Seventeen years ago raspberries were the first permanent planting in our garden. Our land has been harvested for spruce and pine, cleared for pigs and burned over, but it has never been farmed. When I planted those first berry bushes I moved rocks and dug through deep deposits of yellow clay, lined the holes with seaweed and horse bedding from the stable up the street, mulched the new stalks with salt hay and waited. Turns out that raspberries will put up with a lot of abuse. There were late springs, early winters, droughty summers, deer, birds and weeds but most summers I picked raspberries by the gallon. The yield increased in 2006 when I began keeping bees, disguising the decline of bushes that had been producing well in poor soil and without weed control. 2009 was a terrible year in the garden, nothing did well, and while I thought about replacing the now 15 year old plants, I didn’t have a plan.
Now, I have a plan. Last week I dug over the beds, removing the old plants and uprooting the alpine strawberries and miner’s spinach that had become a thick ground cover. Today I dug out rough squares to use as planting areas for the new canes come spring, and covered the plot with landscape fabric.
I removed most of the decent soil and will use it next spring, after subzero temperatures have killed most of the weeds. I’m using my new favorite building material – firewood from the bottom of last year’s stack – to station the landscape fabric and mold it to the holes.
I bought two bushes last year, variety “Killarney”, and transplanted them to the new bed this afternoon. This fall I plan to purchase “Anne”, an ever-bearing yellow, “Royalty Purple” and “Prelude”, and early fruiting red. Raspberry plants are sold bare-root in bundles of 10 or 5 canes, depending on the variety. I plant them in hills, so will divide the shipment up by the size of the holes I’ve dug.
And finally, where is my matched team of Morgans when I need them?