Raspberries and Blackberries are the most healthy and tasteful fruits. If I could grow only one fruit, it would be raspberries. They’re a favorite to eat, and un-affordable in the markets, even during berry season. Fortunately, they’re very easy to grow in a hot climate, and for the most part, they’re trouble-free. If I lived in the south where raspberries do less well, I’d grow some gorgeous fat blackberries, which are like hot climates.
Raspberries and Blackberries are known as “bramble fruits” because they are so thorny surely a deliberate move on nature’s part to make them harder to pick. Like roses, Raspberries and Blackberries are exquisite prizes that you earn only by putting up with a little aggravation.
Bramble fruits are perennial plants that bear on biennial canes. This means that the roots live indefinitely and send up canes each year that generally fruit the second season, and then die. By removing dead canes that have finished fruiting and letting the new ones grow, you can maintain a berry patch for many years.
Since the patch is a permanent planting. It’s worth spending some time, in the beginning, to figure out just which berries you should grow. Red raspberries appear in early summer, usually in July although there are some fall-blooming varieties.
They bear for a few blissful weeks during which you gobble as many fresh raspberries as you possibly can. Since they don’t keep well, then freeze the rest or make them into jam. You can stretch this early-summer Nirvana to a month or more by planting several varieties that ripen at slightly different times. Yellow raspberries are excellent for home growing too.
They are very sweet but not quite as appealing to birds as the red ones are. You rarely find yellows for sale in markets, since they don’t ship well. So they make a special home-grown treat to serve alone or mixed with red and black raspberries. They grow exactly like red raspberries, on sturdy, erect plants, and many are hardy even in Zone 3.
Both red and yellow raspberries send up new canes from the crowns and also from the roots as suckers. So even if you plant only a few you will soon have many. Raspberries and other brambles are self-fertile, so you need only one variety to ensure pollination though some growers maintain that their yield is greater if they grow two.
Black raspberries also called “black caps,” are quite different from red ones. Their canes are arching or trailing and send out vigorous fruiting side branches. Although red raspberries are borne mainly on the long and slender canes and black raspberries don’t produce the multitude of suckers that red raspberries do. Most are hardy only to Zone 5 or 6.
But unlike the red ones, black raspberries will tolerate a fair amount of heat. Their flavor is also a bit more tart and rich, making them a superb choice for baking, ice cream, or jams. Purple raspberries, a cross between black and red, grow much like the black ones, though they are often hardier.
You can also plant ever-bearing raspberries for a fall harvest. These don’t really bear all summer; rather, they have two crops, one borne on second-year canes at the usual time, and another borne in fall on the tips of new canes produced that season. If you cut these back after the fall harvest you will sacrifice the summer crop, but this means that the fall one will be bigger. I prefer to grow them this way, for a big fall crop. I can always plant a standard summer-bearing variety for the early crop. Ever-bearing varieties can be red or yellow.
Blackberries are larger than raspberries and a bit less sweet. They are also less cold-hardy and do best in moderate or warm climates. The plants are extremely vigorous and vary as to their growth habits. Some have strong, erect canes; others are trailing and will lie on the ground unless supported, still others are semi-trailing. Some varieties are thornless. Boysenberries and loganberries both of which are large and wine-colored, growing on trailing plants are simply blackberry varieties.
Site for Raspberries and Blackberries
The best site for Raspberries and Blackberries’ “bramble fruits” is a slightly sloping, sunny hillside where cold air drains away. They will take a bit more shade than other fruits, but a sunny location will provide a better yield, especially in cool climates. Avoid sites where any of the Solanaceae have grown in recent years (page 184), since these all share with brambles a susceptibility to the verticillium wilt virus.
It is also best to separate red and black raspberries by 300 feet, if possible since seemingly healthy red plants can transmit diseases to the less-resistant blacks. Wild raspberries and blackberries can also transmit diseases, so it is wise to eradicate any you have on the property. Be sure to pick a well-drained site; none of the bramble fruits will grow where it’s mucky.
Soil for Raspberries and Blackberries
Most soil types will grow bramble fruits as long as drainage is good. Moderate fertility is sufficient, though the plants will appreciate the sonic bone meal and some rotted manure or compost worked into the soil. The more organic matter 10 the soil, the better; it will help the soil to hold moisture.
The Raspberries and Blackberries soil should be slightly acid about 6.0 is ideal, but a range of 5.5 to 7.0 is acceptable. Remember that this is a permanent bed, and all weeds, rocks, and other obstacles to good growth must be removed at the beginning. The soil should be enriched, lightened, and well-tilled throughout the bed before you do your planting.
Planting Raspberries and Blackberries
It is very important to buy certified virus-free plants. Your neighbors will tempt you with offers of free raspberry plants when it’s time to weed out the suckers between their rows. Turn them down, or there’s a chance you’ll start out with diseases you’ll never get rid of. Root nematodes can also get started in your garden this way, and the nursery you buy from should be able to guaran¬tee their stock to be free of these, too.
