Peter Cun­dall:

It’s no big deal if you haven’t found time to sum­mer-prune your rasp­ber­ries, as there’s still plenty of time to do the job now, ad­vises gar­den guru PETER CUN­DALL

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - NEWS -

Of­fers some berry good prun­ing ideas

The most valu­able rasp­ber­ries are those har­vested late in the sea­son, usu­ally dur­ing March and April. That’s when they are ex­pen­sive to pur­chase, which is a very good rea­son to grow our own.

Plants are on sale now at most gar­den cen­tres, usu­ally dis­played as small bun­dles of small, thin sticks sit­ting in beds of moist pot­ting mix.

I’m one of those peo­ple who never hes­i­tate to drag out a bun­dle or two in or­der to in­spect roots be­fore buy­ing. That’s based on bit­ter ex­pe­ri­ence af­ter ar­riv­ing home on a pre­vi­ous oc­ca­sion, clutch­ing my newly-pur­chased bun­dles of rasp­berry plants, only to dis­cover sev­eral sticks had no roots.

There are sum­mer-bear­ers and au­tumn bear­ers, but most of those that crop late can also be per­suaded to also pro­duce small crops in De­cem­ber and Jan­uary. It de­pends on how they are pruned.

Mostly, the canes of sum­mer-bear­ing va­ri­eties such as Chilcotin are best pruned

The great­est dan­ger to all rasp­berry plants is poor drainage – es­pe­cially dur­ing win­ter dor­mancy

im­me­di­ately af­ter main crops have fin­ished around mid-Fe­bru­ary. That helps con­trol dis­eases and pests.

All canes which have car­ried fruit die, so they are easy to se­lect out and cut to the ground. All re­main­ing, liv­ing canes are then loosely tied to­gether.

If yours have not been sum­mer-pruned, now is the time to do the job – no big deal.

Au­tumn-bear­ing rasp­berry plants are pruned dif­fer­ently and even more eas­ily. There’s no need to bother ex­am­in­ing each cane, just cut the lot right back to the ground ev­ery win­ter.

This is what hap­pens next. New, vig­or­ous canes sprout from the roots in spring and grow through sum­mer with­out bear­ing fruit. They be­gin form­ing flow­ers in early March and go on to carry mas­sive crops of ex­tra-sweet, beau­ti­fully-coloured fat berries in au­tumn and early win­ter.

In fact, if this slash-to-the-ground win­ter prun­ing is de­lib­er­ately de­layed un­til

early Septem­ber, crop­ping will also be de­layed, some­times well into win­ter in frost­free dis­tricts.

Good au­tumn-bear­ing rasp­berry va­ri­eties in­clude Au­tumn Bliss and Her­itage, while old, well-tried ex­tra-vig­or­ous va­ri­eties such as Lloyd Ge­orge and Wil­lamette of­ten carry both sum­mer and au­tumn crops, depend­ing on how they are pruned.

The great­est dan­ger to all rasp­berry plants is poor drainage – es­pe­cially dur­ing win­ter dor­mancy. So choose a sunny, well-drained part of the gar­den when plant­ing a new patch. These plants love a rich soil, crammed with mois­ture-hold­ing or­ganic mat­ter.

The best fer­tilis­ers are sheep or cow ma­nure at the rate of at least three buck­et­fuls to each square me­tre and well dug in.

To this add pel­letised, high ni­tro­gen poul­try ma­nure - a good dou­ble hand­ful to each square me­tre - and a gen­er­ous fist­ful of sul­phate of po­tash. Work it in so all fer­tilis­ers are well mixed with the soil.

Plant the new rasp­berry canes spaced 300mm apart in rows a me­tre apart. Be sure to cut back each cane so only about 150mm is left stick­ing up. Wa­ter in and ap­ply a thick mulch of pea straw to sup­press weeds and seal in mois­ture.

For au­tumn crop­pers, feed again with blood and bone in De­cem­ber and again in Fe­bru­ary. Real suc­cess is achieved by gen­er­ous wa­ter­ing, es­pe­cially dur­ing our dry sum­mer and early au­tumn.

Over-vig­or­ous rasp­berry va­ri­eties, es­pe­cially Wil­lamette can grow up to 2m in height. The tops of the canes be­come slightly hooked and this part can be cut off. How­ever, the harder the liv­ing, bear­ing canes are pruned, the smaller the yield.

Most au­tumn-bear­ers re­quire lit­tle sup­port, ex­cept when heavy fruit clus­ters form. The weight can bend canes down to the ground, so be ready to drive a few strong stakes in around the patch, link­ing them with strong twine or wire to pro­vide sup­port.

And as those de­li­cious berries start to colour and ripen, make sure you have plenty of bird-net­ting handy to throw over the top. Oth­er­wise those early birds will be only too happy to take full ad­van­tage of all your hard work.

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