Friday, June 1, 2012


I'm just swamped here, getting further and further behind on everything. I can't blame it all on fruit-growing, but that's a big part of it.

Right now, my raspberries and cherries are ripe. (My strawberries are almost done, but still require work.) And then there's everything else that needs my attention,... but isn't getting it!

Anyway, I thought I'd post a bit about my raspberries. (I'll leave the cherries for another day.)

My raspberries were planted by the birds. Years ago, a single plant took root at the corner of my garage and the chainlink fence, where the mower couldn't get it. Neglect let it grow big enough for me to recognize as a raspberry plant, so I thought I'd leave it and see what happened.

Well, it grew some absolutely delicious black raspberries! Really, they're just wonderful - sweet and tasty. So I let it spread, and now I have two long rows of raspberry plants.

If I were cooking pies and such, red raspberries might be preferable. But for fresh eating, these can't be beat. And I try to freeze some for the winter, too. Like the rest of the fruits I freeze, they end up on my morning oatmeal.

Black raspberries are tip-rooters. They don't spread from the root. Rather, the canes extend down to the ground in late summer and they root from there. That makes them very easy to train, growing new plants wherever you want them. But they'll spread like wildfire if you let them.

They're also - like strawberries, like grapes - one of the easiest fruits I grow. They don't have to be sprayed at all, and that's really important for me. (For some reason, I just <i>hate</i> spraying. Here on the plains, it's often too windy to spray, and it has to be done early in the day, when I can't seem to get motivated. I end up not spraying nearly often enough - and not nearly early enough, either.)

Black raspberries fruit on last year's canes, which I've fastened to a cable. Meanwhile, new canes grow up. When they get about chest high, I snip the ends off, so they'll branch. (I like them high, so they're easier to pick. But if they're too high, they tend to die on me over the winter.)

When this year's crop is ended, I remove the old canes. That's not easy to do, given the thorns - and the heat and humidity here in the summer. And it's easy to damage the young canes. Some people apparently wait until fall to remove the old canes, but this works better for me.

Once the old canes are gone, I can see what I've got, and I can tie the young canes to the cable. It's a mess by the end of the summer, but I can't imagine what a mess it would be if I left the old canes there, too!*

It's a lot of work, but when it's done, it's done. After that, I pretty much ignore the whole patch, except for snipping off the tops of new growth and tying up any canes that need it. In the early spring, I prune off the long, thin canes that dangle to the ground everywhere - leaving about 18" or so to bear fruit. It's simple enough.

I'm not going to claim that it's work-free, but compared to most of what I grow, it's a piece of cake. The raspberries ripen when the strawberries are just ending (in mid-June, usually), so the timing is great.

Of course, the birds love them, and there's really no way for me to net the raspberry patch. (In a way, that's a good thing, because it took me all day just to net one of my cherry trees.) Usually, there's enough raspberries for me and the birds, but not always.

Last year, I invited friends over to pick them, but I ended up not getting any raspberries myself, because the birds kept them cleaned out after that. This year, I don't have so many young robins, but I've got huge flocks of grackles in the yard.

It's been best to get out early in the morning and pick what I want, before the birds can get too many of them. But what can I say? The birds planted them, after all. And the fact that I can't net them is, quite frankly, a relief, as much work as that always is. (And no, I haven't found any effective way of scaring off the birds. They're too smart for that.)

The squirrels never bothered my raspberries, even when I didn't have the electric fence barrier around the backyard. (As I was just now reminded, my apricots have been a complete waste of time, because I simply can not keep the squirrels from wiping out the whole crop, long before the fruit even gets ripe.)

My experience is really getting me to appreciate fruit which is easy to grow. But fruit that's easy to grow and also delicious is ideal. (My currants are easy to grow, but I don't even bother to pick them anymore.) Given that I didn't even have to plant them myself, these black raspberries have to be one of my real favorites.

*PS. I don't have room for this myself, but if I did, I'd drive steel posts at an angle on both sides of my raspberry rows (like this:  \ /). The cable - or wire, or decorative chain - would then run along both sides of the row, instead of down the middle.

Tying the canes to one side or another would leave the center free for the young canes to grow, since it'd get enough sunlight there. (With a single cable down the middle, the old canes often shade out the young ones.) And it would be easier to remove the old canes without damaging the young ones.

This would work great, I suspect, but I can't use it, because I barely have enough room as it is. Oh, well, that's the case with pretty much everything I grow here. It's all crowded together.

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