Planting time is early spring, except in Zone 6 and southward, where fall or even late-winter planting is possible. You don’t have to buy very many plants of each variety, especially red raspberries. Keep in mind that in a few years you’ll be throwing out extras. A dozen plants, spaced 3 feet apart, will soon give you a large harvest, with each foot of row producing about a quart of berries. Hence, plant blackberries and black raspberries about 4 feet apart, trailing blackberries 5-6 feet apart.
If I’m planting more than one row I make sure that the rows are pretty far apart a good 10 feet is best. When I’m pruning or picking I like to be sure that no wayward canes will reach out and grab me from behind. If you are using a trellis system you can space the rows more closely. Make sure that the roots do not dry out between the time of buying them and the time you put them in the ground.
And moisten your plant holes. Plant raspberries a few inches deeper than they were growing in the nursery, blackberries at about the same level. Cut red raspberries and blackberries back to 6 inches, but cut black raspberries back to ground level as a precaution against disease. Then water the plants some more.
Growing Raspberries and Blackberries
It is very important to give all bramble fruits a constant water supply while they are growing and especially when they are forming fruit. A good thick mulch of organic material such as salt hay will help a lot. It will also keep weeds from working their way into the berry plants’ root systems.
In addition, mulch will keep you from having to cultivate the soil. This is an important advantage, as cultivating can nick the plants’ shallow roots. Which is the case of red raspberries can promote excess suckering? But even with mulch, you should watch soil moisture. If it’s dry weather and a crop is ripening, laying a soaker hose along the rows will definitely increase your yield.
Top dress each year in early spring with at least a shovelful of compost or rotted manure for every foot of row, or apply a handful of commercial fertilizer such as 10-10-10 to the same area. The most important job in growing bramble fruits is keeping the plants properly pruned. So that the bed does not become an impenetrable tangle of thorny canes. Each berry type has a different way of running rampant, but fill rampant it will.
Red and yellow raspberries, don’t branch much but they do send up lots of canes. Every year in early spring you should go out to the raspberry patch, wearing a long-sleeved shirt and leather gloves, and prune out any winter-killed canes at ground level. Then cut and hack all the remaining canes to about chest height.
You will see what remains of the little berry clusters after the herrios have been removed. Stole let the job go until winter or early spring, you’ll still be able to distinguish the old canes because they are darker, with peeling bark. Any part of the plant that looks diseased should be removed at whatever time you spot it.
1 don’t bother to use any kind of a trellising system with red or yellow raspberries, because the stiff canes support themselves so Well. I use the hedge-MW method, just letting the row fill in with new plants until it gets about I V: to 2 feet wide. Any wider than that, and it’s hard to match and pick. Every spring, I pull up all the suckers that come between the rows and later in the season too, as they appear. It is also a good idea to thin the plants within the rows, pulling up some of the new canes so that the remaining canes are about 6 inches apart.
Some gardeners do use a trellis system for raspberries, either because they find them easier to pick this way, or because they’re short of space. Trellised rows can be as close together as 5 feet. Keep in mind, though, that the farther apart they are the better the air circulation and the less chance of disease. You can use a system similar to the four-arm system for grapes.
Or you can box the vines by running wires on either side of a thick wooden post, trapping the vines between the wires. Also nail 2-foot crosspieces to the posts, as on a telephone pole, to make a wider box. You can also just place metal stakes 2 feet apart and string wires along those. Brace the end posts to keep them front bending.
Black raspberries don’t sucker freely. Their way of running amok is to bend over their long canes so that the tips root in the soil between your rows. If you let them do this, pretty soon you won’t have any rows, just solid berry bushes. Cut off the new canes to about 2 feet tall in midsummer. They will cause them to form lateral branches, which will bear fruit next year. In early spring cut back each of those lateral branches to about 12 inches long.
Then after harvest cut back the canes that have fruited, just as you do with red raspberries. If you prune them this way you can keep the plants fairly short and erect, so you shouldn’t need to trellis them. Thin the rows as needed, and pull up any plants growing between them.
Ever-bearing raspberries bear the first year, in fall, at the tips of the canes. If you want a second crop, cut off the tips after harvest. Then the following season they’ll bear on the uncut portion in early summer. Then cut back the whole cane after it finishes fruiting. Both crops will be smaller than that produced by ordinary summer-bearing raspberries. To get one big fall crop instead and simplify your pruning job as well cut all the canes back to the ground after the fall harvest.
If you’re growing blackberries, then cut the first-year canes hack to 3 feet in midsummer to encourage lateral branches, which will bear fruit. In late winter or early spring cut each lateral branch to about half its length.
So, after harvesting and cutting back at soil level canes that have borne fruit. Thin the new canes so that they are about 6 inches apart. Whether or not you trellis blackberries depends on what type they are. If they have erect canes and you prune them well, they can stand alone like raspberries.
If they are trailing or semi-trailing, they’ll need some kind of support. You can bunch the canes together and tie them to stout stakes. But they’ll enjoy better air circulation if you train them on wires. Either use the four-armed system mentioned for grapes. And also tried a number of canes to each wire and let a few trails along the ground as well. You can also use the box system. With trailing varieties, you’ll have to tie the canes to whatever support you use.
