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Black Raspberries

Garth Brown |

I put in blackberries, raspberries, and black raspberries the first year I established the garden, and I've never regretted it. Well, the black berries were actually terrible. Though they were a varietal supposedly suited to central New York's climate, they never amounted to much. Being a primocane type, they would rocket out of the ground first thing in the spring and grow with tremendous vigor all summer, and then, about two weeks before the first frost, they would set a profusion of flowers. Each year I would hope against hope that they would get their act together, but nothing would change, and in the fall I'd be left with a thicket taller than my head dotted with bunches of unripe berries. Last year Alanna began an eradication program, but they are proving difficult to kill.

The black raspberries have consistently produced exceptionally delicious fruit, but I have had a hard time figuring out how to prune them. They bear on year old canes, so the growth of each summer is critical to the next year's crop. Once they were well established I began managing them according to their pruning guide, which involved topping the new canes to encourage horizontal shoots and then thinning these down in the winter. It looked pretty, and I was optimistic, but then about half the canes I'd selected to save died off in the winter, and the crop of berries was actually smaller than the previous year. So this year I've decided to wait. The minute I can tell the dead canes from the living I'll cut them all out, and if the patch is still too much of a jungle I'll thin it a little, even though it will be later than ideal for pruning.


I ran out of frozen kale this morning, after stretching the last bag as long as possible. But last year's plants have miraculously started pushing some tiny leaves, and ramps and dandelions should be up in the next few weeks. The only thing that will improve the warm weather that is finally arriving will be eating truly fresh vegetables for the first time in four months.


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