Raspberries And Blackberries
( Originally Published 1909 )
The home garden is not complete unless it contains such small fruits as the raspberry and blackberry. They are second only to the strawberry in general flavor, and both would be much more extensively grown than they are at present if persons understood how easily they can be managed, and what generous returns they make for the comparatively small amount of care they require.
The raspberry is much more widely cultivated than the blackberry, for several reasons :
1. It is considered hardier.
2. It yields more bountifully.
3. It is supposed to require less care.
The first reason I consider of little account, because both plants must be given some protection in winter, at the north, in order to bring them through safely. And it is just as easy to protect one as the other.
While it may be true that one gets more fruit from the raspberry than from the black-berry, it is not the equal of the latter in quality, therefore where quality is considered of more importance than quantity one cannot afford to overlook the latter plant. I would not be understood, from this, as meaning to convey the impression that the raspberry is an inferior fruit. It is really a most excellent one. But the peculiar flavor and wine-like juiciness of the blackberry, combined with its delightful acidity, makes it a general favorite wherever it is grown to perfection. In short, while the raspberry is good—very good indeed-the blackberry is a little better.
The prevalent impression that the black-berry requires more care than the raspberry is not well founded. In fact, it can be grown quite as easily. Both plants are grown from root-cuttings, as a general thing. That is, nurserymen procure their stock from that manner of propagation, and it is the best method for the amateur to follow if he sets out to grow his own plants, because it is likely to give stronger plants than any other. Old plants are dug up, and their roots are cut apart in such a manner that each piece reserved for planting has a growing point. These pieces, taken in fall, are put into boxes of sand, and buried in the ground and left there over winter. A callus forms on each piece during the winter, from which roots will be emitted later on, when the pieces are planted in the open ground, in spring. The nature of this callus is not very clearly understood, as yet, but it is supposed that it in some way supports the root-cutting until such a time as roots are formed for that purpose. These cuttings should be planted in rows in fine soil, and left there until they have made considerable growth. Then they should be transplanted to the place in the garden where they are expected to bear fruit.
Let me say, right here, that all kinds of small fruit should be planted at one side of the vegetable garden, or somewhere where they will not interfere with the plowing and cultivating of the latter. Give them a place of their own, and make it a permanent one.
Most amateur gardeners will prefer to purchase their plants of the nurseryman. Indeed, this is the most satisfactory thing to do, unless one chooses from motives of economy to propagate his own stock from old roots which he can procure from a neighbor who has plants to give away.
The plants sent out from the dealers will be one-year-old ones. That is, they will have had one season's growth from root-cuttings. Set them out in rows five feet part, and at least four feet apart in the row. Five, or even six, will be better, if you have plenty of garden space at your disposal, as that will give you more room to work among them. They will be likely to about half cover the ground the first season, if you give them a rich soil and keep them going steadily ahead, as you should if you expect a good crop of fruit from them next year.
Keep the cultivator going among them most of the season. If they do not seem to be making as strong a growth as you think necessary apply more manure, and work it well about the roots of the plants.
After the first year, when the plants have become thoroughly established, they will make so strong a growth that they will meet in the rows, and it will be a difficult matter to use the cultivator between them. Here the hoe will come in play.
My method of training is this : I set stakes about eight feet apart, on each side of the row, about a foot away from the plants. These stakes should be at least four feet tall, and stout enough to stand the strain of two wires run along them from one end of the row to the other, one about two feet from the ground, and the other at the top. To these wires, in spring, I tie the canes of last year's growth,—the fruiting stalks of the plants,—dividing them as evenly as possible between the two sides of the row.
This answers a two-fold purpose. It supports the canes in such a manner that they are easily gotten at, at picking time, and their fruit is kept away from the dirt into which some of them would be likely to fall, under their own weight, if no support were given. And it allows the new growth of the season to be thrown up in the middle of the row where it will not interfere in the least with the fruit-bearing portions of the plants.
After the old canes have ripened their crop of fruit, cut them off. They have completed their work, and the sooner they are out of the way the better. Next year the growth of this season should be spread out and tied to the wires in the same manner, and the plants allowed to renew themselves by sending up a growth of canes, as described above. This process goes on year after year. The old roots remain, but we get an entirely new growth of fruiting stalks each season.
This method will be found very satisfactory, as it keeps the growth of each season apart, and makes it easy to remove the old wood. It is not an easy matter to do this if the growth of each season is allowed to mix with each other. It is largely because of this difficulty that so many plantations of these plants are neglected. One cannot handle the plants with-out serious injury to the hands, therefore they are let alone, and after a year or two of neglect they fail to give good crops and it is decided that the raspberries " have run out," and the plants are torn up and raspberry growing is abandoned as a failure. The failure is not with the plants. It is in the method of caring for them.
