About the Farm
Hays Berry Farms was started by Robert Hays in the year 2000. Robert grew up in a family that had very large gardens every year. He worked in the gardens from the time he could pull weeds and help plant, so it was just natural for him to take this endeavor and make a business out of it, without really thinking about it.
About Our Blackberries (And How We Care for Them)
Blackberries are perennial plants that come back from the roots year after year. Most growers will fertilize their plants two times a year—once when the plants start to grow in the spring, and the other when the berries quit producing in the summer. After the plants get 8′–9′ tall, they will prune the plants back to 48″–50″ tall so they will start to make laterals (side branches).
We do neither. We have studied how the berries produce in field trials of our own. Instead of fertilizing now, we leave them alone. The fertilized berry plants make more vines/canes but produce less berries per plant (just like the sweet potato plants will do). Also, in the wild the blackberries make a tremendous amount of berries and they are never fertilized. Instead of pruning the berries to a certain length, we start to train them to our trellises as soon as they get 12″ tall. Some of our vines are as long as 28′ from where they come out of the ground to the tips (without any fertilizer). In our opinion, it is a waste of the plants’ energy to grow that much, then be pruned. The energy to grow that much is restored from the extra foliage (leaves) that are the plants. This works very well for us.
Most growers get up to 2.75 gallons of berries per plant—we get close to 4 gallons per plant! As you can see from our pictures here, compared to other growers, throughout our berry farm all you see is a sea of berries. Our way works very well for us. We have tried several types of trellises and irrigation systems over the years, and thinking outside the box then doing it has paid off for us.
Most growers recommend planting your plants 24″ in the rows and to have your rows 10′–12′ apart. On our farm the plants are approximately 5′ apart, and the rows are 5′ apart. We use mulch over the entire farm, not just around the plants or in rows.