Gardener's Grapevine 2012.01.25

Written by David Green.

As I sit here on a cold Sunday afternoon looking at a bare, snow covered, bleak garden, my son-in-law points out that the snow is supposed to be gone after tomorrow. Well, break out the champagne. I so look forward to the dogs coming in with wet, dirty paws on the carpet. I’m sure Henry is probably thinking does nothing make her happy and didn’t you just come from church?

Usually I try to be a glass-half-full type person or I just say they gave me to big a glass, but the weather is a sticky subject with me as it is so weird this year and my arthritis is not appreciating it.

Last week we had many different seasons all in a few days’ time. That not only confuses old Art Thritis, it confuses our plant friends, and if it goes on too long it can damage crop outcomes. As I look at the garden, I am thinking about the raspberries and pruning them in a short while. This is not a job I look forward to, but it is necessary if I plan to have a good harvest and be able to pick in a somewhat unimpeded manner.

My raspberry plants were gifts from friends. On the east side of the garden are small black heritage raspberries that have been around since the dawn of time, I think. They make great pancakes and muffins. On the north side of the garden is the hybridized big red raspberries. These produce twice a year and are never put into anything as they are eaten as fast as I can get them washed. Raspberries are a pain in the backside due to the thorns, but I feel they are more than worth it.

I did a little research on caring for raspberries. The canes are biannual, meaning the plant produces canes one year and they bear fruit the next. Once the canes bear fruit they never will again, unless they are ever-bearing, in which case they may produce many times in one season. When they are grey and woody cut them off at the ground level. If left in the patch they will not do anything but clog up the growing room and eventually kill off the entire patch.

I prune the dead canes out in early March, before any leafing out occurs. It is easy to tell which are the old canes as they are silvery gray and brittle. You can usually snap them off with your hands. Wear gauntleted gloves to do this chore, as the thorns will tear you up. In the fall, to tidy up the garden and make the plants stronger, cut the canes back to about four feet tall. A nice long set of loppers will make short work of this job.

The soil must be well drained, as the plants will rot off if they get too wet. Well-drained means no standing water and the soil dries well after a rain. As for feeding, raspberries do very well with regular mulch. They aren’t too picky if you make your mulch at home, it can contain any of the usual stuff found in homemade mulch. Don’t use raw sawdust, as that is too acidic.

Everything I read said that raspberries aren’t too fond of tomatoes. I really question this, as we always plant our tomatoes next to them and we haven’t had to call the police once due to disturbances between them. Actually, we’ve always gotten great crops from both. If you have raspberries I hope you found this useful, if not try some out you will be surprised how easy they are to grow, and how tasty they are.

  • Front.nok Hok
    GAMES DAY—Finn Molitierno (right) celebrates a goal during a game of Nok Hockey with his sister, Kyla. The two tried out a variety of games Saturday at Stair District Library’s annual International Games Day event. One of the activities featured a sort of scavenger hunt in which participants had to locate facts presented in the Smithsonian Hometown Teams exhibit. The traveling show left Morenci’s library Tuesday, wrapping up a series of programs that began Oct. 2. Additional photos are on page 7.
  • Station.2
    STRANGE STUFF—Morenci Elementary School students learn that blue isn’t really blue when seen through the right color of lens. Volunteer April Pike presents the lesson to students at one of the many stations brought to the school by the COSI science center. The theme of this year’s visit was the solar system.
  • Front.leaves
    MAPLE leaves show their fall colors in a puddle at Morenci’s Riverside Natural Area. “This was a great year for colors,” said local weather watcher George Isobar. Chilly mornings will give way to seasonable fall temperatures for the next two weeks.
  • Front.band
    MORENCI Marching Band member Brittany Dennis keeps the beat Friday during the half-time show of the Morenci/Pittsford football game. Color guard member Jordan Cordts is at the left. The band performed this season under the direction of Doyle Rodenbeck who served as Morenci’s band director in the 1970s. He’s serving as a substitute during a family leave.
  • Front.poles
    MOVING EAST—Utility workers continue their slow progress east along U.S. 20 south of Morenci. New electrical poles are put in place before wiring is moved into place.
  • Front.cowboy
    A PERFORMER named Biligbaatar, a member of the AnDa Union troupe from Inner Mongolia, dances at Stair District Library last week during a visit to the Midwest. The nine-member group blends a variety of traditions from Inner and Outer Mongolia. The music is described as drawing from “all the Mongol tribes that Genghis Khan unified.” The group considers itself music gatherers whose goal is to preserve traditional sounds of Mongolia. Biligbaatar grew up among traditional herders who live in yurts. Additional photos are on the back page of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.bear
    HOLDEN HUTCHISON gives a hug to a black bear cub—the product of a taxidermist’s skills—at the Michigan DNR’s Great Youth Jamboree. The event on Sunday marked the fourth year of the Jamboree. Additional photos are on page 12.

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