Talk Dirt To Me

Gardening in Alaska presents big challenges, whether it's the extra effort in finding plants tough enough to survive our Zone 2-4 climate, communicating with like-minded Alaska gardeners, or keeping up with the latest trends, issues and solutions. We'll try to help with that. We'll also tour gardens from Homer to Anchorage to Wasilla to Willow whenever we get the chance, and post the best garden photos around. Presenting a forum about cold-weather gardening and for cold-weather gardeners is what we are all about. We hope you'll join us on the Talk Dirt garden blog.

Photographer and gardener Fran Durner (fdurner@adn.com) writes the blog.

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Give us the raspberry!

I have a lot of raspberry bushes on the east side of my house. I have lived in this house for over 6 years and the bushes have never produced a single berry. They grow like crazy and get quite large, and they produce the beginnings of a flower but these always die off before they become berries. I've tried fertilizer, I've tried cutting them down to the ground in the fall, but without results. I love raspberries! Any ideas?

Thanks,
Chris Bridenbaugh

Raspberries: Easy rewards for most Alaska gardenersRaspberries: Easy rewards for most Alaska gardeners
Mike writes: Raspberries are heavy feeders, but you may be overdoing it if you've got them planted in good organic soil. The consensus of a quick poll of local growers: Don't fertilize more than once a year (June).

Your pruning may also be too aggressive: You want to cut canes that bore fruit last year to the ground, but canes that were new last year will bear for the first time this year. If you cut those prepubescent canes to the ground, the plants will channel energy into growing canes (again) instead of bearing fruit.

Once you've cut out spent canes, thin the remaining ones so you have 4-5 per foot. My colleague Mike Dunham sez: Pick out the best younger stalks and give each about a 9"-12" radius all to itself. Make it easy to bush out, and the plant will figure "this is easy. What a sweet life. I'm going to make babies."

Some growers say you should move raspberries about every five years because they exhaust the soil; others say that's nonsense if you renew the compost in the soil they are planted in.

Another thought from Mr. Dunham: If they're right against the house, the roots may be picking up something they don't like from whatever was used to seal the foundation. That could affect their growth. Dig up a few and move them elsewhere, as far as you can get them from a structure, then see what happens.

But you may just be trying too hard.

"Of course, one doesn't grow raspberries," Jeff Lowenfels wrote in the Anchorage Daily News back in 1995. "Raspberries grow themselves. You only have to provide cool temperatures and ample moisture. After that, they grow themselves, which is why I have to laugh to myself every time someone brags to me how wonderful their raspberries are. This only means that we are having a particularly rainy summer."

Some varieties recommended by the extension service for growing here in Anchorage:
* Red raspberries: Latham, Boyne, Chief, Trent, Indian Summer, Kiska, Canby, Willamette, Reveille, Newburgh, Heritage, Redwing.
* Gold raspberries: Amber.
* Purple raspberries (marginally hardy in some Anchorage locations): Brandywine, Royalty.

  3     June 28, 2007 - 9:14pm | plunk_02

raspberries

Pruning may be your problem. In fall cut out the dead canes at ground level, do nothing in spring except snip off the tips if they are dead. I have fertilized mine twice in 20 years, I do water maybe once a year when they are flowering but then the soil is very heavy and holds it. Mine also are very shaded which doesnt seem to bother except the bushes dont dry enough and when its rainy the berries mildew. Good luck. I hope yours are thornless!!! Thats all I have and they have huge berries.

  2     May 29, 2007 - 9:54am | alaskadust

Raspberrys like full sun,

Raspberrys like full sun, but here's a trick. I ran my bed from full sun to full shade.

The full sun produces sooner and the shade later, extending the harvest time.

  1     May 25, 2007 - 9:02am | alaskadiva

Fertilize raspberries? Hahahaha!

Surely you jest? Fertilize raspberries? I have to agree with Jeff on this. Why bother? I never do anything to my red or yellow plants except rip those travellers out by the fistfulls as they escape into other territory.

Just water them, make sure you have them in well-drained soil and nothing too heavy, and plenty of sun. Then leave 'em alone. Currants love heavy rich damp soils, but, raspberries prefer lighter soils.

If your raspberries are near the rhubarb you may want to move the rhubarb as it is a heavy feeder and may be competing with your berries.

If you get some yellow raspberries you'll always have berries and if the sun doesn't shine they'll still be sweet. They're also tougher and more winter hardy plants than the red ones. At least mine are!

Brooke Heppinstall
www.woolwood.blogspot.com
www.dirtdivasgardening.com

  June 14, 2007 - 6:48pm | steve__

fertilizer

Well you can't really say that definitely. It depends on the natural state of the soil you plant them in, and also what type of raspberries you are growing. There are over a hundred different types of raspberries, and each of them reacts different to different situations, so I don't know why people give these generalized answerers to a persons unique question. Some types of raspberry plants thrive in acidic soil, others in neutral soul, and yet others in basic soil (which for those of you who are not familiar with that term, means soil with a higher alkali content. I live in Oregon, and grow summer bearing raspberries and ever-bearing raspberries and fertilizer does for a fact help both types of mine. Lime also helps The soil in this part of the northwest, particularly in the willamette Vally is very acidic due to the Montana floods which covered this whole area in 200 to 300 feet deep of silt. When I do not use lime, and when I do not use fertilizer, my raspberries with out a doubt do not do as well. However,timing of the fertilization is important, and depends on what type of raspberries you are fertilizing. Modifications can be made according to what type of raspberries you are raising, and what type of conditions your are growing them in, as a rule of thumb you should fertilize them at least once and in some situations, twice a year. If you are going to only fertilize them once, it should be done early in the season before new shoots begin to sprout. Personally I like use cow manure, at a rate of 1/2 to 1 pound of manure per 1 linear foot of raspberry row. If you live in the same area as I, as a rule of thumb you should add lime to the soil once every 3 years. This is true with all soil in this area, including your lawn, with the exception of areas where you will be raising acid loving plants. If you want your raspberries to produce there largest, and tastiest possible fruit, have your soil tested so that you know how to treat it, and do some research to find out what's optimal your unique situation.

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