jams where they are cooked.


In winter cut back all the canes that have produced fruit to ground level and remove any others that are damaged or spindly and weak. Fresh young canes left on the plant will grow to produce the next season’s crop, pinching out their tips encourages growth of fruit bearing side shoots.


Boysenberries can suffer from a range of pests and disease - some of which are easier to deal with than others. Green vegetable bugs, caterpillars and passion vine hoppers can be tricky customers to regulate in larger plants. Aphids, thrips and scale insects can be treated with Neem oil spray. If grown in the right soil and the right location and kept weed-free plants should be less susceptible to diseases such as mildew. Birds are an issue as soon as fruit start to ripen so protect your plants with mesh.

Soil Preparation for Boysenberries

Regardless if they are grown on permanent position or in containers, boysenberries require slightly acidic (pH 6 is perfect), well drained soil, rich in organic matter.

Till the soil thoroughly up to one feet (

30 cm) deep - add aged or dried manure and compost/humus. If the soil is heavy some sand and compost/humus. Adding mineral (NPK) fertilizers will provide plenty of nutrients for the plants, but too much nutrients can lead to large, but weak plants, prone to diseases. Artificial (NPK) fertilizers with gradual release of nutrients are great choice, especially on sandy soils - not only for boysenberries, but for all plants commonly found in small gardens. Such fertilizers gradually release the nutrients, without overfeeding the plants or burning their roots for up to 4-6 months.

For plants grown in the rows, set the poles at the ends of the rows and tie 2-3 wires - one at 3 feet (0.9 m) and the second at 1.5 feet (0.45 m). Personally, since the boysenberries can grow tall and spread rapidly, I would recommend adding third wire at 4.5 feet (1.35 m). Of course, one can also use wire mesh or house wall or fence or . just use your imagination and remember - full sun position, protected from the strong winds, pH around 6 (concrete walls leach lime (calcium oxide/hydroxide) and tend to increase pH over time), good drainge.

How to Grow Boysenberries

Boysenberries are hybrid-trailing berries with unique taste and beautiful texture. Their taste is like a combination of blackberries and raspberries. In fact, the appearance of boysenberries also resembles these two fruits. If you are fond of eating fresh fruits and have a bit gardening skills, you can easily plant boysenberries in your backyard. These delicious berries are used in deserts and even for baking purpose. You will really enjoy picking fresh berries from your backyard garden and sharing them with your friends and family.

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Suitable climate is extremely vital in growing boysenberries. These berries grow in mild winters and warm summers. Hence, it is not advised to plant boysenberries in extreme climatic conditions.

You have to prepare the soil first and add a little bit fertility to it. Adding well-rotten manure to the soil will do the trick and help in better nourishment of any sort of plants you desire to grow. Avoid using chemical fertilizers.

Now before planting boysenberries, you have to make a trellis system. You have to integrate a two-wire trellis system in such a way that the top wire is used to tie the fruiting cane, whilst the other wire is used to train new growth that will yield fruit later. Creating a two-wire trellis system is considered to be the best way of growing boysenberries and it is highly recommended that you follow this method to have fruitful activity.

Place the boysenberry plants in the soil you have prepared in the garden and make sure you leave a 2-metre space between each one of them.

The method involved in growing boysenberries is quite the same as the one used for growing raspberries. However, boysenberries require far more pruning to keep their grown in hand at all times.

Keep the soil moist and protect the plants from any grazing pets, if you have any at home. You have to wait until the next year to harvest the fruit.

Boysenberries will be red during their growing phase and then start to turn black when getting ripened. Each plant is capable of producing about 5 kg boysenberries every season for the next 15 years. You have to cut back the cane attached to the top wire when you have fully harvested the berries and then cut them to ground. Tie the new growth canes to the top wires for bearing fruits for the next season.


We do not ship to AK, HI, US territorries, Canada or Mexico. We can not ship citrus to TX, AZ or FL.

Enter your ZIP code to identify your USDA Cold Hardiness Zone

The USDA hardiness zones offer a guide to varities that will grow well in certain climates. Each zone corresponds to the minimum winter temperatures experienced in a given area. For best results, make sure that your hariness zone lies within the zone compatibility of the variety that you are considering.

Boysenberry is self-fertile, but the fruit crop will be larger if the tree is planted with a second tree.

Rubus ursinus var. loganobaccus

A cross of raspberry, blackberry and the loganberry, Boysenberries were developed by Rudolph Boysen in Northern California. Berries are large, reddish-purple with sweet tangy taste and exceptional flavor! Boysenberries are best used for canning and preserves and for use with other berries in pies and cobblers.

5' - 6' height with 4' - 5' spread

5' - 6' height with 4' - 5' spread

Choose a well-drained, sunny location with no standing water. Prepare the soil before planting by mixing compost or other organic matter in with the soil. Work the soil deeply. Space plants 6' apart in rows 10' apart. Dig each hole to twice the size of the root mass. Boysenberries require sun with afternoon shade in hot climates. Protect the roots from drying out by watering regularly and mulching. Boysenberry lants are upright, orderly and easy to maintain. Growing 5' - 6', the plants benefit from trimming and can form a sturdy hedge. Boysenberries produce their fruit on year-old canes, so first year the young plants will need to grow their first canes, first harvest will not be until the second year.

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