growing raspberries part I: prepping the site

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Okay, everything I’ve read has told me it’s WAY too late in the year to even THINK about starting such a project. But, a couple of friends of mine really need to thin their raspberry patches. So, I figure, why not? After all, it is those tart, plump, soft, juicy berries we’re after, that cost almost $5 for a tiny amount at the supermarket, and then go moldy the next day. Hmph. Well, sometimes, I just don’t feel like spending $5 for a snack. But will the canes take at this point? I hope so…

This little project should have been started before the last frost in your area, as you should have the soil amended and ready to go about 2-3 weeks before planting. Planting the canes can be done anytime in the fall, or in the spring at least before March, to ensure that the canes are still dormant {oops!}.

Choose a site with full sun (some afternoon shade is appreciated in hotter climates), and good air circulation. But, avoid areas with high winds that can whip the canes around and damage the plants. Your site should also be at least 30 meters from any other bramble, wild or not. And because raspberries are prone to some root diseases, make sure that your site did not house anything from the Rosaceae (roses, strawberries, apples, or pears) or Solanaceae families (tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, or potatoes) for the last 3 years.

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The previous owner of the property had already started a small patch, with a bit of wire trellising, so my site was already chosen for me. But, no one has taken care of this for a few years now. Not them. Not me either. As long as we’ve lived here, I’ve only seen maybe 7 berries on these canes. Maybe the bears and birds eat them all?

So here’s our plan of attack: to pull out all the weeds and grown over grass; to amend the soil, and bring a little more in; to prune back the existing spent canes, leaving only the living; and, (a couple weeks later) to dig a trench, and plant our new canes.

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First things first, should have been to pull out the weeds and grass, to have a clear picture of what we’re dealing with. BUT, I got excited and started snipping the dead weight off right away. I took the advise of Sonja, my fellow AO blogger, when she armored herself for her blackberry thicket, and wore double gloves. That really worked out great! The shorts, t-shirt, and flip-flops, not so much… ouch! Choosing the dead canes to snip was really easy, as most of them just snapped off in my hands before the shears were even near. There were even lots of small new green canes coming up which will provide us with next years berries!

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Then, the farmer & the boy tackled the weeds with a shovel taking off pretty much that whole top layer of soil. It was really grassy, so we had to be willing to sacrifice some of next year’s canes to clean up the site well, and bring up the soil. Then we used the hoe to loosen the soil a bit more, and to get in closer to the base of each existing crown, but careful enough not to damage the tender roots of the canes.

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Raspberries like a well-drained fertile soil, with a pH of about 6.0, so my next step was to dig in some organic fertilizer and composted manure about 6 inches deep with my tool that I think is called a potato hook (except it only has 3-prongs). This not only enriched the soil and improved the tilth, but also helped with aeration, so the roots can run freely and establish new canes. If your soil is slightly acidic, you can also lightly add a bit of lime to raise the pH.

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The last thing we did today, was tighten the wires on the trellis, so the canes have extra support while they get heavy with berries.

The next step is to visit my girlfriends for tea, and help them dig out those precious canes that will be donated to our farm. If you aren’t sure of your sources, however, it’s best to buy your canes from a reputable nursery to ensure they are certified disease-free plants.

So, that’s it for now! And I’ll keep you posted on the actual planting of the canes…

 

This post can also be seen on AO: The GROW Blog, for Agrarian Organics ao-logo

 

 

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One thought on “growing raspberries part I: prepping the site

  1. Pingback: growing raspberries part II: planting the canes | the farmer's wife

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