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The tribe has spoken

February 9, 2009

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Frosty lichen covered berry post. 

Thanks everyone, for the vote of confidence.  I guess people really do read this blog.   I owe you a little news – the insurance adjuster is coming to look at the greenhouses tomorrow today.  I’m sure just to confirm that they will not cover them, but at least, then we can decide how to proceed after the visit.  Ruth Less’ true love called tonight last night under the ruse of selling me some hay, since I had asked his Dad if they might sell some…usually they don’t.  But, I think he is willing to make a special concession for us 😉 😉  Poor Guy – he had to talk to me, and we don’t need hay, but I did find out their insurance company has wiggled out of paying too.  They lost a good sized pole barn, and suffered some equipment damage.  So I was able to give him some information about disaster relief payment for clean-up, so at least he got something out of the phone call.   Someone was  lurking and hanging on my every word too, I barely remember those days…

//" target="_blank">View Raw Image</a>But, on to a gardening post.  The one thing I do prune, is raspberries.   I think raspberries are our favorite berry, and the easiest to grow.  So while my other small fruits are crying out for attention, the raspberries always get done.

We are were supposed to get snow tonight last night, so I was hoping to get this done while it was still dry.

Around here commercial growers prune and tie up their raspberries in the fall, but I prefer to wait, a lot can happen to the canes over winter, and waiting just insures that you have more canes to select from. 

Of course, it helps to have the berry eating dogs close at hand. 

While it may be easy to decide what berries you want to eat, growing them may actually be a different story, due to climate and soil constraints.  Look around, and see what berries farmers are selling in your area.  It would be a good bet, that they would grow good in your garden too. 

When I decided to renovate and add to our farmstead, there were no berries of any kind except a few bushes here and there that had survived.   I have moved the location of this garden several times, for different reasons.  All which had good points and bad points.  At first I saved all the old plant varieties that I could, none have any names, most I don’t use, but they are still growing here.  Next, I concentrated on buying stock for what I wanted to eat – what we ended up with are raspberries, blueberries, kiwi, and strawberries.  Each requires different treatment and growing conditions.  I have had successes and failures with each.  My present berry “garden” is on an old building site, specifically a shop.  As plants mysteriously die, I have to really dig deep in my mind’s eye to remember exactly what part of the shop located there?  Granary, light plant battery storage, harness room, oil and gas storage are some of the possibilities.  So you see why I have soil problems.  At this point we have decided to live with the gaps and make the remaining plants more productive.  Our never ending deer problem requires that we have the berries close to the house where the dogs can keep the deer at bay.

A word about exotics, I have decided to quit bringing in things that are not native.  I know I have the kiwi’s, and that is where it stops.  I only have to look around to see non-native invasives everywhere.  Namely, Himalayan Blackberry (thanks Luther!), English Ivy, Scotch Broom, Tansy Ragwort, and now Buddleia is added to the list.  One Green World is close to my house, and a trip there, or a glance at their catalog makes me drool.  But, for now I will stay with my plain ol’ regulation berries and fruits.  I don’t want a designer garden, I want to eat, and in some form have an interpretive restoration of the original fruits from my farm’s pioneer days, that is as far as my futzing in going to go.

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One year old composted chicken litter.

Before I begin a project like this I gather my materials.  Even if I work by myself, I do the work in a production manner.   Which means, I break the job up into smaller jobs, and finish each “job” before moving on to the next.   I wanted to prune, tie and fertilize the raspberries this  past weekend.  Not a big job, but once it is done, I don’t really do much except mow in between the rows, until harvest time. 

♣  Prune out dead canes from last years production.
♣  Select 5 or 6 healthy canes and tie them, and prune.
♣  Prune out canes not needed.
♣  Fertilize for coming growing season.

Materials needed: 
♥  Pruners
♥  Twine
♥  Compost or fertilizer 16-16-16
♥  Dogs

Raspberries produce fruit on two year old canes.  So you want to stimulate growth and fruiting at the same time during the growing season.   Some people shy away from raspberries because they can become unruly, putting on copious amounts of new canes that have to be treated carefully while you are picking your prized fruit.  As annoying as those canes may be, be careful with them as they will produce your fruit crop for you next year.  Raspberries propagate by sending lateral root shoots out and coming up in a new place.  Which makes them an economic homestead plant.  You can buy a bundle of plants, and once they are established you can dig up the new plants that come up near your row and start a new row.

