Cut Back Fall Raspberries

One of the remaining jobs in my garden is taking care of this season’s old raspberry plants. Fortunately I have an ever-bearing variety planted.

Older gardeners will remember when most of the raspberries grown would be ripe for picking in mainly in the summer. To stretch out the season growers would have to plant an early, a mid-season and a late variety. By doing this they could harvest raspberries over a longer period of time.

The standard varieties of raspberry plants have two life cycles, the growing stage and the fruiting stage. During the growing stage no fruit is produced. When the second year rolls around the fruit is produced on those canes that grew last year. Once the raspberry patch has established itself, there will be growing canes and fruiting canes present at the same time. To confuse matters even more, once a cane has fruited, it must be removed. All of this detailed pruning must be done by hand one cane at a time.

It’s no wonder that a lot of raspberry growers have switched over to the ever-bearing varieties. Pruning is greatly simplified by growing those types. In this case all you need to do for pruning is to cut back or mow all of the canes within a couple of inches from the ground, rake them up and dispose of them. Using this method, you have one harvest that begins late in the summer and continues until fruiting is stopped by the fall frosts.

Cut fall raspberry canes just above ground level.

Some gardeners will mulch their patch after cutting back to protect the remaining raspberry crowns and roots from the winter temperatures. Usually snow cover will provide enough protection in Michigan.

Be sure you either burn the cut off canes or set them out for the trash pick up. Composting will not be effective in killing any disease organisms present in the prunings.

I have scanned an old bulletin for anyone who might beĀ  interested in the finer points of raspberry growing.

Time to Plant Spring Flowering Bulbs

Even though things are slowing down to a crawl in the garden after the frost, fall can still be a very busy time of the year for the die-hard gardener. In addition to all of the garden and yard clean-up there’s still plenty of planting to do especially if you look forward to flowers in the early spring.

The only way to get Tulips and other spring flowering bulbs to bloom in your garden is to plant them right now. Although the choice may be more limited than earlier in the fall, plenty of bulbs are still available in garden centers.

Back when I was gardening professionally I needed to get my bulb order in by July first each year. A lot of planning went into deciding just how many of each variety would be planted and into which garden. So in July, during the busiest time of the regular growing season, I was compelled to come up with a plan about how the garden would look in April.

Since I would plant between 15,000 and 20,000 bulbs a year, my order would be placed with other large orders of bulbs in the summer. Bulb growers in Holland needed to know ahead of time how many bulbs they would have to harvest and ship to the USA. Your local garden center probably placed their order at that time as well.

The bulb planting season actually starts earlier in October. The idea is to get the bulbs into the ground so that they will have time to develop a good root system before winter. You can imagine that with 20,000 bulbs to plant I often was planting well into November and even sometimes into early December. Most gardeners don’t have that excuse and should get their planting done soon.

Bulbs look best planted in clusters rather than in straight lines or as single plants. If you can afford it, large drifts of single varieties make an impressive sight in the spring. You don’t need to plant thousands of bulbs to make an impression, even a small planting near the house can be a real joy after a long winter.

Eye-catching Drift of Grape Hyacinths.

Crocus, Tulips, Daffodils and Hyacinths are the most common spring bulbs that are planted therefore are the most commonly available. Others you might find include Muscari, Anenomes, Snowdrops, Scilla, Allium and others. When buying your bulbs look for ones that are free from mold, discoloration or other signs of rot. Also a healthy bulb will feel heavier in your hand than one that has started to deteriorate.

Larger sized bulbs such as Daffodils and Tulips are planted deeper into the ground than the small bulbs such as Crocus and Muscari. The small bulbs are planted into a hole that is about three inches deep, while the larger bulbs are planted twice that depth. Usually detailed planting information is available for each variety when you purchase your bulbs. Any fertile garden bed will support the growth and development of spring bulbs.

If you never have planted bulbs before, to get you started I have scanned a leaflet from the US Department of Agriculture that describes how to plant bulbs. It contains more detail than I can present here in this blog. Take the time to plant some bulbs this fall then when spring rolls around you’ll be glad you did.

Bob