Friday, April 22, 2016

Home Raspberry Patch April 2016

Where I live in Pennsylvania it is still about a month too early to do any serious gardening but there are tasks that can be done to get ready for the start of the gardening season. By using some season-extending techniques I have been able to get a jump start on a few things.

Each spring, usually in late March, I thin out my Raspberry patch and inspect it for damage, pests, weeds, and state of the soil. My patch is four feet wide and twenty-four feet long and is a raised bed made from 3x4 landscaping timbers. Those are the cheap, partially rounded ones you can get for between $3 and $4 at any lumber store. I put this bed together in 2001 and transplanted some Red Raspberry roots from my dad's patch. I bought the timbers from Walmart at the end of the summer season that year for $1 a piece and five dollars to haul away all the mulch they had in their display (three truck loads). Anyway, I have been tending this same patch of Raspberries for 15 years now and never had any problems with disease, pests, or fertility. 

So today I thinned out the old, dead canes. Most Raspberries fruit on one year old canes and during the winter after they fruit they die. Then the new canes from the summer will grow, leaf out, and fruit the following summer. If you don't thin them out, and most people don't, the patch gets over-crowded with dead canes. This increases the chances of disease and pests because they will survive the winter in the old, rotting canes. The other bad thing is that they block sunlight from reaching the growing canes. Raspberry canes leaf along the entire length of the cane so they need light to each everywhere. Below is the before and after pictures of the process:
This was the Raspberry patch at the beginning. Because I thin it every year it doesn't look too crowded but about half of those canes are dead and need to be removed. I also will weed the patch and reroute the canes on the left side behind the wires I use to keep the canes out of the grass path on the left side of the bed.

This is the same patch after thinning. You can see five piles of dead canes, I'll run them through the mulcher and use them to mulch around tomato and pepper plants. The rough shredded canes are almost impossible for slugs and snails to travel over. If you click on the picture you will be able to see how much more open the patch is now.

Last year was not a great year for Raspberries, the winter was very severe. This year should be better though if nothing changes. I mulched the bed very heavy in the fall with shredded grass and leaves to protect the roots from the cold winters we have been having. It seems to have worked pretty good. Because the mulch is so heavy the soil is still moist even though it hasn't rained here in quite some time and the Township instituted a "Burn Ban" because everything is so dry. 

Now there is nothing that really needs to be done except to check the patch once a week and watch for weeds and insect pests. The only problem insects I have ever had here are Japanese Beetles. They don't harm the fruit but they will eat all the leaves. I have found that wetting the patch and then dusting the plants with plain powered lime is enough to stop them. 

My patch comes to fruition right around the Fourth of July plus or minus a week. From this patch I'll get about four or five gallons of berries over a three week period. None a single one goes to waste, we love them.

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