I planning on doing a berry patch in a old horse pasture in the hope of building a little extra income some day. I have a small 3 year old patch of thornless black satin blackberries that's pretty productive with little to no care. My area receives 48 inches of rain per year. I get a lot of forest effect rain. My soil is pretty crappy, little topsoil and lots of clay. Should I swale, or do straight rows? I was thinking I get enough rain to not swale, but digging swales will help make my project bigger and more time consuming to help keep my mind off of my day job drudgery. Instead of doing monocrop rows, I was thinking of doing inter crops of raspberry, blackberries, and mulberry trees trained into small bushes. Any advice welcome.
It is hard to say, not knowing the lay of your land, including topography. If you are just looking for "make work" projects, I would suggest building a proper trellis system for your brambles. It will make maintenance and control much easier in the future. The time spent now will more than pay for itself come harvest time.
Get a good berry book, and read/study it before you begin your project. A good basic book is "The Backyard Berry Book":
If you have the time and the gumption I think you should do some small swales. Thy don't have to be picture perfect, deep ditch swales just a little help in trapping moisture because after all berries are naturally found near water. It would be a good idea to fill the swale with wood chips and mulch heavily as I've found berries grow better with good mulch cover also this will build some nice topsoil over time. Mr. Polk brings up a good point about trellising the black/boysen berries although raspberries are usually self supporting and need little help that way.
out of curiosity where are you located? sounds a lot like my situation here in the bay area, CA. heavy clay, marginal topsoil
Appalachia Mt's in central Ky. Mr. Polk's book suggestion led me to Berries, rasp and black (kindel). Lots of good info. I was thinking of filling the swales with forest leaves and debris. My place it surrounded on three sides by forest. Last night I read (somewhere) to grow mulberry trees with other berries, so birds will eat the mulberries and leave the black berries alone. Seams to me that this would just attract more birds, but that fine with me. I already have attracted lots of wild turkey, and turkey taste good.