• Lori Adams discusses everything she’s learned about growing raspberries in her latest Daily Sitka Sentinel garden column

(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

http://downtoearthupick.blogspot.com/

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• Sam Benowitz to give free presentation tonight (Monday, May 24) about growing fruit in Sitka

A cluster of Parkland apples (photo from the Alaska Pioneer Fruit Growers Association gallery, http://www.apfga.org/)

A cluster of Parkland apples (photo from the Alaska Pioneer Fruit Growers Association gallery, http://www.apfga.org/)

Sam Benowitz of RainTree Nursery in Morton, Wash., will be in Sitka to give a free presentation tonight about how to grow fruit in Southeast Alaska.

The presentation takes place at 7 p.m. tonight (Monday, May 24) at Harrigan Centennial Hall. His Sitka presentation will be about about selecting, growing, and maintaining fruit trees, berry bushes and other edible landscape features.

Benowitz is the founder of RainTree Nursery, and he frequently gives presentations in Washington and Alaska about how to grow fruit trees. In Sitka, it’s possible to grow several varieties of apples and a couple of types of cherries. For more information, check out the Alaska Pioneer Fruit Growers Association site. There also are a multitude of berries that grow around Sitka, including many wild varieties and cultivated types such as raspberries and tayberries.

Cherry blossoms at Blatchley Community Garden

Cherry blossoms at Blatchley Community Garden

Benowitz was one of the keynote speakers at this past weekend’s Southeast Alaska Gardeners Conference and Garden Tours event in Juneau, and he agreed to offer a free presentation when he passed through Sitka on his way home to Washington.

For more information about tonight’s presentation, contact Jud Kirkness at 738-3254 or by e-mail at judkirkness@yahoo.com.

• Sam Benowitz to give free presentation about growing fruit in Sitka

A cluster of Parkland apples (photo from the Alaska Pioneer Fruit Growers Association gallery, http://www.apfga.org/)

A cluster of Parkland apples (photo from the Alaska Pioneer Fruit Growers Association gallery, http://www.apfga.org/)

Sam Benowitz of RainTree Nursery in Morton, Wash., will be in Sitka to give a free presentation about how to grow fruit in Southeast Alaska.

The presentation will take place at 7 p.m. on Monday, May 24, at Harrigan Centennial Hall. His Sitka presentation will be about about selecting, growing, and maintaining fruit trees, berry bushes and other edible landscape features.

Benowitz is the founder of RainTree Nursery, and he frequently gives presentations in Washington and Alaska about how to grow fruit trees. In Sitka, it’s possible to grow several varieties of apples and a couple of types of cherries. For more information, check out the Alaska Pioneer Fruit Growers Association site. There also are a multitude of berries that grow around Sitka, including many wild varieties and cultivated types such as raspberries and tayberries.

For more information, contact Jud Kirkness at 738-3254 or by e-mail at judkirkness@yahoo.com.

• Sitka growers to contribute to local CSA venture

Renee Pierce, right, explains the first Sitka CSA venture to Sitka Local Foods Network board member Natalie Sattler during the Let's Grow Sitka! event on March 14

Renee Pierce, right, explains the first Sitka CSA venture to Sitka Local Foods Network board member Natalie Sattler during the Let's Grow Sitka! event on March 14

One of the latest trends in farming is Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), which enables people to buy local, seasonal food directly from the farmer. Renee and Brian Pierce, who own the locally made kelp products and wild berry jelly shop Simple Pleasures of Alaska, are working with Sitka growers to start a small CSA venture with local produce during the summer growing season.

Renee Pierce said that instead of the CSA being a true farmers’ cooperative, she will buy produce from several local growers — including Florence Welsh of the Welsh Family Forget-Me-Not Gardens, Hope Merritt of Gimbal Botanicals, Judy Johnstone of Sprucecot Gardens, Evening Star and Fabian Grutter of Eve’s Farm, and Lori Adams of Down To Earth U-Pick Gardens. The CSA also will include produce from the Pierce Family’s Simple Pleasures garden.

The Sitka CSA will start small, with membership slots for just 25 families the first year. Renee Pierce said of those 25 slots, only about 10 memberships are left. CSA members will commit to paying $50 plus tax every other week, which will give the member families a selection of produce that includes some organic produce purchased from Organically Grown Company of Portland, Ore. During the months when Sitka growers aren’t producing many vegetables, there will be more produce purchased from Organically Grown Company. There also will be an option to buy bread at $6 a loaf beyond the price of the produce box.

The produce selection includes many crops that can be grown in Sitka — such as blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, potatoes, radishes, zucchini, green beans, beets, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, broccoli, greens, tomatoes, etc. But with the Organically Grown Company providing some of the produce, CSA members also can choose items that aren’t regular Sitka crops — such as bananas, lemons, limes, pineapples, oranges, etc.

Information about Sitka's first CSA from the Let's Grow Sitka! event on March 14

Information about Sitka's first CSA from the Let's Grow Sitka! event on March 14

Renee Pierce said she has worked with Organically Grown Company for about four years, purchasing organic produce for the Pierce family and several friends and other Sitka residents who heard about the venture (at one point she had about 60-70 families buying from her). She said she orders produce by the case, and it is available for pick-up from 3-6 p.m. every other Monday afternoon at the Simple Pleasures store next to Kettleson Memorial Library. The first pick-up day for the Sitka CSA is March 29 (which will be for the 15 or so families that already have reserved a spot in the CSA), and the next pick-up day is April 12. CSA members are encouraged to bring their own bags and/or boxes on pick-up days.

The pick-up days are slated to be during the weeks between the every-other-week Sitka Farmers Markets this summer, which will give local growers and buyers the opportunity to buy and sell local produce for both. Renee said there will be some produce extras for families that want to adjust their allotments, but everybody’s allotted produce value will be $50. If you add from the extras you will need to pay the difference, and if you give up some produce you don’t want so your value dips below $50 there are no refunds. She said the CSA is being done as a community service and it’s meant to just break even so the bills get paid.

To learn more about the Sitka CSA, contact Renee Pierce at 738-0044 (cell) or 747-3814 (home). You also can e-mail her at mpierce@ptialaska.net.