How to grow Kotataberries
Kotataberries, Kotata Berries, or Kotata Blackberries were released as possible replacement for Marionberries.
Kotataberry is a blackberry cultivar selected from boysenberry, wild Pacific Northwest blackberries, an Eastern US blackberry species, and loganberry.
The flavor of Kotataberry is very good, and they are similar in appearance to Marionberry. Kotataberry is more vigorous and has slightly greater cold tolerance and fruit firmness than Marionberry, but, canes are very thorny.
Kotataberry fruits are black, slightly elongated, and have glossy skin. On average, fruits have 6-7g with medium-size seeds. The main season in Oregon (where it was developed) is between July 1 and July 24. Kotataberries can be grown in USDA hardiness zones 6 through 9.
Kotataberry is thorny, trailing the blackberry variety. Each year it grows new canes, which spread close to the ground, while second-year canes are the canes that bear fruits.
The easiest method for growing kotataberries is growing them on the trellis - poles should be separated 10-20 feet (depending on the garden size, plans, size of the poles, etc.), with 3-4 horizontal wires. Wires should be positioned 2,4, and 6 feet above the ground.
New canes should be left on the ground until they can be wrapped around the wires - these canes will bear fruits next year. After the growing season, remove second-year canes to make more room and light for new canes.
Like other blackberries, kotataberries can live up to, or even more than, 15 years. It is a very vigorous plant and spreads easily - if you are not careful and you let it spread, it can overcome other plants in the garden.
Hence, growing kotataberries in containers is one way of preventing them from spreading all over the garden.
Growing Kotataberries in Containers
Erect berries are a better choice for growing in containers since they don't require additional support. However, if you really like kotataberries, they can be grown in containers, too.
Kotataberries prefer sunny positions, protected from wind, and well-drained, organic, slightly acidic soil with a pH between 5.5 and 6.5. They are very vigorous plants that require constant moisture to bear healthy, tasty fruits.
The best pots for kotataberries are around 24 inches (60 cm) high and 24-32 inches (60-80 cm) wide. Larger pots and containers can be used, of course, but such large pots are harder to move around if and when it is required. Smaller pots can be used, too, but plants in such pots require greater care, and they are in danger of falling over if the wind blows or kids/pets play around.
When preparing the soil in the pots, there are a few steps to do:
- make enough drainage holes in the bottom of the pot - kotataberries like moist soil, but too much moisture can lead to roots and other problems,
- on the bottom, put 1 inch (2-3 cm) thin layer of gravel - this layer will help any excess water to drain away easily,
- fill the rest of the pot with a good soil mix rich in humus/compost. Add some NPK fertilizer with a gradual release of nutrients. Kotataberries are not very picky and will tolerate various soils, but they grow best in such soils - well drained, well aerated, moist, but not soggy.
- stick wooden poles in the soil before planting the kotatas and make strong and decorative cages. Plant the berries in the soil and water thoroughly. Depending on the size of the container, plant 2-3 kotataberries in a single container.
Growing kotataberries is very similar to growing other blackberries: keep the soil moist, remove old canes, if days are hot and windy, add a layer of organic mulch to protect the soil and prevent excessive evaporation, add organic and NPK fertilizers in the late winter and some NPK fertilizers around or after flowering. And that is all.
Kotataberries Pests and Diseases
When grown in a mixed garden, pests and diseases on kotataberries are very rare.
Kotataberries, like any other similar plant species, are susceptible to various pests and diseases. Understanding these common afflictions is vital to maintaining the health and productivity of your Kotataberry plants.
Most Common Kotataberry Pests
Among the diverse range of insects that may infest Kotataberry plants, a few have been found to cause the most significant damage. The primary culprits are typically aphids, fruit flies, spider mites, and cutworms.
Aphids usually congregate on the undersides of leaves, causing them to turn yellow and curl up. Aphids also excrete a sticky substance known as "honeydew," which promotes the growth of sooty mold and can attract other pests.
The negative impact of these tiny creatures can be mitigated by introducing natural predators, such as ladybugs, or by using insecticidal soaps.
Fruit flies are another notorious pest that lay their eggs in the fruit, leading to significant yield loss. Monitoring with fruit fly traps can help identify the start of an infestation, allowing for timely intervention. Regular harvesting and removing overripe fruits can also help to keep the fruit fly population under control.
Spider mites, although small, are formidable foes. These tiny arachnids can cause extensive damage by sucking sap from the plant, leading to a loss of vigor and yellowing or browning of leaves. Maintaining a humid environment and using organic miticides can help to deter these pests.
