(Lori Adams, who owns Down-To-Earth U-Pick Garden and is a frequent vendor at the Sitka Farmers Market, will be writing a regular garden column in the Daily Sitka Sentinel this summer. The Sentinel is allowing us to reprint the columns on this site after they first appear in the newspaper. This column appeared on Page 4 of the Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2012, edition of the Daily Sitka Sentinel.)
GARDENING IN SITKA
By Lori Adams
EVERYTHING I’VE LEARNED ABOUT GROWING RASPBERRIES
Raspberries grow in Sitka without a lot of care or fuss. I’ve had a good crop every year in my garden — even this year.
Raspberries are perennials. With proper care they should come back year after year and never need to be replanted. So choose your planting site very carefully — someplace sunny where the wind doesn’t blow its hardest and where there won’t be shading or crowding other crops.
Raspberries send out many runners underground that pop up yards away, so if you plant them right next to another crop or flower bed the runners will cause problems. The best spot would be up against a building to minimize rain and maximize heat with a wide pathway in between the raspberries and the next crop.
All red raspberry varieties do well in Sitka, but it seems that most of us got our starts from Florence Welsh (tall with large berries and handles the weather fine) or the geodetic experimental agriculture site (shorter with smaller berries and less appreciative of wet weather).
To prep the soil for raspberries loosen up the soil, remove the largest stones to a depth of about six inches and remove all salmonberry roots. The two will complete for space and the salmonberries will always win.
I think planting in rows is much preferable to planting in a patch. Weeding, mulching, pruning and harvesting are all easier when every plant is easy to see and access. Fence posts and wire can be very handy to support the plants efficiently in a row. I have been growing raspberries in a patch for years and have had good success, but am planning to move the entire patch into rows next year. Down-To-Earth U-Pick Garden customers do not like to crawl through wet plants and many berries go to waste simply because they can’t be seen.
As with most berries, raspberries do not need any lime. But they do like rich soil, so I mulch with about 10 inches of seaweed every fall and aspire to add more in the spring but usually don’t get it done. Healthy raspberry leaves are green. If yours appear yellow they need more nutrition.
All of the berries will not be ready at once, so be faithful to pick them every three days — RAIN OR SHINE. You don’t want to waste a single berry, and they deteriorate when wet with rain for even a couple of days. Excessive rain will cause berries to become crumbly. This is annoying when you are picking, but they still taste delicious so don’t throw them away. I have noticed that the first picking is the worst and they seem to hold together better as the season progresses.
You must understand how raspberries grow to know how to prune them properly. First-year canes do not produce berries. Prune the tops off if they grow taller then five feet to keep them from falling over (this does not hurt the plant and will encourage it to branch out more). When winter comes, the canes will look dead but they are very much alive and will sprout leaves the next spring.
Second-year canes will produce berries. During that same year the plant also will send out more first-year canes. It is very important to protect these first-year canes from damage to ensure a harvest every year. The canes die during their second winter and need to be pruned off the plant that fall or the next spring when you can tell dead ones from live ones easily. Eventually the plant will die, but they are always sending out shoots underground and new plants replace the old ones.
Raspberry plants always send up more shoots than you want, so be vigilant about pulling them up or your whole yard will become a raspberry patch. Pulled shoots can be planted and will take root easily, so be generous and share the love with your friends and neighbors.
Brought to you by Down-To-Earth U-Pick Garden
2103 Sawmill Creek Road
Open June-August / Monday to Saturday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
747-6108 or 738-2241