When my son was 3, his older sister convinced him that a ripe red raspberry was nothing but a piece of fruit that had a bunch of bug bites on it.
Keep in mind this was a 3- and 5-year-old having a chat, but Asher was convinced that eating the fruit was a life-threatening act. Whadda ya mean bug bites?
Yeah, Elena would answer. All those red bumps are where the bug bit the fruit. So if you swallow it, that bug will bite your stomach.
If Im a 3-year-old, theres no way Im eating that fruit. But as Asher would leave the table, full plate of raspberries remaining, Elena would spring up and eat them all.
Sounds like my daughter took some coaching from my older sister on that one.
Growing raspberries, especially when you plow through them like my family does, is a wise investment. However, our environment is not that conducive to their success. Once you get them started and established the success rate goes through the roof. So taking some time to get your garden bed ready for planting will be worth your while.
The first step is to decide which types you want to produce. But beware: Their growing habits can be a little confusing. Technically, raspberries are a perennial (come back year after year) plant. However, only the crown and the roots are truly perennial. The canes, or the above-ground portion that bears fruit, are biennial, which means the first year is spent growing vegetatively and the second year is spent flowering and fruiting.
Still with me? The canes produced in the first year are called primocanes and all they do is grow, drop their leaves and go dormant. Once they emerge from dormancy the next year (second) they are then referred to as floricanes. Almost all of their energy is put into reproduction, which is good to us because we are probably growing them for the fruit. After they fruit, the floricanes can be cut to the ground.
Continuing with the confusion, raspberries that grow as described above are called summer-bearing and their primary crop is in July. However, a horticultural breakthrough that occurred years ago found that some wild plants demonstrated the ability to produce fruit on the first-year canes (primocanes). While the wild-type plants didnt produce market-quality fruit, plant breeders were eventually able to develop a fall-bearing or everbearing raspberry that was grown on the primocanes.
The allure of the fall-bearing plants are that they are easier to prune (grow and fruit in one season so no winter maintenance either) and they dont tend to have some of the winter hardiness issues that plagued the summer-bearing plants. Pruning consists of mowing down the patch every fall.
So which one should you grow? I say both. With a decent-sized patch of summer- and fall-bearing varieties, you have the potential to harvest (and preserve) berries from July through the first couple of fall frosts.
Next time, well discuss how to plant and trellis raspberries, and which varieties could grow best for you. But watch out for bugs they can strike at any time. Even at the breakfast table.
firstname.lastname@example.org or 382-6464. Darrin Parmenter is director and horticulture agent of the La Plata County Extension Office.