Finally, cutworms pose a significant threat to Kotataberry plants. These caterpillars chew through stems at or near ground level, often killing the plant. Applying diatomaceous earth around the base of plants can deter cutworms, as it causes them discomfort and deters feeding.
Most Common Kotataberry Diseases
Kotataberry plants are not only targeted by pests but also susceptible to a range of diseases. Fungal infections, viral diseases, and nutrient deficiencies are among the most common ailments that may plague these plants.
Among fungal diseases, powdery mildew and grey mold (Botrytis) are the most frequent offenders. Powdery mildew manifests as a white, powdery coating on the leaves, often spreading to the berries. It thrives in warm, dry conditions and can be controlled by fungicides and careful pruning to improve airflow.
On the other hand, grey mold prefers cool, wet conditions. This destructive disease often begins as soft, brown spots on fruit, leaves, or stems and can quickly spread, ruining an entire harvest. Good sanitation practices, such as removing infected plant material and avoiding overhead watering, can help to manage this disease.
Viral diseases, including mosaic virus and ringspot virus, can also impact the health of your Kotataberry plants. Symptoms vary but may include stunted growth, mottled or curled leaves, and reduced fruit production. While there is no cure for viral diseases, they can be managed through regular monitoring, removal of infected plants, and controlling vectors such as aphids that can spread the disease.
Finally, nutrient deficiencies can mimic many disease symptoms, with yellowing leaves, stunted growth, and poor fruit production among the tell-tale signs. Regular soil testing can help to identify any nutrient imbalances, allowing for targeted amendments to be added to the soil.
Knowing when to harvest Kotataberries is key to obtaining the best flavor and quality from your Kotataberries.
Kotataberries generally reach maturity 45-55 days after flowering, depending on the specific variety and growing conditions. During this period, they transition from green to a vibrant dark red/black color, a clear indication that they are nearing their optimal harvest time.
A ripe Kotataberry is characterized by its full black color, plump size, and firm yet slightly yielding texture when gently squeezed.
Additionally, the berry should easily detach from the stem when lightly tugged. If it resists, it is likely still immature and needs a few more days to ripen. Harvesting at the right time ensures the berries' flavor, sweetness, and nutritional content are at their peak.
The actual process of harvesting Kotataberries requires a careful and gentle approach. Start by examining the plant thoroughly, as ripe berries might be hiding under the leaves. Gently take hold of a ripe berry and twist it with your fingers. If it's fully mature, it should easily come off the stem.
Using a small, shallow container for collection can prevent damage to the berries, as piling them too high can cause the ones at the bottom to get squished. It is best to harvest during the cooler parts of the day, early morning or late afternoon, as the heat can cause the berries to become soft and more prone to damage.
After harvesting, handle Kotataberries with care to preserve their quality. They should be gently transferred to a cool location as soon as possible to prolong their shelf life.
Keep in mind that Kotataberries, like most berries, don't continue to ripen once picked, so immediate refrigeration can help maintain their optimal state.
If you don't plan to consume or process the Kotataberries right away, it's best to store them unwashed in the refrigerator. Washing the berries and then storing them can lead to a quicker breakdown and spoilage due to the extra moisture.
Instead, wash them gently under cold water just before consumption or use.
Proper Storage and Preservation
For longer-term storage, Kotataberries can be frozen, dried, or canned.
To freeze the berries, first spread them out on a baking sheet in a single layer and place them in the freezer. Once they're completely frozen, transfer them to airtight containers or freezer bags.
This method helps to prevent the berries from sticking together and allows you to take out the quantity you need later easily.
Drying and canning are other excellent ways to preserve Kotataberries.
Drying can be done using a food dehydrator or an oven set at a low temperature. Once dried, the berries should be stored in a cool, dark place.
Canning, on the other hand, allows for a variety of preservation methods, including jams, jellies, and preserves, further enhancing the versatility of these delightful fruits.
Growing and harvesting Kotataberries is a task that requires attention to timing, proper technique, and post-harvest handling.
Doing it right ensures that the fruits of your labor are of the highest quality, allowing you to enjoy the sweet and rewarding taste of these delicious berries.
For more information about the Kotataberries, feel free to check the following:
Kotataberries, a popular variety of blackberries, are renowned for their rich flavor and high nutrient content. As with many other plants, Kotataberries can greatly benefit from being grown in conjunction with suitable companion plants.
This symbiotic relationship can enhance growth, deter pests, and improve overall crop yield.
Published: May 23, 2023.