Raspberries through the year: A guide to growing Garibaldi raspberries at home

The raspberries in our Garibaldi garden all come from my patch at home.  Last spring (’09) it produced a ton of babies. It all started from just 7 plants we moved over from our  garden where we used to rent before moving to the Garibaldi neighbourhood.

I love this  variety- they are “everblooming” which means they fruit heavily in July and then lightly fruit again in the fall.  We’re often still snacking on a few berries into November. When Harry was a toddler he’d disappear into the patch and munch away happily for an hour at a time.  Now it’s just free snacking in between bike rides.

You can just stick your raspberries in anywhere and they’ll probably just do fine. But if you’d like a little more detail on how to get the best from your patch, here’s what I’ve learned about caring for them through the seasons.

Spring

Starting your patch
The garden at Garibaldi is built on a site that was last used as an adventure type playground. There is hard packed crushed gravel and then many inches of bark mulch. We removed the bark mulch (because of concerns that the lumber in the playground was pressure treated with arsenic) and brought in soil. So those raspberries are planted in poor quality soil with great drainage, and had very little mulch. They’re doing great, produced lots of berries in their first year and produced a ton of baby plants this year.

At home my patch is planted in heavy clay soil that has terrible drainage. This is exactly the opposite of what raspberries like. Go figure.  A few years ago one of my garden teachers, Gregoire Lamoreux of the Kootenay Permaculture Institute taught a one day permaculture course at my  house. He said that raspberries loved mulch (organic material that will break down into soil). I just happened to have a dump truck load of wood chips on my front lawn (a little more than I anticipated). We shuttled back buckets of wood chips and mulched the rows and the paths at least 6-8 inches deep. They grew 10 ft tall and produced tons of berries and have continued to do well.

Planting distance

  • For the school garden we planted the plants about 45cm (18 inches) apart and the rows at least 1.5m (4-5ft) apart (The Pacific Gardener by A.R. Willis says rows should be 6ft apart which is a bit wider and he’s probably right. I’m always pushing plants closer together to squeeze more in.)
  • Plant the crowns (the base of the canes) about 7 cm below the soil surface. If you’ve got some compost, add a 2-3cm to the top of the soil in the row.

You’ll need to rig up some kind of trellis.  I use bamboo poles 3-4ft apart with string across. Some older gardeners in the neighbourhood use wire strung up between posts, some folks stake each plant.

Shade
They seem to do ok with a bit of shade. They probably won’t produce as much as a site with full sun but sometimes a slower pace is just right.

Share the babies
Once your patch is established the babies will come. Early in the spring I look for new plants coming up in the pathways. I dig a little circle around the baby- maybe 15 cm down and about 10-12cm around the plant, do my very best to scoop up the root ball without breaking too many of the delicate roots and put it in a small pot to give to a friend. My garden is mostly planted in perennial plants, ones that come back every year.  After a few years, depending on the plant they either need dividing up, like rhubarb or, like raspberries and strawberries, grow some babies that need to find new homes. Some years there are lots of babies, some years not so many.

Summer
The berries start coming on in mid-July. We mostly just pick them and eat them- snacking in the backyard right off the bush or with cereal or porridge in the morning (Harry and I love our oatmeal and yogurt), or in a bowl with a bit of ice cream or creme fraiche. I usually freeze some on cookie trays so they don’t freeze in a clump, and them put them in ziploc bags for the winter. Some years I make a batch of jam.

I’ve never done much but eat berries in the summer but A.R Willis says “Fruting canes should be tied to the wires with tape of cord, and topped at 5 ft. Cut out the old canes after fruiting, keep sucker growth from becoming established beyond the crowns, and thin new cane growth to half a dozen strong canes per crown.” p30

Water
I try to water  all my plants as little as possible. I want their roots to grow down deep where it is nice and moist. I want tough plants, plants that can take a bit of neglect from me and that don’t use up our drinking water.  When I do water, I take my time and water deeply (so that if you stick your finger in the soil it feels wet 2 inches down). This also encourages deep roots. If you do a quick sprinkle so the surface soil looks wet but not all the way down your plants roots will stay close to the surface where the soil dries out fastest.

Mulch
The easiest to find, free source of mulch that’s around  in the summer in the city is grass clippings. I avoid grass that has been treated with chemical fertilizers, herbicides or pesticides because  the poisons go back to the soil that feeds the raspberries I want to eat. I keep the soil in the rows covered with mulch throughout the hot months. It feeds the soil naturally and reduces the amount of watering dramatically. In the fall, I collect leaves and either mulch right away or add it to the compost pile.

Fall
Your berries will probably bloomed again in August and new berries will come throughout the fall, depending on the weather. This is much lighter fruiting.

Winter
Sometime in January I head out to the patch with my garden clippers. I look for dead canes and cut them right out at the base. The rest of the canes I cut down to about 3ft. A mild winter day or early spring day is a good time to fix up your trellis if it needs it.

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