Earlier this spring an acquaintance advised they were removing an entire row of raspberries from their garden. At $10-$20 a plant at any nursery I grabbed my shovel and invited myself over on digging day. I’d stashed my toddlers kiddy pool in the trunk and within the hour I had it full of baby raspberry bushes.
Four generations back and a wagon trip from Wisconsin is how these bushes had arrived in Michigan soil, so the elderly lady said. The berries are small, sweet, with big seeds that glisten in a jam jar, untouched by any GMO or hybridization these plants are heirloom. I’m delighted.
However, I’ve seen at other homes how these prickly bushes can go from a nicely planted row and turn into a bramble within a couple seasons. I can’t let that happen at my house.
The key is maintenance and a support system.
After planting each down a row along the edge of our yard I watered them daily for two weeks straight, then regularly throughout the summer. It was not easy keeping those thirsty plants alive in our semi-sandy soil. But the majority made it (about 10) and now it’s time to make the support system.
I was able to use some left over 4×4 posts from a fallen fence and the empty rungs of an old barn ladder I needed to trim up anyway. I dug my post holes, set up the posts and ensured they were level before backfilling the holes. Next, I cut a couple cross boards to run my support wire off of. It’s easiest to partially drill in the screws before you put them on so you don’t have to hold the board, screw, drill and level simultaneously (I’m just not that talented). After my cross beams were level and attached I added my wire using some extra garden stakes to support it down the length of the bed.
Now all is left to do is wait for these plants to pop up next spring and keep them in line between the wires.
- Biannual– they live for two years then die. Every year a new green stalk will shoot up from the root ball and the second year it will turn brown and bear fruit. In the dormant state for winter the stalks turn a pretty purple color.
- Trimming– remove all brown stems at the end of the season to keep the bed from turning into a bramble. If you want late season berries you can trim off the plant mid spring.
- Tipping– Anytime the tip of a raspberry bush hits the soil it can shoot up a new bush from the tip. This is why wiring the bushes up is key so they don’t spread all over. It is also an easy way to intentionally reproduce your plants.