Propagating new bramble plants is easy. Do it at the time you would normally plant them in your area. For red raspberries just dig up some suckers and replant them. For black raspberries bend a cane over and bury the tip in a pocket of enriched soil, anchoring the tip with a rock or a bent wire just as you do with a stem you are layering.
Blackberries can be propagated by replanting suckers, and by rooting the tips of canes. Or by digging up some roots on the edge of an established clump and replanting them. With all these methods, cut the stems back to the appropriate height when you replant.
Pests and Diseases to Raspberries and Blackberries
There is a long list of diseases of bramble fruits, though yours may escape all of them, especially in cool climates. Fortunately, there are a number of things you can do to keep berries healthy, even in areas where diseases are common.
First, buy new, clean stock. Remove all plant debris winter-killed stems, canes that have home fruit, and any diseased parts of the plant as promptly as possible, and either burn the debris or cart it away. Don’t leave it lying around the property, even in the compost heap.
Remove all wild bramble plants from the property. Try to provide the plants with good air circulation by choosing the right site. Pruning and thinning the canes, and trellising them if necessary. Provide good water drainage for the roots. Feed, water and mulch as needed to keep the plants vigorous, but avoid giving them excessive nitrogen. Finally, seek out varieties that resist specific diseases that are prevalent where you live.
Some disease to watch for is mosaic, which makes leaves yellow and mottled. Botrytis cane wilt which makes new canes wilt, verticillium wilt, which causes canes to wilt suddenly in hot, dry weather. Anthracnose produces purplish spots on the leaves then grayish growth on the stems powdery mildew.
It covers the leaves with whitish powder; orange rust shows up as bright orange pustules on the undersides of the leaves. Leaf curlvirus makes the leaves dark green and tightly curled; and spur blight, which produces brown spots on the canes.
Foil hungry birds with plastic netting if they’re getting too much of your crop. If you have lots of berries and pick often you may not find birds a big problem. The netting can be draped over the plants, but it is hard to remove for pruning and picking that way. So you may want to erect a lightweight wooden or metal frame to support it. This can be either box-shaped or constructed like a frame house.
Japanese beetles bother raspberries, pick them off or use milky spore disease Hose off aphids, or spray them with insecticidal soap they can transmit diseases. Prune out canes infested with borers and remove plants with galls that indicate crown borers, Fruit worms.
It eats the buds and the berries can be sprayed with rotenone. Thus the soil should then be cultivated around the plants in late summer and early fall to keep the worms from overwintering there as pupae. A few raspberry varieties, such as ‘Purple Royalty,’ are insect resistant.
Harvest Raspberries and Blackberries
Pick berries only when they are ripe, but don’t let them sit on the bush too long. Pick at least twice a week when they are bearing. Be careful not to squeeze the berries; just pull them off the stem gently. (Raspberry cores will stay on the stems.)
Keep your pail or basket in the shade. As you pick and don’t let the berries get more than a few inches deep in the container or they’ll squash. Put them in the refrigerator until you’re ready to use them.
Varieties of Raspberries and Blackberries
For summer-bearing red raspberries, the old standby ‘Latham’ is fine, but there are other good choices too. ‘Newburgh’ is vigorous, hardy, productive, and disease resistant, with a big berry. ‘Canby’ and the very large ‘Thornless Red Mammoth’ have practically no thorns, for easy picking `Reveille,’ Sunrise’ and the huge ‘Titan’ arc extra early.
‘Taylor’ is hardy, vigorous, and especially fine-tasting. ‘Willamette,’ a large, dark red berry, is recommended for the west coast, and the vigorous ‘Dorman Red’ is the one to grow in the south. The ever-bearing ‘Fallgold’ is the most popular yellow variety. Ever-bearing reds, ‘Heritage’ is the most universally grown, hardy, but disease resistant. ‘Fall Red’ is well worth trying.
‘Scepter’ and ‘Indian Summer’ also have good disease resistance. Popular black raspberries include the vigorous, upright standby ‘Bristol’ and ‘Black Hawk,’ which are both disease and heat-resistant. Especially cold-hardy varieties are the large `Cumberland,’ John Robertson’ and the disease-resistant `Jewel.’ Allen’ is sweeter than most.
For purples try the large, sweet ‘Royalty,’ which is hardy and both insect and disease resistant. ‘Brandy Wine’ is a good, fairly hardy, tart variety that people favor for jams.
Also`Lowden Sweet Purple’ is anthracnose resistant and almost seedless. Good erect blackberries for the south include ‘Cheyenne’ and the sweet early ‘Rosborough’. ‘Darrow’ and oily King’ are hardy upright varieties. ‘Boysenberry’ ‘Loganberry’ and ‘Lucretia Dewberry’ are tasty trailing varieties.
Among the thorn-less blackberries `Chester’ and ‘Hull’ are especially hardy, and Black Satin and `Thorn-free’ are especially disease resistant. Moreover, also try Thornless Boysenbe. Hence, Raspberries and Blackberries are the most important and healthy fruits in the world.
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