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When I start, my first job is to cut out all the dead canes that produced fruit last year.  They will appear to be gray and the bark may be sloughing or splintering.   The canes you want to save for this years fruit production will be tan or reddish and have dormant buds. 

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After all the dead trash is removed, you can clearly see which canes are the healthiest.  Look for the healthiest looking 5 or 6 canes for your hill.  Small and spindly canes should be cut out, which will direct the energy to the healthy fruiting canes and cause the plants to send up new shoots.

I have huge gaps in my berry rows due to the prior conditions I described above, and I leave the grass, just mowing in between rows and clumps of raspberries.

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After selecting the best, I use our sisal baling twine that I have saved for this purpose for tying the canes to the wire.  I like the sisal because I can’t see it once it weathers,  it will last a year and then will bio-degrade, and we have enough of the orange plastic crap tying gates on, much to my chagrin. :O

After I have tied all the raspberries, I top them about a foot above the wire.  This forces more lateral fruit producing branches, which will push from each leaf node.  See photo below. 

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Makes me miss summer…      Meeker raspberry

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When I have finished tying and topping, I add liberal amounts of compost.  Even though you’re trying to grow fruit, you need nitrogen too, to produce new vegetative growth for your perennial berry patch.  Commercial growers use Triple 16 (16-16-16) just like you can use for pastures.  I wouldn’t fret about the commercial fertilizer if you don’t have compost.   Some kind of fertilizer is better than none.   Blood and bone meal, fish meal, feather meal, and plant derived nitrogen such as alfalfa have their place too, just concentrate on getting your berry patch going.  I have also just put stall cleanings on during the winter too, just because I needed a place to dump it, and that was fine too. 

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Since we like raspberries so much, I grow the everbearing variety too.  The July bearing plants set fruit in large quantities for preserving, and then they are done.  But the everbearing raspberries will produce until fall frosts or rains do them in.  We like these just for casual eating.  They are easy to care for, and we can just pick berries and eat them right away.  No extra energy required for storage, just pick and eat.  Everbearing raspberries are a great low tech season extender.

Everbearing raspberries will produce a little, all season long, or you can cut them to the ground in the spring, and they will send up canes that will have a larger crop in late summer and fall.  They are sturdy and don’t require tying.  But, you will have an unruly berry patch, but oh, such a delight too.  So the messy look is OK, if you love the berries.

Fallgold is a very prolific variety, but was too sweet for us, so we gave away all our plants.  But they are hardy, because they still come up.  So we have a mix of red Heritage and Fallgold in our everbearing patch.  I want to plant more of the Heritage, it produces firm, tart berries, that are just the antidote for the fall blues around here.
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After cutting the canes to the ground, apply liberal compost and sit back and wait for fall berry harvest. 

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After finishing your berry patch, come in the house and have a treat!

18 Comments leave one →
  1. February 9, 2009 9:21 am

    I am so thankful that you will still blog. Your blog is to me like the Farmer’s Almanac of the farming and gardening world, but much better and with incredible photos, recipes, and your experience. I am really happy!!!Am I sucking up too much?

    Loved this aritcle on the raspberries. Those cookies look yummy. I am looking out my patio doors in anticipation of where our new garden will be planted. Hubs is still brush hogging and clearing the property lines so that we can fence it all. The land is just beautiful and I love the peace and quite.

    Take care and have a great day.

  2. February 9, 2009 9:31 am

    See, this is EXACTLY the reason you need to be here. I have two raspberry bushes and they’re just growing every which way. I never could figure out exactly what I was supposed to do to them. This will totally help. Thanks! (I got a whopping 7 pints last year, maybe this will up my production?)

  3. February 9, 2009 9:38 am

    We’re going to try and grow some berries this year so your post is very helpful!

  4. February 9, 2009 10:02 am

    Thanks for the tips. I am going to put in a raspberry patch this spring. I’m debating on which types of berries to buy. We really don’t need them, we have more wild black raspberries and blackberries than we can eat. But since those grow on an unruly hillside having a patch in the yard will be much easier to pick.

  5. Sarah permalink
    February 9, 2009 10:12 am

    I agree with Meadowlark. This is why you need to be here. We need to know more about raspberries and sometimes just need to look at cows! Love the blog and I hope you keep it up.

  6. susan in ny permalink
    February 9, 2009 10:39 am

    This is the most interesting (and useful) blog I read! I do hope you won’t go away — it’s hard to find someone knowledgeable about so much, with a good sense of humor…keep up the good work.

    susan in ny

  7. February 9, 2009 12:56 pm

    Good! I LOVE coming here, I find everything so enjoyable.