At the time of cutting away the old canes, I remove the stakes and wires because they will be in the way when the time comes to give the plants winter protection, and they also interfere with the use of the cultivator /which should be run along the rows frequently after the seasons' crop of fruit has been gathered, to keep grass and weeds from getting established among the plants, and to prevent the soil from becoming hard.
Many " scientific" growers of these plants advocate a system of pruning for the young growth of each season which is so complex in its details that I do not believe one amateur in a thousand ever attempts to follow it. I am frank to admit that I never have, because I could never see the necessity of it, for one thing, and I did not have the time to devote to such elaborate treatment, for another. My system of pruning is so simple that there is really hardly enough about it to be called a system. It consists in nipping off the top of the young canes, when they are about three feet high. This encourages the production of laterals, and gives as much bearing surface as the plants can do justice to. This is all the pruning my plants get, except in the cutting away of the old growth, after fruiting, and the occasional thinning out of young canes if there seems. to be more than are necessary. If a cane is pinched back when about three feet tall, it will not make more than a foot more of growth, that season, and this will make it just about the right height to tie to your upper wire in spring.
The ground should be well manured each season. Work whatever fertilizer you use into the soil about the roots, that the plants may get the full benefit of it early in the season, when fruit is setting. By keeping the soil highly manured, you increase the size of the fruit and you secure a strong growth of canes for fruiting next season. A little consideration of the matter will show you the necessity of using manure liberally. Do not lose sight of the fact that the plants have a double work to do—fruiting and self-perpetuationand that they must be liberally fed in order to be able to do this work well. Indeed, if neglected for a single season, they will show signs of deterioration, and it will take some time to bring them back to the vigor they should never have been allowed to lose.
If given proper care, a plantation of these fruits will remain in healthy condition for years. There is no reason why they should not if they are encouraged to fully renew themselves annually.
Both raspberries and blackberries should have protection in winter, at the north. My method of caring for them is this : I begin at the end of the row, and gather all the canes in a hill into a bunch, and bend them down to the ground as flatly as possible, working slowly and carefully, to avoid breaking or cracking the stalks at their junction with the roots. It is well to have an assistant when this work is done. One cannot do it very well alone. Let one person bend the plants over and hold them down, while the other puts a spadeful of soil on them to keep them in place. Then take the next hill, bend it down so that its top overlaps the crown of the hill first treated, and so continue until all the plants in a row are flat, and in a line from one end of it to the other. Then go along the rows, a man on each side, and with a spade throw soil up against the plants. After having done this, I put on a covering of coarse litter from the barnyard. Straw or hay will answer the same purpose. This is given to shade such parts of the plants as are left exposed, not to keep out frost, as some might suppose. It is not frost which injures a tender plant. It is exposure to sunshine, which extracts frost. At night, the plant freezes again, and the frequent alternations of freezing and thawing results in a rupture of plant-cells. The covering of mulch keeps out the sun, and the canes remain frozen, which is precisely what we want.
In spring, after the frost is out of the ground, remove the covering of mulch, and go along the rows with a pitchfork, inserting its tines under the canes and lifting them carefully out of the soil that was thrown over them in fall. At first they will have anything but an upright look, but as the sap begins to circulate in them they will resume their old position, and they can then be tied to the wires which should not be put in place until after the bushes have received their spring manuring, and the soil has been levelled down about them. Barnyard manure is best of all, but if it cannot be obtained, bone meal and other commercial fertilizers will give excellent results.
The following varieties are suited to general culture :
BLACK RASPBERRIES.--Gregg. Large, productive, and fine flavored. One of the standard black-cap sorts.
Miami Black Cap. Sweet, juicy, and very productive.
Ohio Everbearing. Large, sweet, and very productive. This variety gives a fall crop from the canes of the current season's growth.
Seneca. Large and fine flavored. A variety that always sells well.
PURPLE Sorts.—Philadelphia. Good size, very hardy, wonderfully prolific.
Purple Cane. Medium size, sweet, and high flavored, strong in habit, and very productive. Excellent for home use, but too soft for marketing.
RED RASPBERRIES.—Cuthbert. Bright red, large, firm fleshed, but juicy. Very prolific.
Antwerp. Large, sweet, and with a peculiarly sprightly flavor. The standard market sort at the east.
BLACKBERRIES.—Snyder. Very hardy. Not as large as some other kinds, but desirable because of its ability to stand a northern winter better than most sorts.
Western Triumph. Very large, sweet, and juicy. Too soft for market purposes, but excellent for home use.
Wilson's Early. Large, firm, sweet, and fine flavored. Very early, ripening at least two weeks sooner than ordinary varieties.
Ancient Briton. A small-berried kind from Wisconsin. Sweet, juicy, and of superior flavor. Very productive, valuable because it succeeds on soils where other kinds are failures.