02/23/2016 TimberGardener 0Comment

I have a theory on why individual raspberry plants are so expensive. Who is willing to pay $30 for a single plant at D&B? I would never be able to afford my raspberry habit! I think they are priced to save overzealous gardeners from themselves. They will TAKE OVER.

My Mom planted raspberries everywhere we lived when I was growing up. We had them trained nicely along a wooden fence in Washington, in a dense row in Idaho, and now my sister has an unwieldy crop in her garden plot. Last summer her husband, fed up with the prickly fortress holding the raspberries hostage, rototilled RIGHT through the middle of it. The raspberries came back with a vengeance. They can’t really be killed, or even slowed down.

This is fantastic for starting your own patch! We got starts from our friends Laurel and Matt, who were moving their raspberry patch last spring. They had a few different red varieties. I have no idea what they are, but it doesn’t really matter for raspberries…most of the traditional red ones are cold hardy here. I went over to help Laurel dig the ones that had really escaped the row, and had to stop after I filled my cooler with about 30 dirty little twigs.

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The west end of the raspberry bed on May 14, 2015, just after they were planted.

Then they sat…for months. This was our first year (2015) at a new place, and we were building everything from scratch. Deer love raspberries, and we’ve seen them decimate unprotected plants. My beloved little twigs (if you couldn’t tell by now, raspberries are my favorite) got buried in dirt until we could build them a bed. It rained on them, and the cooler didn’t drain well, and they got soggy, and I thought I would have to give them a eulogy before I could plant them. Eventually we built a 30′ by 2′ raised bed along the back wall of the garden for them, and acquired enough dirt to plant them in. Finally! My mom was there to help plant the sticks. We separated their muddy little roots from each other one by one. We alternated planting them on either side of a 1/2″ central watering tube, because raspberries like a lot of water. Thank goodness, because these ones were practically pond plants for a few days. Miraculously, they all flourished except for two.

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The raspberries happy in their new home one week later (May 21, 2015), next to a rhubarb root ball that is sending up a few leaves.

The stalks were various heights when we planted them. You are supposed to prune them back to 8″ or so, but I couldn’t bear to at the time. I thought if I cut off any leaves I would be giving them an even worse start at life. I didn’t know anything about pruning anyhow. I shed a tear over what a bad raspberry parent I was. Now that I have seen them go through the summer, I wish I had pruned them, because it makes them more vigorous and there were a few with no leaves at the bottom.

I didn’t expect to get any berries from the twigs the first year, but we had raspberries constantly throughout the summer! Usually just a handful every few days, which was enough to keep me happy. It was easy to tell the two varieties apart (whatever they are. I must ask Laurel). The picture below on the left was taken in mid-July, the one on the right about a week later. To water, I soaked the bed every 2-3 days by connecting the hose to the plastic tube that lived in the bed, and left it on for at least an hour. Since I had so much extra real-estate under the raspberries, I let clover come up as a cover crop and kept digging it under before it flowered. I also planted tarragon and basil throughout the bed, and it did well. The basil got enough sun, although I don’t know how long that will last. My tarragon made it through several light freezes too! I’m hoping it overwinters. If you are looking for companion planting tips for your raspberries, this is not one…I haven’t read anything about those two herbs helping berries, it was just a convenient place to plant some extras. One can never have too much basil.

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By the end of the summer my raspberries were 5 feet tall with robust stems and healthy leaves. I’m so excited to see how many berries a 30′ row can produce next year! The photo below is from the end of August, and they continued to grow through the fall. At the end of the fall we bundled each group of stems together gently and staked them in place so the snow load wouldn’t crush them.

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The raspberry patch on August 30th, 2015.

You are probably asking ‘why would you only need a few raspberry plants to get started when you just told me you planted like, thirty?’ The answer is this: even with a short growing season, plants that hardly had any time to get established, and a metal fortress surrounding them, I STILL HAD SEVERAL RUNNERS ESCAPE! They came out and under, following the water, and sprouted beautiful healthy starts in front of the bed. They came up right through my steppables. I hadn’t even had raspberries for 6 months before I was ready to start giving them away! You probably have a few friends with raspberry beds and you should DEFINITELY check with them before you purchase. Of course, there is a chance you could be bringing some unknown pestilence into your garden. If you are both cheap and raspberry-crazed like me, I recommend taking the risk. I am so thankful that I had a friend who offered to share her raspberries with me, and I’ll be happy to share too!

-Sam