  8. February 9, 2009 1:29 pm

    Ah! Finally someone who agrees that raspberries can be too sweet.
    Raspberries are my favorite, and the tarter the better. But all the descriptions ever say is sweet! sweet! sweet! That says something about our tastes today doesn’t it?

  9. Jennifer permalink
    February 9, 2009 4:50 pm

    I have been following your blog for about a month now, and have read most of the archives. Just like everyone else has said, this information is so important, and isn’t found in books. I am so glad you will keep writing, and thanks for the helpful info on raspberries. I love the gardening info, lots of us who have never done this before appreciate really specific tutorials like yours. I am interested to know what you are planning to plant this year, and when, how much, etc. I’ve learned a lot from your posts about caring for your animals, and enjoyed the info on your household systems–wood cookstove, ram pump, etc. The photos and stories of your life, past and present, are wonderful. I look forward to learning more from you and thank you so much for writing.

  10. Ali permalink
    February 9, 2009 5:59 pm

    I’m also glad you will keep writing and sharing your knowledge and giving us all a glimpse into your life –I greatly value your knowledge and willingness to share.

    That said, I’d really like to hear more about your kiwis, as I’m hoping to grow some kiwis here. I tasted some this fall and fell in love, especially as the northern kiwis do not require peeling!

    I also am curious about tying the berry canes in a clump to the wire. What purpose does the clumping together serve? This was a great reminder that I need to prune my blackberries and my pear tree now while the snow puts more within reach. Thanks!
    Ali in Maine

  11. February 9, 2009 7:12 pm

    The only fruit that we have here in town is raspberries. We have black ones (either wild or escaped from cultivation) in the front yard. We do have some everbearing golden ones in the back but I don’t know what variety. From your description, probably a Fallgold. We got the start from my parents who got if from my sister who got it from…. you know how that goes. It is very sweet, almost perfumy. They do mix really well with peaches though, to make jam. We cut them back to about a foot tall, then they shoot out lots of new growth for a bumper crop.
    Thanks for the tips about pruning the regular ones though, I have just tended to let them go a bit wild -although they do keep the college students out of the yard 😉

  12. February 10, 2009 1:48 am

    I am trying some berries this year as well (just as an experiment) but have only a small space for them. Do you have any suggestions on what kinds would do well? I’m up for any kind!

  13. February 10, 2009 8:14 am

    Glad you’ve decided to stick around. One thing about living where I do exotics just curl up and die of fright so it’s not even an issue. Those that were brought over and survived are now considered native 😉

  14. February 10, 2009 3:12 pm

    I’ve only seen raspberry filled cookies.. never cooked like raisin cookies. Look yummy.

    wish I had room for more garden (I guess I could take out my flowers and ornamental bushes — might have to if the world falls apart)

  15. February 11, 2009 6:36 am

    I’ll try the new commenting style suggested by several readers – kind of a blanket Thank you and answer questions… Plus I owe you guys the cookie recipe. Pamela it is actually a raisin cookie recipe, but I used dried cranberries instead. Busted!

    So THANK YOU and –

    Mangochild, gee just grow what you want to eat. You could grow day-neutral strawberries or everbearing raspberries and get small harvests throughout the growing season, or maybe blueberries, which are more permanent, but freeze well and are great to snack on. It just depends on how much space you have, and how much time and money you are willing to spend.

    Ali, my kiwis are a mess, and in need of a severe pruning, but one thing I can tell you they survive on neglect and still produce a huge crop. I don’t know if I’m brave enough to show pictures of how bad they actually look, the snow ruined the old trellis that needed replacing, so I have to actually do something about them this year.

    The raspberries need support, because they put out a fair amount of growth and the berries are heavy. Look at the first small picture at the top and you can see how bushy the row gets. You can run two parallel wires and keep the canes between them, or you can space the canes out and tie just one to a single wire. This is the easiest for me.

  16. February 11, 2009 5:54 pm

    I am glad you posted about berries because I want to get some bushes in this year and do not have a clue how to maintain them. How about a post on apple and pear trees? We have a few of each and I have done very little with. I NEED to educate myself!

  17. Ali permalink
    February 12, 2009 6:43 pm

    Thanks. I had just never seen the single wire version of the cane support, a duh moment fer sure. I’d love to see your kiwis, I won’t judge the state of them or your trellis! There’s plenty to judge here at henbogle before I move on…

  18. February 13, 2009 4:04 am


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