Friday, April 2, 2010

Growing Raspberries

Good gardening friend Paul Parent of the Paul Parent Garden Club ( sends out a great newsletter every week with pertinent gardening topics. I encourage you to go to his website to sign up for his newsletter. Paul can also be heard every Sunday morning from 6 AM to 10 AM at his website or at WBACH (104.7 FM) every Sunday morning from 6 AM to 9 AM. Paul recently sent this article out called Growing Raspberries (I have added a few comments in italics) and here it is:

Of all the berries you have to choose from to plant in your garden this spring, think about the raspberries. Think of the aroma and the flavor of this summer time berry: sweet but not too sweet, stimulating to your palate and truly a fruit sent by the Gods. I hope that all of you have raspberries in your garden or are considering planting them this year. A 10 to 20 foot long row of these berries will give the average family enough fruit to enjoy for several weeks during the summer. Plan ahead this year and place extra berries on a cookie sheet and freeze them. Once frozen, place them in a freezer bag and hide them in the freezer for a cold morning when you can mix them with blueberries and make a wonderful dessert, muffin, or jam.

Begin by selecting a location that is sunny all day. The soil must be rich and well drained. Raspberries will respond to a soil conditioned with a lot of compost, animal manure or peat moss. If you can spread compost or animal manure around your plants every spring, your plants will give you more fruit and taste sweeter. Water is also important, but not too much. I water every week by hand or use a soaker hose. Overhead irrigation will wet fruit and flowers, encouraging fungus to rot the fruiting parts. In the spring as the growth begins use 1 to 2 inches of water a week, during the summer 2 to 3 inches of water to help form juicy berries. The ground should be kept moist 6 inches deep at all times.

I use fresh STRAW, never HAY, around my plants to help hold moisture in the ground during the summer. Apply it about 3 to 4 inches thick and make it fluffy, not packed down. This is also great for keeping weeds out of the garden. By next spring, the straw has rotted and turned into rich organic matter. Now repeat compost spring and straw during the summer every year. Do not use bark mulch around plants, as it is too dense and heavy and will slow down shoot development.

Set plants 2 feet apart in a row and make the planting bed 3 to 4 feet wide. This will allow room for new shoots to develop. Raspberries can grow tall and are best if staked so they do not take over your garden. Besides saving space in the garden, it will be easier for you to pick the berries.

Use a metal fence post every 10 feet down the row of plants. I use a 6 feet tall post hammered a foot into the ground, as this will give me 5 feet to tie plants up. Because raspberries are a permanent plant in the garden, I use aluminum wire to run between posts and it will last forever. Run wires at 3 feet and 5 feet above the ground from post to post. Use garden string to tie up plants and keep them straight.

Summer and fall raspberries are pruned differently, so be sure you know what type of plant you have. Both types need to be pruned only once a year; pruning them at the wrong time could mean little to no fruit. Summer-fruiting raspberries will make fruit on shoots that grew at the base of the plants the year before. This growth is known as old wood. Last year's new canes will produce fruit this year. When you finish picking the fruit, cut the stems to the ground to make room for new plants for the following year. Leave the new shoots alone, as they will make fruit during next summer. In early spring if your canes are taller than 6 feet you can cut them back to 5 feet and the fruit will not bend over canes.

Fall-fruiting raspberries fruit on the new canes that develop this year. When the season ends, cut everything to the ground and it will restart the next spring with new canes and fruit in the fall of the year.

Fertilize in the spring with a garden fertilizer like Garden Tone by Espoma or Plant Booster Plus by Organica. One last thing, be sure to cover the plant when the fruit comes if you have birds--or they will beat you to the harvest. The soil pH should be 5.5 to 6.5 and you will have to test soil yearly so it does not get too acidic. If your soil tends to be acidic, apply Mira Cal by Jonathan Green; the calcium this product brings will be great for your fruit!

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