The Q&A Archives: Maintaining And Rejuvinating An Old Raspberry Patch

Question: When we bought our property, there were two large raspberry patches here. They had been neglected for several years. We weeded them out as best as we could, but the weeds got ahead of us. One of the patches has died out altogether, and I don't want to lose the other one. What are the best methods for cleaning up an established patch and also, what kind of fertilizer do they require? Is spring the best time to work with them, or would fall be better? Should we till the spot where the patch was and move the other plants there? Also, are there any special requirements for our cold MN climate?

Answer: Unfortunately, raspberries are very prone to diseases, so it's not a surprise that one of your beds died out. In order to get the weeds under control, your best bet would be to prepare the empty bed and then dig plants out of the established bed or order new, virus-free raspberries to put there. If the bed you will move them into is empty, you can hand dig the weeds or cover the bed with thick layer of newspaper to smother them. (If weeds are really out of hand, an herbicidal soap or glyphosate herbicide may be warranted.) It's not necessary to till the bed unless you have a tiller and really want to do it!

Once the bed is clean, amend with plenty of organic matter such as compost, composted manure or leaf mold. After you plant the raspberies, suppress weeds with a thick layer of organic mulch over the bare soil. The mulch material will eliminate sunlight which will help keep any remaining weed seeds from sprouting. If weeds do appear, they're easily pulled out, roots and all, from the mulch material. Aged compost is the material of choice, mainly because it will provide nutrients to the roots of your plants as it decomposes, but you can also use clean straw or shredded leaves.

There are two types of raspberries: summer-bearing and fall-bearing. Of the raspberry cultivars, the red raspberries

are the most winter-hardy, followed by purple, and then black raspberries. You should have no trouble growing red or black raspberries in Minnesota as long as you mulch them to prevent freeze-thaw heaving of the roots.

Plant the raspberry roots in the very early spring and keep them watered well throughout the growing season. New raspberries shouldn't need to be fertilized the first year, but you can apply fertilizer the second spring, when new growth begins. Use about an inch of compost or composted manute or 2 pounds of 5-10-10 per 100 feet of row.

Once you've given the raspberry plants a bed of their own, they should provide you with a bumper crop of tasty fruit!

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