On Sunday afternoon the outdoors beckoned with such brilliant sunshine that it was imperative to get outdoors and bask in that solar warmth. What better time to get out and prune raspberry bushes that have been demanding some attention.
The raspberry patch in question is a stretch of wooden boxes alongside the Food Bank building in Carleton Place. The boxes extend 32 feet, are 18 inches high and two feet wide. The raspberries were planted in May 2016, grew slowly through 2016 sharing the boxes with tomatoes but in 2017 galloped ahead and took over all the available territory. The boxes are great for raspberries – in an open garden they can wander quite far afield if they are not contained. My first photo shows the patch before pruning.
I planted three varieties of red raspberries in 2016. Boyne and Latham are July fruiting varieties that bear fruit on canes that grew the previous year. Heritage bears two crops – a summer crop on two year old canes and a fall crop on the first year canes. Boyne and Latham have been less vigorous than the Heritage variety but all appear to be doing well.
Heritage generally produces a greater crop on the fall canes but it is very vulnerable to an early fall frost so can be a problematic variety in this region. In the protected area by the Food Bank this was not an issue and we enjoyed a very abundant harvest.
Many sources recommend cutting out the old canes just after they finish fruiting. I prefer to wait until late winter so that I can tell for sure where the dead canes are and as well take out any canes damaged by ice or rodents or those that are growing in undesirable directions. Be sure to wear heavy gloves and protect your arms.
With the Heritage variety I cut off only the tips where the fall fruiting had taken place. Some growers prefer to cut these canes right to the ground. This would eliminate a July harvest but the thinking is that it would result in a greater fall harvest. I prefer to have the two harvests with these berries.
The need for pruning is pretty obvious with the canes that bore fruit in the summer (this holds for all three varieties) – they are completely dead. Cut them at ground level.
All the debris was bagged up and I took a moment to enjoy the newly coiffed raspberry patch.
The next step will be to add a couple of inches of compost to the surface of the boxes once our cache of compost thaws. The soil used to fill the boxes was a deeply-discounted soil from a box-store – it was woefully lacking in nutrients. Once the raspberries tap into those new nutrients – stand back!