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Gardener's Grapevine 2012.01.25

on . Posted in Gardener's Grapevine

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.

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